Once upon a time (not too long ago), you could like or dislike a film without being accused of being biased. It was fine to have an opinion, even when it sometimes bordered on being extreme and unreasonable. It was, after all, just one of the several opinions that film journalists, trade analysts, fellow industrywallahs and members of the aam junta individually had.
And then, Twitter changed it all. The moment celebrities came to Twitter, so did their “fans”. These are people who spend almost the entire day on Twitter, trolling celebrities, journalists, trade analysts and fans of rival stars. They exist in large numbers for Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, and much smaller numbers for Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan.
I have to confess that their existence has fascinated me. So the least I can do as a tribute to these chaps is to write a blog post about them. So here goes…
My first real troll experience happened this August, when I tweeted about how Bodyguard didn’t work for me. I was accused of various thing – from being Shahrukh Khan’s agent to having manipulated box office sites to under-report the box office performance of the film. I was this warrior out there, sent by SRK to end Salman’s career. And I had only some 500-odd followers then!
(Of course, rational arguments don’t work in such cases. For example, it is near impossible to drive home a point as simple as this: A good opening doesn’t mean the audiences have liked a film. It only means they had reasons to come to the theatre in the first 2-4 days, because of the starcast, music, genre and other such factors.)
So, while Salman fans were dissing me, I was this newfound hero for Shahrukh Khan fans. They told me SRK fans are more “well behaved” than Salman fans, and hence, they will never do the same to me if and when I didn’t like an SRK film. I sent courteous smileys back to some such messages. Eventually, I blocked some nasty, abusive Salman fans, and life moved on.
The Bodyguard case was at least simple enough. I didn’t like a film, and the star’s fans ganged up against me. What has happened with Ra.One is even more intriguing. Almost to the point of being inexplicable. Let me try explaining.
Sequence of events in the last three weeks or so:
1. Chammak Challo is no. 1 on Heartbeats (our music charts): SRK fans are super thrilled and Salman fans think SRK has paid my company for this. They question the research design & methodology. Yes, the same research that put Dabangg, Ready and Bodyguard songs on the top almost every week for the last one year.
2. Ormax Media predicts that Ra.One will break Bodyguard’s opening weekend record: The hero worship from SRK fans continues. As does more dissing from Salman fans.
3. Teri Meri from Bodyguard overtakes Chammak Challo to regain the no. 1 position on the charts: This happened one week before Ra.One’s release. SRK fans were confused. Wasn’t Ormax Media on “their side”? Now what happened suddenly? Even as Salman fans were over the moon, SRK fans dissed Teri Meri, outraging over its inclusion in the charts despite it being a rip-off. Of course, it didn’t matter if we explained that they were “consumer charts” after all.
4. I wrote a blog post about how Ra.One’s hype seems to have created a mismatch between expectations and delivery from the film: Suddenly, SRK fans, who were calling me their superhero till this point, began a smear campaign. Overnight, I was a part of Salman’s camp, even though the same post mentioned that Ra.One is a much better film than Bodyguard. I was told that everyone in the industry wants to run SRK down, and my company has been paid money to do the same. Yes, the exact opposite of what I was told by Salman fans about two days before the film’s release. A Salman fan whom I had blocked during the Bodyguard troll phase (for being repetitively abusive) requested for an unblock, innocently mentioning that he had no idea why I had blocked him.
Clearly, this love-hate saga is not over. Over the next two weeks, Ra.One will attempt to break several records. Some it will, some it won’t. But with each attempt, the fans of the two “camps” will hurl abuses at each other (you have to read some of their one-on-one interactions to believe how nasty they can be). Some of these abuses will come in my direction too. Ab toh aadat si padh gayi hai.
PS: For the record, we are working in various capacities with nine top studios/ producers in Bollywood. Our work over the next 12 months is likely to include working on films of most of the top stars, including SRK, Salman, Aamir, Akshay, Ajay, Ranbir and others. With a portfolio as wide as that, the only “camp” we belong to is a new, unified camp we are trying to create: “The Believers in Film Research Camp”.