Lights, camera and speak!, Celebrity interview, Tamil Cinema


There is a group of people who just love talking, there is a bunch who hates talking, there are folks who talk only in their comfort zone or for fulfilling a purpose, and there is also a niche crowd who express only when they are pushed into that zone of expressing. Now, being in the field of media the last set of people are the ones we always encounter. Being amicable and social should be a media person’s second nature especially when you are dealing with celebrities, day in and day out! What I learned from being in this little space of interacting with celebrities and film personalities is that, like it or not, swag along with a smile and be nice to be treated nice. Coming to think of it, this hasn’t been that bad so far considering the hyper, blunt and straightforward personality traits I possess. 
Ø  Known devil is better than an unknown angel
I say this because it is always better to know the nature of a celeb before interviewing. In a polished way, kindly do your research well because it is always better to quote sources. Now this may turn out the other way too. During my very first interview, to a director (let me not name him and embarrass myself), I asked him my first question very confidently. “Sir, I did a lot of research about you (thinking to myself, duh it’s my first interview and I am going to be extra careful) and I didn’t find anything about what you did before getting into films. Could you elaborate?” His reply, “I think I have told this in million interviews, can we get to the point?” Prick and bubble busted! I thought it was an ice-breaking question but apparently not.
Lesson learned - Always start by talking about the current work and then go on to past records.
Ø  Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach
When we meet a celebrity first having a control on oneself is more important than pleasing the personality. In the name of impressing them, we tend to compliment their looks, appreciate their work, praise their contribution to cinema and we may not know where to stop. Some love the attention, but no one likes an overdose. For instance, my encounter with such situation is when I called an actor-director to schedule an interview (yes, this was before even taking an interview). I started off my conversation with a lengthy description of how much I loved his films; I gave him examples of scenes that I liked, his attitude, his personality and so on. I did not realize I was talking too much until he said, “What do you want now?” Very patiently I said, “Sir, a few minutes of your time just to talk…” He said, “Sorry, I am not interested”. Beep! Beep! And Beep! The phone line got disconnected and thank god for not getting abused.
Lesson learned – Make sure you are not overwhelmed by the personality and be very professional in your approach.
Ø  Seize the day and put the least possible trust in tomorrow
One best thing about interviewing is that, you can take control of the moment, conversation and the day. The feeling that the conversation is going ahead only because of your questions is a different high which must be experienced than said. Having said that, after one of my interviews when I sat down to write what I recorded, something struck me. My colleague asked me one basic question about the latest film of that director (while the whole interview was about that film and his experience working in that film). He asked me “So when is this film releasing?” I stood there shocked without knowing the answer. The shooting was complete, the director was happy, the audio has released, the post-production work was over and the film had to just release. Yes, I did not have even the slightest clue as to the release date of the film. Thank god for all the PROs in my office who later helped me find the answer.
Lesson learned – You won’t have PROs helping all the time. You may have asked a million intellectual questions but never forget the basics because trusting tomorrow will never work!
Ø  Plate it with style
Now the best part about a one on one interview session with celebrities is that, you record the conversation and only you know what was spoken (after a point even the celebrity will forget what was told). I am talking about text interviews. You have a chunk of information and it is under your control to present it the way you want. Now this doesn’t mean you can manipulate the information and turn it around. For example, when I interviewed a designer, I hardly asked her any questions because she was under the ‘I love talking irrespective of where, when, what and who’ category. Hey, but it is a good quality as it makes your work easier. After the interview, it felt like I had a footage of one hour where just one person has spoken. When I wrote the interview, it turned out different.  For once, I did the right thing as I was appreciated for this.
Lesson learned – Sometimes your conviction and confidence towards the interview takes you forward.
Ø  Rethink if the purpose was solved
That moment when the interview gets published; it is promoted in every other medium, many read, many skim through, the celebrity gets a copy and all the eyes are on what’s written. But more than all thinking within yourself about how the interview turned out should be the point. Sometimes when I go back and read the interviews I have taken, I rethink if I asked everything I set out to ask. The process of an interview itself is an art where you ask relevant questions, get to know about what’s unknown and sincerely understand what the personality says. When you set out for getting a kickass headline or write a controversial story or embarrass the celebrity with awkward and blunt questions, then the purpose is definitely not solved. For me, it is about knowing more than what we read in other media or what is speculated about them. It is about delivering the genuinity of the person. It is about revealing the truth as it is without any manipulation. It is about getting one step closer to that person and letting the masses know what is being projected to you. While you write about cinema every day, sometimes you may even know the celebrity more than what they know about themselves, but what’s the point of taking an interview?
Do you want to be projected as a knowledgeable and a self-informed person? Or do you want to write what you know about the celebrity that masses probably don’t?
Lesson learned – I choose the latter!

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