The Celebrity Airport Photo: Candid or Contrived?

For Bollywood paparazzi, capturing stars come and go is less about good timing than you think.

GettyImages-1063992000 deepika and ranveer
Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone arrive at Mumbai airport after their wedding, in Lake Como, Italy. (Milind Shelte/India Today Group/Getty Images)

Nidhi Gupta


May 23, 2023


9 min

On the night of May 14, Alia Bhatt stepped out of her slate grey Range Rover at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Wearing all denim, the Gangubai Kathiawadi and RRR actor was flying to Seoul, South Korea to attend a Gucci event as the luxury brand’s first Indian global ambassador. Bhatt casually walked to Gate 1, stopping for a selfie with a fan, smiling while holding her tan Gucci Bamboo 1947 bag at just the right angle. An ensemble of paparazzi greeted her warmly, taking photos that would be posted all over social media and soon go viral. 

The incident is a uniquely Indian phenomenon. Filmmaker Karan Johar even shocked actor Sonam Kapoor, a guest on a 2022 episode of his celebrity talk show Koffee with Karan, when he explained that Indian celebrities actually summon the paparazzi to the airport. “It’s been official ever since Karan Johar said it on Koffee with Karan,” laughed Manav Manglani, a veteran paparazzo. “We get tipped off.” 

In a country where actors are revered like gods and seem out of reach, what explains celebrity compliance, even joyful participation, in this dance with the paparazzi at the airport of all places?

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