Social media has brought a certain bipolarity in the relationship between Bollywood stars and their fans. On the one hand, a star is only a tweet or a post away, but on the other hand, there is just no intimacy in the fan-star relationship anymore. There was once a time when fans would meticulously write letters to the actors in the hope that they would get a response from them. These letters were their only window to actually be “in touch” with the stars, and it does carry with it a kind of charm and personal touch that is rare to find these days.
Sam Jawed, through her recent Twitter thread in which she has posted the fan letters and replies that her late aunt Mehrunissa Najma had so meticulously collected, has given us a glimpse into the charming fandom that existed in Bollywood in the mid-20th century.
In a conversation with The Better India, Sam says, “I had heard about the letters from my aunt during my younger days and had also seen it once or twice. After my aunt’s [Mehrunissa Najma] death in 2006, along with several other documents, papers, and things that belonged to her, this album of letters was also put away. I found them a few days ago, and because I did not want the paper to rot away, I started clicking pictures and uploaded them on Twitter.”
Sam speaks about how during her aunt’s growing up years, she was this young starry-eyed girl who was enamoured by movie stars and their lives. This was her little bubble since it wasn’t considered ‘cool’ to be writing to movie stars in those days.
“She loved everything to do with movies and the stars,” says Sam.
While the little small album that Najma used to store these letters, and signed photographs came to life again, Sam has consented to The Better India sharing some of these with our readers.
From Dharmendra Singh Deol’s handwritten letter in Hindi, in which he responds to Najma’s birthday wishes, “I received your wishes for my birthday. I can barely explain how your letter made my heart dance with happiness. I’m sending you a picture with my autograph, and my best wishes. Yours, Dharmendra.”
Then there’s the superstar of yesteryears, Sunil Dutt, who also has penned a handwritten note in Urdu to Najma.
Saira Banu in her letter wrote, “My dear Najma, many thanks for your very kind letter and I read the same with much interest. I am also grateful for the good wishes sent on the occasion of my birthday and I most sincerely reciprocate the same.”
“Would you believe that Saira Banu ji in her letter has actually asked for my aunt to acknowledge receipt of the letter and autographed photograph that she sent across? That was the level of commitment that those stars had towards their fans,” says Sam.
Shammi Kapoor, referred to as the Elvis Presley of India, in 1962 wrote to Najma thanking her for her birthday wishes.
Asha Parekh in 1963 wrote back to Najma referring to her as a sister, thanking her for her good wishes and appreciation.
For a generation that jumps for selfies and thrives on tweets being acknowledged by their favourite Bollywood stars, this little black album that Najma had painstakingly put together is a reminder of how we must learn to slow down, savour these moments, and hold on to them.
If you would like to immerse yourself in some nostalgia from the yesteryears, click on the tweet to read more.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)