A news item in the New York Times:
New Delhi : The girls gathered in a school auditorium here on a recent Saturday were beaming with pride and nervous with anticipation. They would soon have a chance to meet the star of their dreams: Viswanathan Anand.
Mr. Anand is no Bollywood heartthrob or pop singer. The idol the girls were swooning over was an unassuming, bespectacled, 40-year-old world chess champion.
The reporter makes it apparent that had the ‘swooning’ happened over a Bollywood star, it would have been perfectly normal. But the admiration for a mere world-chess champion was something not usually seen.
He is right, of course.
But why should it be so?
When you meet a sportsman like Tendulkar or Anand or Schumacher, you see the same person who had, in real life, done something incredible. You see, in front of you, the same, real hands/feet/brains that had been put to use to achieve that. (Ok, you don’t see the brains, but you get my point). So, seeing the real person, live, in front of you can bring out some gasps of admiration.
But, when you see a movie star in person, what you see is the actor who played out some characters that appealed to you. When you watched the movie on-screen, you were taken in by the character; the actor was incidental. In fact, what the character on screen is supposed to be doing (all that daredevilry) is nothing but deception. In a matter of few frames, the director can delude you into believing that the hero has jumped 200 feet into the air and back. So, not even the on-screen character played by the movie star is real. So, what causes the ‘swooning’ when you bump into the movie star in person at the airport, well outside the entertainment arena?
His/her stunning looks, you say. These people became stars in the first place because of their good looks, and it is the same good looks that bring out the admiring gasps when they step into the real world.
Nonsense. Have you seen Rajnikanth in person? He is a simple person and looks anything but a movie star. Yet, he is mobbed by his fans. Clearly they ignore his real-life persona and see only the characters he has played.
Or, perhaps we admire the actor for his/her histrionic skills and ability to play different roles and characters? No, this is unlikely to cause us to go overboard.
So, what’s the explanation?