After a Bengaluru youth immolated himself outside the home of Sandalwood star Yash, the actor has strongly condemned the act. Ravi Raghuram, a resident of Laggere in his 20s immolated himself outside the actor’s residence on Tuesday afternoon. Ravi had gone to meet Yash and wish him on his 33rd birthday. When the watchman at the actor’s home said that Yash was not in town, Ravi took the drastic step and set himself on fire. He succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday morning.
In an industry which is known for turning stars into demigods, it is not new for fans to take drastic measures just to be noticed by the actors they idolise. However, it is also a common phenomenon for actors to react to such situations only when under immense pressure from the media. In most cases, the statements they issue seem like an act of tokenism.
Yash, on the other hand has strongly condemned the act and has urged his fans to never indulge in such activities. Speaking to the media, Yash said, “He has clicked selfies with me on my birthday (last year). I’m sorry to say but this is not fandom and I don’t believe he can be a fan. I request my fans to never take such drastic steps. A few days before my birthday, I had put out a video saying I am not celebrating my birthday this year. This is very hurtful.”
The actor said that many fans in the past have threatened to kill themselves if he did not meet them. Several fans have also sent him letters written in blood, he added. The actor said that he was initially shocked to hear about the incident and thought it may be one of his fans threatening to take the drastic step just to meet him.
“Fans in the past too have resorted to taking drastic measures. But this, I believe will be the first and last time anyone who calls himself/herself as my fan would resort to killing themselves. Is this fandom? No, I don’t think so. Whenever I see fans writing letters to me in blood or threatening to cut their wrists, I have always told my fans to be responsible persons. I have conveyed to them many times through interviews and on social media that the only way they can show me appreciation is by being responsible, taking care of their families and being good human beings,” Yash said.
After reading several media reports, the actor arrived in Bengaluru to enquire about Ravi’s health. Yash arrived at Victoria Hospital on Tuesday night and spoke to the doctors in charge.
“I am sorry but I am deeply hurt by his actions and you can say I have a heart of stone but this is not what a fan would do and I don’t want to encourage such behaviour. He wished me a happy birthday when I went to see him. This is very distressing. I can only beg for his parents’ forgiveness. I feel very guilty that I did not celebrate my birthday. Maybe if I had, I would have met him and this may not have happened,” Yash added.
"He was crazy about Yash": Ravi's father
Speaking to TNM, Ravi's father, Ramanna broke down at the mention of his son's name. "He was crazy about Yash. He wanted to join dance classes and become like him. He would dress like Yash and would sometimes even talk like him," Ramanna says.
On Tuesday morning at around 10.15 am, Ravi and Ramanna ate breakfast. Ravi, who was excited to meet Yash, had persuaded his father to accompany him to the actor's residence in Hosakerehalli. However, Ramanna strongly opposed this and instructed Ravi to stay at home.
"I told him not to step outside the house. He wanted to go and meet Yash. Last year too, we had gone to Yash's house on his birthday just so my son could wish him. We saw him and came back home. This time, he was initially upset when I told him not to go but he relented and said he would stay at home. I fell asleep and did not notice when he left. Last week, when KGF released, he went and watched the film. He would force us to watch every movie in which Yash acted in," Ramanna says.
Ramanna says that Ravi has been the sole breadwinner of the family ever since he lost his ability to walk a few years ago. Ramanna says that he had advised his son to quit idolising the actor. "I have told him so many times not to think of actors like gods. He would get offended if I said anything bad about Yash. I believed that it was only because he was young and ignorant. I had no idea he would do something like this," Ramanna says.
Actors taking responsibility
Speaking to TNM, Sudhir Srinivasan, a film critic, says that for most cinema fans, the mere act of idolising the stars becomes their defining identity. He adds that for most of these die-hard fans, it is difficult to see the folly in taking drastic measures such as immolating oneself just to get the attention of the actors.
“Yash speaking to his fans and asking them not to define their identities based on their admiration for him is good on him. This is exactly what an actor should be saying. What the fans feel, the admiration, is as intense as romantic love," he says.
When the rejection, intended or unintended, imaginary or otherwise, comes, it becomes an attack on them and they struggle to recover from it, points out Sudhir.
Sudhir also says that one of the primary factors which drives people to become hardcore fans of actors is the film industry’s portrayal of lead actors as demigods. Several big budget films starring popular actors also have scripts to suit the perceived image of the actor.
"For decades now, the south Indian film industry has seen a trend of turning actors into gods. Scripts are written to suit the actor's image. Dialogues are included just to create a craze among fans. The industry too has to take some responsibility and actors also have the responsibility. Unless the industry moves on to make films which concentrate on the story and not the actor, fans like this will exist," Sudhir adds.