When Bollywood royalty Amitabh Bachchan came to vist Egypt for the Indian Culture Festival, the reception he got in Cairo was nothing short of insanity...
The Indian Culture Festival kicked off this week to bring India to the Nile, and to promote this wonderful occasion the Indian Embassy tried to secure a celebrity to inaugurate the two-week spectacle. This year, they outdid themselves. The superstar they successfully invited is not just a man, he’s not just an actor, he’s not just a singer, but an utter legend, and the reception he got in Egypt can be described as nothing short of insanity: Amitabh Bachchan is in Cairo!
We have all seen the famous Slumdog Millionaire scene in which little Jamal jumps in a pool of crap in order to lay his eyes on Amitabh Bachchan and have him autograph his only picture of him. After the reactions we saw to Bachchan in Cairo, this kind of behaviour no longer seems like the exaggerations of an Oscar-winning movie but the reality of many people around the world when they get the chance to see the Indian superstar, and Egypt’s crowds seem to be no different there. Seeing Amitabh Bachchan, his Egyptian fans started crying, the photographers started fist-fighting and the Indian Ambassador to Egypt started being invisible next to a man that is widely referred to as an Indian deity.
The press conference Mr Bachchan attended on Tuesday morning at the Marriott Hotel in Zamalek almost had to be stopped because the majestic Thebes Hall basically collapsed with the commotion he caused. We were anxiously awaiting Amitabh Bachchan from the first row assigned to journalists. Photographers were lining up on the sides and in the back. But then Amitabh Bachchan actually arrived. Suddenly, there was no such thing as “photographers in the back” anymore. Photographers stormed the front of the room where Bachchan entered, even getting on the elevated platform that his table equipped with all the microphones was placed on. Our photographer suffered a few bruises because he tried to take a picture of Bachchan entering a room.
During the press conference, the demands for silence were ignored by every single person in the room. People clearly didn’t come to hear Amitabh Bachchan but to snap a selfie with him in the back. Three times, the organisers had to threaten to cancel the press conference because photographers refused to back off from the press table. Sometimes the situation seemed to be under control and photographers retreated to the sides. As soon as Bachchan would smile, however, the frenzy would resume. After approximately forty minutes, the attempt for a closing statement failed as nobody could hear anything Bachchan was saying and Bachchan left the Thebes ballroom.
The team behind the scenes helped Bachchan make a backstage exit. Bachchan had been followed though: one photographer had sneaked past the security and was stalking Bachchan to give him a hug. He might not have had to jump through crap but he certainly risked arrest. No cost seemed to be too high for the true Amitabh Bachchan fan.
At the official opening ceremony of the festival at the Pyramids later that night, photographers were not allowed anywhere near the stage as a result of the morning happenings. The designated area for photograhers was all the way in the back. Naturally, no photographer (nor other individual) abided by this restriction. As Amitabh’s car neared the stage, set up in front of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids, all the photographers ran to the side of the stage. The audience knew Bachchan was there but they could not see him; Bachchan was buried in dozens of photographers trying to snap a picture at whatever cost. The way to the stage was completely blocked, never mind the additional eighty spectators who had not shied away from physically climbing on that stage. Amitabh Bachchan was trapped.
The prominence of presenter Bashra seemed to be nobody’s concern as her pleas for photographers to apply reason were left unheard. Entire families had come to see Amitabh Bachchan, and nobody else. Even when Bachchan took the stage, walked to the podium and held a speech, the stage was still littered with photographers ignoring security announcements and threats by the organisers that Bachchan would leave if they didn’t get off the stage. Answering fan questions, Bachchan shared that he would like to be played by his son Abhishek in a movie about his life (although he also said that life is not worth making a movie about) which caused screams, clapping and tears in the audience. We thought we loved Amitabh Bachchan but clearly we weren’t even close to as obsessed with him as some of these attendees. Bashra then apologised to Bachchan for the mad behavior, stating that “this is how Egypt shows love”. True dat!
On Wednesday afternoon, Amitabh Bachchan also received an honorary doctorate from the Egyptian Academy of Arts, becoming the first foreign actor to receive the honor for his contributions, so we even have to call him Doc Bachchan now. Clearly, everybody loves Amitabh! A man who is celebrated in the Eastern hemisphere of this planet as the biggest star in the world has visibly gotten used to not being able to walk in public without being photographed, touched and hugged all over the place. We love Bachchan as much as the next Indian does but we had never witnessed a celebrity causing such chaos. One question Bachchan answered that day was the recipe to his success. “My secret is the same as yours,” he said. Clearly it worked a bit better for him than for the rest of us…