YouTube and Instagram are full of videos that promise a peek inside homes of celebrities like Manju Warrier, Vijay, Rajinikanth and more.

Vijay, Manju Warrier and Mohan LalCourtesy/FacebookManjuWarrierMohanLalMasterMovie
Flix Popular Culture Saturday, December 18, 2021 - 13:59

Fascination with celebrities is universal, and a specific sub-culture that has evolved around it is visits to the homes of some of the biggest star actors. Not actual visits though, like a guest coming to the house, but more of sight-seeing from outside and hopes to catch a glimpse of the star as they go about their day. Beverley Hills, Los Angeles where many of Hollywood’s most famous live, have actual tours with a guide, a map and a Rolls Royce to get you there. There are also two-hour van tours, because not everyone can afford to ride around LA in a hired Rolls Royce.

 

But what about closer home? YouTube and Instagram are full of videos that promise a peek inside celebrity homes. These aren’t shot by anyone officially invited by a star to show off their sprawling residences. Verging on voyeurism, the videos are made by eager fans who mostly just make it to the front gate. There are scores of such videos by fans of Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu stars, some with far more exciting thumbnails and titles than what actually happens in the videos. Still, so great is the fandom and the curiosity around these that the videos get lakhs of views. From the videos, it seems these homes fall outside of the ambit of privacy — as if, like historical or holy sites — they are exempt from such notions.

There are a host of videos focusing on the just the drive to the actor’s house, infused with elements of a travel vlog — itinerary: celeb spotting. Many times, all there is are shots of a luxury car with blacked out windows driving in or out of lavish mansions, fortressed behind imposing automated gates.

Take this video of Kollywood star Sivakarthikeyan’s home for example. It plays out like a documentation of an adventurous field trip. The person recording the video says at the beginning that today, he’s going to show us the footage of when he met Sivakarthikeyan. Spoiler: He doesn’t actually meet him. There is, instead, a few minutes of an irate security guard asking them to please go away: “No, Sivakarthikeyan sir is not home.” In a while, a white car with its heavily-tinted windows rolled up, drives into the compound. Whether the comedian-turned-hero is even in there is anybody’s guess. But even an encounter like this is treated as the prize for camping outside his home, of which the video-maker gives us a helpful description: "there are lots of trees inside, can’t really see the house itself because of them. Well-maintained garden, though."

 

Two Manju Warrier fans attempt to gain entry into her Thrissur home, where someone who works there rebuffs them at the gate citing COVID-19. But no virus can stop them showing anyone who is interested the exact banyan tree that she supposedly sat under as a child or her “favourite” — they claim — temple to visit. So what if the vloggers could not meet Manju chechi? The video is 17 minutes long where the vloggers describe the whole village around Manju’s home.

 

Our next video includes none other than Mohanlal himself. Well, not him. His house in Kochi. You get the picture (dare I say). Titled ‘Bicycle Travel Series’, the channel ‘sherinz Vlog’ does indeed show off trips to the mountains and such. One of the episodes though, is a whole 15 minutes long, and of the vlogger looking for “Lalettan’s” house on a bicycle, getting lost, stopping for some crispy vadas, pointing out famous shooting spots. The suspense thickens. It’s in the last three minutes or so, and a go pro pointed through the railings of Latettan’s front gate give us a view of an immaculate lawn, “his new car” and the number plate of his caravan. A gardener comes over and joins in on the vlog. He informs us that Lalettan is not home, he’s in Chennai.

 

Speaking of Chennai, Malayali vlogger Anoop M brings his viewers along for a bilingual tour – to where? Rajini’s Poes Garden home, of course. The home of late chief minister Jayalaithaa who used to be the “Superstar’s” neighbour, is a bonus. For this, he sits pillion on a Chennaite’s bike. After going for a spin around the city, they arrive outside Rajini’s home. The vlogger keeps up a running commentary on Chennai’s roads, switching effortlessly between Malayalam and Tamil. Still, neither of them is lucky enough to spot the Thalaivar.

And if Mahesh Babu fans need a quick guide directing them to his house, someone has provided one. The bgm is complimentary, one assumes.

 

Then there are the Instagram handles dedicated to various actors. One section of the posts are “pilgrimages” of sorts to stars’ homes. A common theme in many of the videos outside Vijay’s house is the unironic use of the same background track. The lyrics “oru murai dhaan, oru murai dhaan, unai paarthaal oru varamme” from his hit film Kaththi (2014) play unfailingly as Thalapathy fans gaze almost reverentially at his gate or his car (unclear if it’s the now infamous Rolls Royce Ghost). The lines loosely translate as “to see you even once would be a boon.” Actually, the editing, mixing of songs and clips of various actors’ by these fan handles would merit an article on their own.

 

One feels equal parts amused and exasperated wondering if the titles, tags and introductions in the YouTube videos are a neat way to monetise fandoms without actually showing fans what they’re promised. After all, at least several thousands of rupees can be made depending on the ad views and other intricacies of the YouTube world. Or is this a con that people willingly participate in, knowing that the enigma of a star’s personal living space lies just out of reach?

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