Fan Letters: The Heartbeat of Bollywood Connecting Stars and Fans


Once upon a time, there were times when social media did not exist and handwritten letters were the norm for communication. Those who have watched movies in India during the decades of the 50s through the 80s remember how writing letters to their favourite superstars was a popular trend among the youth, much to the disapproval of their elders. The letters were a way for fans to bridge the distance between themselves and their beloved actors.

From January 14 – 16, 2023, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) Dhenkanal is hosting an exhibition entitled “Filmi Chakkar 4.0” that delves into the journey of Bollywood posters. The exhibition will feature a collection of movie posters from the first Indian sound film, “Alam Ara,” to the blockbuster hit “Kantara,” as well as Odia magazine covers and fan letters. The exhibits will be on display in the media museum and will be a part of a film appreciation workshop organized during the event.In the age of social media, even though a film star is just a tweet away, the intimacy between a fan and an actor has declined. The yesteryear youngsters would meticulously write letters to their screen idols in the hopes of correspondence or simply for an autograph. Personal handwritten responses along with autographed photos were treated as prized possessions back in those days.

It was not unusual for yesteryear actors like Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna to receive fan mail written in blood. In those days, film magazines carried fan mail sections that had addresses of the stars and featured some ‘best’ letters written to them. Getting a letter in one’s name from a star was nothing short of an achievement in those days.

One such treasure trove of fan letters and autographed photos of yesteryear stars was shared on Twitter by Sam Jawed, the co-founder of a fact-checking website, two years ago. The letters belonged to her deceased aunt and were written by screen icons like Shammi Kapoor, Kamini Kaushal, Dharmendra, Sunil Dutt, Tabassum, Biswajit, Sadhana, and Asha Parekh among others. The National Film Archive of India (NFAI) has approached her to let them “preserve the precious collection.”

As the world evolves and technology advances, it is important to remember and cherish these moments of nostalgia and intimacy between fans and actors. The letters and autographed photos serve as a reminder of the special connection that once existed and the memories that will always be cherished.

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