My strange relationship with fame and celebrities began at the age of three. It was the day when I asked my father how everyone on the road, as we drove past, knew his name.
I grew up with parents who realised the impact of fame on the family, and sought out a life that would enable us to also experience the ‘normal'. Goa was one such retreat. I could walk down the street with my father, who would be totally unrecognised. A situation I could never imagine in Bombay or any other Indian city. We were taught to treasure this sense of privacy.
Years later, Shah Rukh Khan took me by surprise when I interviewed him for the Amul India Show. He spoke about how he relished being famous and eternally recognised. And I realised how much I relished the life of being anonymous! Which at times gets a bit awkward.
I had a person come up to me on an IndiGo flight and ask how it was that I was travelling by IndiGo! What did he mean? Was I supposed to own a private jet? I answered with delight that IndiGo was my favourite airline.
The first time I ever ‘confronted' a celebrity in my life I was quite impetuous. I was on my way back from Cambridge in the middle of the Live Aid concert in 1985. I was running because I did not want to miss more than I already had of the concert. And there in front of me was the German rock star who had just sung at Live Aid. I grabbed his hand and thanked him for his hard-hitting soulful song. What an adrenaline high that was!
Two years ago, I had yet another surprising encounter in London. This time, however, I was sad about not having my wits about me. We were lunching at a restaurant with friends when the manager asked if my son liked cars, as he was playing with his collection of cars on the table. My son jumped with delight when he was told that six supercars would be parked outside the restaurant later that evening for a BBC Top Gear dinner event.
So after dinner, my son and I set off to get a glimpse of these cars. There were no cars. Just a huddle of people, whom I bravely approached to ask about the cars. A little man turned round and told me they had just departed. The ‘little man' was none other than Richard Hammond! My jaw dropped, my heart pounded and my little son hid behind me. Richard is my son's all time hero. He is one of the three presenters of BBC Top Gear—the famous TV car show. Words poured out of my mouth, making little sense. All I wanted was for my son to have a conversation with his hero. Richard shook his hand, and even asked if he wanted an autograph or a photo. My son has inherited my awkwardness of infringing on the privacy of a celebrity, hence missing this once-in-a-life time opportunity. Both my son and I never forgave ourselves for this foolishness. However, autograph or no autograph, the thrill was still ours.
Last week was a bit of an extraordinary week for me, as I met two extraordinary men. The first was Robert De Niro. I felt like a teenage fan when I got the invitation to lunch with De Niro. What was I going to say? Would he hear my heart pounding? I did manage to tell him how inspired I was by his amazing Tribeca Film Festival. And that it is sad that our film industry does nothing to reach out to the janta—the people who made them what they are. Like De Niro does. I did get his autograph and proudly shared it on Facebook.
My second encounter was with Prince Charles. Though it was brief, I managed to tell him that years ago I wanted to contact him for restoration of the Royal Opera House in Bombay. However, the owners had other plans for the heritage theatre.
I can only hope that dreams spoken out into the cosmos with 'stars' as their witness, find their way towards realisation some day.
Kapoor is a theatre personality and co-founder of Junoon.