Taimur, Suhana, Misha: What’s Behind Our Obsession With Star Kids?
The proliferating paparazzi culture has given rise to an army of social media stars with Taimur leading the pack.
That we are a nation obsessed with children is no secret – we love to make babies (hello, population!), cuddle and pamper them, show them off to relatives and complete strangers and as if that’s not enough, cuddle other people’s babies. Sharma ji ka beta is an all-time favourite, and frequent bouts of “Beta, uncle ko dance karke dikhao, poem gaake sunao” colour our collective childhood memories.
But little did we know that come 2016 and we’d be collectively swooning over a blue-eyed, brown-haired, chubby baby. And if you haven’t guessed it yet, we are talking about Taimur Ali Khan – son of Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. From his hairstyle to clothing, laughter to mood swings, we want to know all about the undisputed darling of social media.
Just a look at your timeline, a couple of scrolls, and you’ll find a Taimur headline staring at you and you love it. You love the pictures, you love the story. The likes, reactions, comments and most importantly numbers testify this and lay bare our collective frenzy.
Still social media is inundated with stories, tweets, Facebook posts bashing media outlets for giving undue attention to Taimur and star kids at large. But here’s the thing:
It’s convenient to bash media organisations for putting out Taimur stories or updating their audience about the lives of star kids, when you vicariously browse through one photo gallery after another. You and I, both are part of the problem.
A simple google search on ‘Taimur Ali Khan’ fetches around 33,20,000 results. Chuck the last name and the results multiply. There are several fan pages of the tiny toddler across several social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Taimur, born to Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, took the craze about star kids, to unprecedented heights. He was the first star-kid whose name fuelled several Twitter debates and discussions.
Every move that Taimur makes grabs spotlight. There is an army of photographers prying from all corners waiting to just get a glimpse of the child, write a story inundated with adjectives about the child’s oozing cuteness and garner several ‘likes’.
They do it because there is a ready audience eager to pounce on any picture of the toddler that pops up on their news feed.
‘Bollywood is the Opium of the Masses’
Karl Marx said religion is the opium of the masses. In our country, I think, Bollywood is the opium of the masses. Our obsession with the lives of star children is an extension of our unhealthy relationship with Bollywood stars in general. Earlier, there used to be an interest in the lives of the royals. In UK, there still is. Star and star children fascinate masses for the same reason – they are stars... seemingly unattainable.Dr Itisha Nagar, Psychologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Delhi
“It is a fascination with the lives of not just the rich but also the famous. We want to follow the lives of star kids closely – watch them grow up, make mistakes, achieve the same fame as their parents or not. It provides some sort of voyeuristic pleasure”, she adds.
We are a star-struck society so all this interest in the lives of star kids has to be seen in that context.Dr Madhumati Singh, Senior Psychologist
‘A Response to Public Demand’
Media organisations say they are only giving in to the demands of their audience and keeping up with an extremely competitive market. Commenting on the trend, a digital marketing manager of a leading media house, talking to The Quint on conditions of anonymity, said,
This is a simple case of demand and supply. People want to see the airport looks of stars and photo galleries of celebrity children. These stories have a high reach and a loyal viewership in comparison to other entertainment stories and hence, we are bound to do them. If we don’t do it, someone else will do. Why should we miss out? This is our response to public demand. Besides, if celebs are so caught up with their child’s privacy, why do they have public social media accounts? Why do they share pictures of their kids?
A Capitalist Market & Curse of Stardom
While Taimur may lead the pack, he certainly is not the only one in this celebrity jungle. From Shahid Kapoor’s daughter Misha to MS Dhoni’s daughter Ziva and Soha’s daughter Inaaya all are the cynosures of social media. The internet is littered with celebrity baby photo galleries and star kids’ airport looks.
Not only the toddlers, paparazzi is perennially tracking the latest updates in the lives of young adults like Navya Naveli Nanda, Aryan and Suhana Khan, Khushi and Janhvi Kapoor. A quick look at some of the headlines and you know what I am talking about:
- "Suhana Khan slips into a swimsuit and gets temperature soaring"
- “Shirtless Taimur Ali Khan And Innocent Inaaya Kemmu Enjoy A Day Out With Parents, Pics Inside!”
- “The best photos of Aishwarya Rai’s daughter Aaradhya Bachchan”
- “Navya Naveli Nanda Posts Pictures With Her Boyfriend”
- “These Pictures of Jhanvi Kapoor Will Give You Major Vacay Goals”
In 2017, a video of Suhana Khan, daughter of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, hounded by photographers, went viral. In the video she looks visibly uncomfortable being mobbed and photographed.
She was there to attend a special screening of Salman Khan’s Tubelight and what followed was uncalled for. Bollywood actor Kajol termed it bullying and harassment adding, “We signed up for this, they didn’t".
Shweta Bachchan Nanda had earlier written a powerful letter condemning those who invaded her daughter, Navya’s privacy. She lashed out at cheap, click-bait headlines and captions like ‘Navya Nanda HOT pics’ or ‘Navya Nanda parties with friends, WILD’!
In her impassioned plea about her daughter’s privacy, she pointed towards something very important – “She is not a public figure. Yes, she is related to some very famous people, but that is something completely out of her control.”
When pictures of his daughter in a bikini went viral on social media, superstar Shah Rukh Khan intervened to have them removed. He didn’t outrightly blame the media as with the case with most stars but had a more nuanced approach to this. In an interview with Huffington Post India, he said,
I wasn’t protecting her from the media — I was protecting her from me. It’s my stardom that was the reason that picture made it to the news — it wouldn’t have if she wasn’t SRK’s daughter. There could be someone running naked and that wouldn’t be news.
