Red Carpet Diaries

With my hometown currently gripped by SAIFTA fever, I thought I’d share a tale or two from my own adventures on the red carpet – in that often bizarre world beyond the velvet rope. This picture was taken in June 2005 at the International Indian Film Academy Award’s in Amsterdam. It shows me all dressed up in a bespoke Bandghala suit that was made for me by an amazing tailor in Rajasthan and dark sunglasses (I’m highly photosensitive and tear up when exposed to flashbulb pops), flanked by my ‘wingmen’ : D.O.P. Herman Cloete and Warren Frense on sound (I could dedicate a post to each of these great guys). Anyway, notice the expression on our faces? We look a bit like characters in a war movie, all weary and tense, as if bracing ourselves for a potential showdown or the next volley of incoming fire! Well, that’s because the red carpet is a bit like a battlefield – for everyone involved…

First there are the fans, who would have had to show up many hours beforehand to secure a spot along the metal barriers lining the walkway – only to spend many more hours being crushed up against them while fighting to retain their perch (and master their bladders), all in the hope of catching a glimpse of their favourite stars – or better yet, beating others to that much coveted autograph or picture. Then there are the stars and celebrities themselves, all (but the more veteran ones) amped up on pure adrenaline as they run the gauntlet of those shrill, hysterical fans and members of the press all waiting to pounce on them with flashguns, bright lights, microphones and the usual inane questions that they will feel obliged to answer over and over and over again – and still make it sound fresh and unrehearsed (award-worthy performances in their own right).

IIFA Awards Amsterdam

Imraan Vagar ~ IIFA Awards

It may not always look like it on television or in photographs, but the red carpet can be a very crowded and extremely stressful place too. There are bodyguards, managers, event organizers and assistants all dashing about – orchestrating, ushering and doing their bit, while trying to remain unobtrusive. As a reporter on the red carpeted battleground, you dare not drop your guard or lose your composure – even when say, a cameraman from another crew, in his frenzied dash for poll position (at the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bombay Dreams”, London’s West End, 2002), rams the sharp metal end of his matte box into the back of your head – just as you’re about to nab a rare sound bite from a certain major star who’s notoriously media shy! Concussion be damned, the show must go on! Or must it? After many years of red carpet rollouts, the novelty wore thin and the absurdity of it all became increasingly apparent. I eventually stopped taking on these kinds of assignments.

But there’s a moment that stands out for me that really made me dislike the nature of the work. It was shortly after this picture was taken, on this very red carpet. One of the biggest, most established stars in the Indian cinema firmament had just about completed a long walk down the carpet after having faced a seemingly endless barrage of interviews and photo ops and was about to make his way towards the auditorium entrance (salvation). When he looked up and saw my crew and I standing there, his erstwhile smiling face gave way (for just a split second) to a strangely sad expression. He was, of course, a consummate professional and gave us a great interview anyway, but as I focused on the tiny beads of sweat on his furrowed brow and upper lip as he enthused about his latest film and simulated all the necessary excitement at being there I actually felt his pain.

I appreciate that it may come with the territory when you sign up for celebrity and stardom, but to me it now all seems a little undignified and kind of soul destroying. The show will continue to go on. I have no doubt about that. But as I discovered, it’s so important to know when it’s time to graciously take a bow…

Imraan Vagar

Author: Imraan Vagar

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1 Comment

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    Interesting. We don’t often get to see fame and celebrity from the other side. I’m going to think of you every time I watch the Oscars! 😉

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