Bollywood celebrity managers are bigger divas than their bosses
You’ve read about star tantrums in the tabloids. Here’s the truth: the people managing them are scarier.
Let’s face it – you, the outsider, the reader, are likely to be jealous of the amount of time we spend with celebs talking to them, interviewing them, watching them change in and out of clothes, getting their hair done (or stuck on – I won’t tell you who). You want gossip about them – whether their abs are real or painted on, how tall they are, how many lines they snort. You ask us if they hit on us. I used to think all of this would be fun too – until I came across the celebrity manager.
You see, planning a shoot with a celebrity is an elaborate process, involving tons of people. It requires meticulous planning and taking into account requests, tantrums and a host of ridiculous demands that have often made me itch to give a lot of people free reality checks. Between me and the celebrity stands two groups of people – the PR agency handling the celebrity and the celebrity’s manager/s. The PR agency is the nicer end of the deal. They don’t think celebrities are handcrafted by God and sent to earth as a replacement for Jesus because he was too busy. They are the middlepeople who constantly have to mediate terms and conditions between magazines and celebrities. In my experience – and I have experienced all the celebrity PR agencies in this country – most of them are wonderful people. These are also the people who are under constant pressure to deliver press coverage and cover shoots. So, these are the people who contact us on a regular basis, asking us to put celebrities they handle on our covers. When a movie star suddenly wakes up one fine day and thinks that he looks drool worthy during his usual shirtless morning selfie, he tells his manager that he would love to be featured on a magazine cover, and the manager conveys that to the PR agency. Then they start calling us up and asking us to feature this demi-god in the very next issue (because in Bollywood, trust me, abs are now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t). On one occasion, a B-rung celebrity wanted to do an underwear shoot because, well, he was feeling very good about his family jewels at that moment. I could hear the PR girl blush through the telephone while she pitched this request to me. However, this piece is not about these nicer beings.
For some reason, almost all the celebrity managers around are women. Though I deal mostly with male celebrities, I know that even female celebrities mostly have female managers. I really want to ask these women some questions. “Who are you? Where are you from? What led you to want to spend the prime of your life being a glorified nanny for narcissistic man-children? Why do words like ‘selfesteem’ and ‘individual identity’ not matter to you?” Maslow, he who built the pyramid of self-actualisation, must be as confused as I am. Here’s a true story: a celebrity’s manager walks up to me and asks who I am. I introduce myself and ask who she is. She replies, “XYZ’s manager”. Not her name. Her name is of no importance. I cannot fathom how a person lives her life without finding the need to introduce herself with her own name.
I understand the high-stress, no-holiday environment these women work in. I am even ready to imagine that every celebrity is like a Miranda Priestly and hence, these poor Andys deserve our sympathy. But are they rude? Yes. Condescending? Yes. Arrogant? Yes. Downright entitled and obnoxious? Yes, yes and yes. The funny thing is, they don’t have to be any of these things to get their jobs done. They don’t have to create the image that their bosses are difficult. We are already padding up for that war when we decide to feature one of them. Managers have asked us to cancel shoots – on the day of the shoot, after causing a delay of 5 hours – because the star was too busy with a “personal shoot” and they could not ask him to speed up.
I have had others walk up to me on the day of the shoot and tell me that we don’t have time for the number of looks (which we had already confirmed on email at least a week before the shoot) because the celebrity was “not in the mood”. Let’s get one thing straight: no celebrity is never “not in the mood” to be pampered, doted upon and shot for a well-timed publicity cover feature with a leading men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine. He (or she) knows why he/she is doing it. The PR agencies have been bothering us for the cover of a specific month, because they need that celebrity’s face plastered on everything right before their film’s release. For him/her, this is a part of the publicity bandwagon. So no, he is bloody well in the mood because this is a part of his job.
Managers have given us incorrect body and shoe measurements a week before the shoot, and when the clothes (and shoes) didn’t fit, they’ve claimed that the star has lost weight (in a week) because he has amazing metabolism (I didn’t know “amazing metabolism” made feet shrink). There are other managers who think that they are fashion designers themselves.
They walk up to the rack of clothes laid out for the shoot and start telling us how none of them are “worth XYZ’s time” and how “XYZ cannot be seen in any of this shit”. In this particular case, Mr. XYZ wore the same piece for a film launch party just a week later. Want some more? I have met managers who take clothing and accessories from shoots and do not even bother to inform us (otherwise known as ‘stealing’), only to later respond (after numerous phone calls) that the star “really wanted it”.
And boy, do these managers know how to make money. For a shoot, the magazine has to pay for the celebrity’s spot boy, security personnel and driver. I have no idea why, but that is the industry’s norm, and all of us follow it. I have had managers ask for as much as Rs 20,000 for each of them – for a 5-hour shoot. They have haggled with me, like when you buy fish or tomatoes at the market, and finally agreed to lesser amounts. Sometimes they pull moves that are crazy even for them. For instance, once, when we were shooting a movie star at his house, the manager handed over an invoice for the driver. “But he didn’t drive anywhere,” I said, confused. “No, but you still have to pay. The driver came”, the manager replied. I have a fantasy in which I want to drop a celebrity manager in the middle of a desert, in a country that does not understand Hindi, with no cellphone. I would like to see her struggle her way out of that nightmare on her own two feet, with her own name (if she still remembers it) and because of whom she is. Are you the same person if your boss, and the privileges and perks that come along with him, are taken away? What happens when your boss’s time under the spotlight is over? What will you have to show for a career – or life? I haven’t named anybody in this piece, of course – let it be a delicious round of “Is he talking about me?” for a lot of people I know. I will, however, name the good ones. The team at Yash Raj Talent Management, you know who you are, and thank you for being the exceptions.