India’s Celebrity Avatars

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Mega Star, Power Star, Mega Power Star. Big B, Beti B, Baby B, Junior B - India's celebrity avatars are the money mantra.

If Michael Jackson could style himself as the King of pop, our celebrities in India have taken personal branding to the next level.

If one film star is called a Rebel Star, the other is called a Cute Star. Creating avatars of themselves is one way of staying relevant and larger than life. And sometimes, avatars can be hereditary, passed down like titles. Don’t believe me? Check this out!

One South Indian actor is called ‘Mega Star’. His brother is called ‘Power Star’. The Mega Star’s son takes on a chutnified mantle from his father and uncle, and is called ‘Mega Power Star’. In Bollywood, Big B’s son is called ‘Baby B’ or ‘Junior B’, his grand-daughter – ‘Beti B’.

These chutnified avatars or celebrity brand names have a very pragmatic purpose. In this attention deficit entertainment economy, they help producers market their films to millions and get cash registers ringing. For the film stars, it is an attempt to enhance their brand value in this fickle, transient market place. Perhaps, it is also a survival mechanism, a means to make themselves more marketable in this multi-million-dollar business.

A lexical observation of these celebrity avatars says something about the personality cults of the Indian film industry. Some avatars like Stylish Star, Rebel Star, Cute Star communicate their personality, while others such as Mega Star, Giga Star, Super Star try to establish themselves in the hierarchy of the film fraternity. Not all of them have added ‘star’ to their avatars. Some have gone beyond that. They are called ‘King’, ‘Prince’, ‘Thala’ (Leader), ‘Mass Maharaj’, ‘King Khan’ and ‘Big B’.

Harmless as they seem, these ingenious creations have a purpose and function – that of selling a concocted image – and milking millions in the market place without regard for authenticity, accuracy or factual validity. None of these celebrity avatars are ever fully recognized, nor do they come under the purview of the advertising standards council of India.

Even more so, each of these celebrity avatars attract and retain a market segment, command a premium and help producers, directors, distributors and exhibitors who form the supply chain, determine the storylines and budgets of a film. These avatars help the film industry to create and navigate through a complex hierarchy – from gear one to gear four.

Interestingly, most of these avatars come from the bastion of male celebrities. Women are almost non-existent.

Thousands of fan clubs across the country adore their stars, throng to the cinemas to watch their celebrity avatar entertain them in their characteristic manner. Many buy into the concocted image that is sold to them subliminally, in the name of entertainment.

Wonder what would happen if someone created a celebrity avatar called Bose DK. Would the audience still flock in their millions to enthral themselves? I wonder! Oh wait – I’m told someone’s been there, done that. I need to check that. Sigh!

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*Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Madras Courier.

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