A Global Phenomenon
It is not just Indian superstars who are struggling to keep the lives of their children under wraps. Globally too, stars have come forward time and again to condemn the paparazzi culture. Actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard even started an online campaign against ‘Pedorazzi’, urging boycott of magazines that run photos of celebrity kids.
In a rare feat of sorts, their plea for privacy for star children fetched positive results with editorial director of People Jess Cagle saying, “the magazine will no longer publish photos of celebs’ kids taken against their parents’ wishes, in print or online.” However, this applied to pictures taken under “duress” and not the ones where kids happily pose with their parents in red carpet events.
The magazine also put a short disclaimer along with this,
Of course, there may be rare exceptions based on the newsworthiness of photos. And there’s always the tough balancing act we face when dealing with stars who exploit their children one day, and complain about loss of privacy the next.
This indeed remains the point of contention for most publishers in India or abroad.
For Few, It is Free Media Mileage
Kim Kardashian West posts a family picture with an attention-grabbing caption. And there is instant viewer interest – 52k people are already talking about it. How hard is it for the star to do this? And why should they not exploit public curiosity to strengthen their brand?
Stars don’t even need to do much. All it needs is one post on their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter handles to refresh audiences’ memory. And when that post has their child, the curiosity piques manifold.
Media organisations also pick it up because they know it sells – they owe their allegiance to the capitalistic world we inhabit. It may sound terrible but it is true.
Are All Photo-Ops Intrusive?
In the times when stars work with an army of PR professionals to keep themselves relevant to the masses, it would be naive to assume that all the photo-ops are forced and intrusive. When elaborate media strategies are in place to plan the star’s public appearance, when each of the star’s move is carefully orchestrated by seasoned marketeers, how could professionals who make news out of nothing let go off something as crucial as pregnancy?
Star pregnancies are heavily monetised – from Kareena featuring in pregaNews commercials to celebrities selling the first pictures of their kids to magazines and tabloids, there is a lot that goes behind. Getting snapped with your kids at events, red carpet or otherwise, imparts some sort of professional longevity (or at least keeps you in the public eye) even if you don’t have mega projects lined up.
A good case in point is actor Kareena Kapoor Khan. From walking the ramp to giving interviews, she has been very smart with her pregnancy, with Taimur only helping to catapult her brand value to stratospheric heights.
Celebrities are well aware of the necessity to keep their brand afloat in a market that has new, younger entrants coming in almost daily.
It cannot be denied then that sharing a picture here, a video there of their kids is certainly a part of gaming the Star Ratings. From Shahid Kapoor to MS Dhoni, all are guilty of falling for the bait.
But in this tug of war between stars and media, it is the children who lose the most.
The Downside of This Obsession
Given the exigencies of a capitalistic market, if one has to cater to the needs of the audience, the manner in which it is done gains paramount importance. You can feed curiosity but not dissect someone’s life on the basis of conjecture. Ludicrous story angles which explore the possibility of a love affair between Taimur and Misha (just because Kareena and Shahid were together at one point in time), cheap headlines, undue scrutiny of their clothes and looks, uncomfortable pictures are not only creepy but also violate young children.
For stars it may be a side-effect of being famous but their children didn’t sign up for it. Why should they be forced to live life under a magnifying glass?
This undue and untimely brush with stardom is like a double-edged sword – it could either imbue within them a skewed sense of entitlement or make them feel violated.
In an interview with Rajeev Masand, actor Shah Rukh Khan echoed the same concern. He said,
I am okay with them (his kids) being photographed. But then attention has to be deserved. You have to earn it and do something to get photographed.
“Celeb kids eventually figure out that they are born to larger-than-life parents. Most of them go on to become actors themselves so for them, it is an initiation into stardom. But given the massive influx of information at all times, it is the regular children and teenagers who need to be looked out for”, cautions Dr Madhumati Singh.
She rightly points towards the obsessive interest in the lives of star kids which is perpetuating a culture wherein people are increasingly dissatisfied with their lives.
A Suri Cruise, all of 11, photographed carrying her own £11,000 Hermes bag, or wearing a £1,300 Dolce & Gabbana trench coat sets an unhealthy precedent for millions of kids on social media who get fixated with these ostentatious choices and flamboyant accessories, developing a deep sense of dissatisfaction with their lives. This is an alarming situation we need to take stock of.
It all boils down to how strong a family structure is, how strong are values of children and regular people exposed to the lives of rich and famous. It is recommended to replace negative thoughts about the star kids’ privilege with more positive thoughts about one’s own life, thoughts about one’s own developments, plan and so on. Yes you are exposed to a gamut of information but what you make of it is entirely up to you.Dr Madhumati Singh, Senior Psychologist
Us vs Them: A Chicken and Egg Situation
Are the paparazzi on the payrolls of media houses responsible for the 24*7 cycle of celebrity kids news we have all developed a voracious appetite for? Or is it the other way round?
Media is responsible for fostering a culture of ‘cumulative thinking’ but I don’t endorse putting sanctions on it. We need to work on processing the information responsibly – to understand that the celeb world is vastly different from the real world and not get fixated on it.Dr Madhumati Singh, Senior Psychologist
Next time before you call out the paparazzi for smearing your social media feed with updates about the starry-lives of Taimur, Janhvi or Suhana, remember we, as viewers and readers, are equally complacent in creating never-seen-before fame trajectory of star kids.
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