Saturday, April 16, 2005

Which page are you on?

Definition of ‘Page 3’: As Atul Kulkarni’s character in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3, scathingly puts it, it’s all about “who went to which party, who did they arrive with, who did they leave with, what they were wearing.” Notwithstanding the back-biting and air-kissing that’s supposedly standard fare.

What with the concept transcending media and making inroads into people’s homes through TV, it becomes imperative to find out how much of the Page 3 culture exists in Chennai. Here’s what a few Chennaiites had to say, although many are yet to watch Bhandarkar’s movie on the subject.

Sonika Jain, Director –Sales, Chennai for the Taj Group of Hotels says, “Chennai doesn’t have the kind of socialite culture that Mumbai, Delhi or even Bangalore has. To that extent, I would say it’s just beginning to emerge here.”

Sonika’s opinion is mirrored by Shobha Nair, Manager - Product Development at American Express Bank who also adds, “Overall, the aspect of gossip as depicted in the movie, Page 3, exists in Chennai. As it does in all other places. However, the kind of partying with the rich and the famous that they’ve show, is yet to catch up here. Although there are some people who do try to appear in the most happening dos and want to be seen in the right circles.”

This aspect of partying, with the objective of being written about does exist in Chennai, feels Vani Aiyer, who’s in Client Servicing at JWT. She says, “Every city has its elite. Other people would like to be seen with the right celebrity, and also showcase themselves. There’s some inner psychology at work here, a need for recognition. Something like groupies? Well, it does provide an interesting read for those not belonging to these circles!”

Vidya Gajapati Raj Singh, wonders what all the fuss is about, “Every city has its parties and events. In Chennai, the parties are still very private. As for events, there’s just so much happening every other day. Now, with fashion magazines and new publications coming in, there is bound to be more of a focus on people in the limelight. While all this is new to India, one just needs to look at foreign tabloids to gauge the extent to which it exists. Frankly, I find the attention drawn to the Page 3 culture overrated. After all, how much time does one really spend in reading the papers?”

Dr. Vijay Nagaswami, Psychotherapist and Relationships Consultant, feels that the aspect of people writing about social gatherings is bound to increase in Chennai. “However, a party is a private event. People don’t want the entire city to know more about them, unless of course, it’s intended. There are those who specifically like to be seen on Page 3 columns and this perpetuates the culture. As for me, I find it an invasion of privacy.”

While the celeb-hounding paparazzi is still uncommon here, three things are at play as far as page-3 culture is concerned – (a) hosts who plan parties with A-list celebs and invite the media to cover the party. (b) celebs who seek out publicity (c) wannabe socialites who would like to be seen rubbing shoulders with the glitterati, hoping for some of the glitz to rub off on them. Add to that the reader’s need to be in the know on all things (especially the gossip) concerning the coterie of glamorous celebrities in the city. The underlying discomfort across the board, is one of intent, not of unwarranted publicity.

Although Chennai is oft-accused of lagging behind Mumbai or Delhi in its glitzy parties or glamorous events, I guess it’s just a matter of time before we see quotable quotes and glossy images of our favourite celebs in print. Until then, I guess the rest of us will just have to practise how to air-kiss and say ‘Dahrling!’ with just the right intonation.


(edited version published on April 16, 2005 in Madras Plus, the city features supplement of The Economic Times, Chennai)

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