The god-like reverence that film stars receive in India is a phenomenon one rarely witnesses elsewhere in the world.
From fans waiting for hours outside the houses of their heroes for a glimpse to constructing temples in their name, cinema is almost a religion in this country.
But sometimes the fine line between looking up to a celebrity and becoming darkly obsessed with them fades, and things take a black turn.
Last week, a young fan of Yash, a superstar from the Kannada film industry, set himself on fire outside the actor’s house.
A resident of Laggere in Bengaluru, Ravi Raghuram came to the house on Yash’s birthday, hoping to wish the actor. However, after failing to meet Yash, Ravi immolated himself.
Ravi succumbed to his injuries the next day. Tragically, Yash, who usually did meet all of his fans on his birthday, was not even in town this year – something he has announced many days earlier.
This was not even the first time Ravi would have met the star. He has met Yash, and clicked pictures with him, on other occasions – including during Yash’s birthday last year.
Once the incident came to the notice of Yash, he rushed to Bengaluru and visited the hospital where Ravi was admitted.
Such acts of extreme celebrity obsession are nothing new in India. In most such situations, actors are known to either take a tight-lipped stance or give statements of sympathy.
But very rarely does the actor in question plainly and openly condemn such acts, stating some facts and opinions that may perhaps seem harsh, but are very necessary.
Yash refused to let the incident pass and spoke to the media immediately after meeting the young fan. Here are some of his statements:
“We cannot call this ‘fandom’, as no one will feel happy over this. Please do not take what I say in the wrong sense, and even if some people feel I am being very hard-hearted about this, I still say no actor, person, or anyone with any humanity would be pleased about such acts.
If anyone feels the need to show the depth of their fandom through such acts, I definitely do not accept them as fans of me or my work.
What can we say to his parents? Who will fill the gap in their lives now?
I can only beg forgiveness from his parents with hands folded. As I stress in all of my interviews if you want to display your fandom towards me, look after your parents well. As a ‘Yash fan’, go out and earn a decent income for your home, and share the cost burden at home, and that is the only blessings both me, and my fans, need.
What will his (Ravi’s) parents do now? They are such large-hearted people that they quickly told me they understood that there was nothing I could have done about it. But that is their greatness. I still feel the sting of guilt,” he said to local media channels.
In a country where young kids and teenagers grow up looking up to film stars and often treat them as demigods, Yash’s words might sting, but they are very important.
Equally important was his declaration:
“My coming here actually sends the wrong message. I firmly state openly, from henceforth no matter what happens, I will not come and visit such a fan. It is entirely wrong that some fans feel happy that they get to meet me after doing such things. ”
An honest truth, shared by a clearly shaken actor.
His words are taken seriously by lakhs who see him as their a role model. So his vocal opposition to extreme celebrity worshipping is a welcome note, from an industry that usually revels in the fanatism of its fans.
“Respect, love or fandom must be kept in the heart and mind. Everyone must work hard to build their own lives. Watch our films, try to learn some useful lessons from our onscreen personas, work hard and prosper, but never do such acts that will never bring happiness to anyone,” he concluded.
Let us hope fans everywhere take the advice.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)