When he was barely a few hours old, Taimur Ali Khan was subjected to some vicious trolling on social media. Most of it was directed toward his parents, who had chosen a seemingly unconventional name for the baby who born on December 20, 2016. But everything changed the day a family member posted a picture of the toddler with his mother. The internet didn’t break, it melted. The bitterness of Twitter was washed away in the deluge of Instagram love – making baby TAK (as monogrammed on his customised luggage) the youngest and most sensational social media star.
The star tot, who checks all the boxes of text-book cuteness, has turned his family into the Indian equivalent of the British Royals. With everything from his yawn, to his spit bubbles, his frown and his first walk making headlines, he can easily find a place next to Princess Charlotte and Prince George in the annals of tabloid journalism. Taimur Khan has in fact rekindled an interest in Saif Ali Khan’s royal lineage and the good-looking family of three has joined the ranks of the most photographed celebrities over the past year.
Kareena Kapoor’s former boyfriend Shahid Kapoor also set some serious “parenting goals” on social media, when he announced the imminent arrival of his second child. He shared a made-for-Instagram photo featuring his first-born Misha and a bunch of balloons chalked next to the words “big sister”. The Padmaavat actor has turned into a social media darling, and he owes it to digital-savvy fatherhood, and a generation of fans who paste cupcakes, hearts, hugs and kisses next to his parenting posts.
Instagram was also where Neil Nitin Mukesh chose to announce his wife’s pregnancy on Monday. Chances are the cutesy baby pictures will follow soon, helping to boost his flagging career.
Karan Johar, meanwhile, is on a fluffy blue and pink cloud these days. With pictures of his year-old twins Yash and Roohi popping up on social media frequently, the producer and director, who has been a frequent target of trolls, finds himself enveloped in some serious virtual affection.
Bollywood is going through a baby boom. Over the past few years, several A-list stars have become parents (some of them with a little help from modern reproductive science). The result is a formidable network of star babies who often go to the same play schools, football clubs and swimming pools. They also share their piano and violin instructors, hair stylists and paediatricians. Their mothers meet for coffee and brunches, go to the same salons and often holiday together. Follow a star parent or a kid, and you are likely to run into the entire galaxy.
Which explains why tailing this gaggle of prettified tots around town – to all-star birthday parties and play dates, school annual days, pre-school picnics and shopping trips – is now a bona fide assignment for tabloid photographers. The celebrity parents are also doing their bit to ensure there are enough warm, fuzzy, cuddly and decidedly edible pictures of their babies to defang trolls. The media attention puts an end to the long but crucial debate on nepotism. After all, pictures speak louder than hashtags from a talk show or an awards function stage. Especially if the pictures are of adorable kids in customised onesies and bandhgalas styled by the country’s biggest designers.
Of all the star babies, Taimur Ali Khan seems to have captured the most attention. Not even two years old, he is already a one-baby industry. He has more than 55,000 posts on Instagram with handles such as tamipurcutiepie, taimurholics, taimualikhanteam driving the posts. Gossip web sites such as Pinkvilla boast of more than 10,000 posts on Taimur. MissMalini.com has long photo features dedicated to his “micro fashion”, his collection of shirts and his many moods. An army of Insta-friendly friends such as Karan Johar, Amrita Arora, Manish Malhotra, dozens of fan clubs and a busy social and professional calendar have ensured that Kareena Kapoor and her baby have emerged as one of the most visible stars on all social media platforms.
The only other star kid who comes close in terms to paparazzi frenzy perhaps is AbRam Khan, who has a similar charismatic appeal. Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan went to great lengths to keep news of the pregnancy a secret until AbRam Khan was introduced to the world. But since the time he was old enough to sit straight, the dimpled youngster has charmed his way through social media.
Until now, most stars preferred to keep their children away from the spotlight. No one kept track as Kajol and Ajay Devgn’s children grew up. One can hardly remember what Aamir Khan’s first-born looked like as a infant, or, for that matter, Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna’s children. On the other hand, Star kids such as Jhanvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan are being obsessively tracked on social media in recent years, ahead of their Bollywood debuts.
Instagram-friendly babies are still not the norm. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan took precautions to shield her daughter from the paparazzi, even when Aradhya accompanied her everywhere from Antilla to Cannes. It is only now that the six-year-old girl has started waving at the cameras, smiling shyly. The famously reticent Aditya Chopra has also embargoed photos of Adira, his daughter with Rani Mukerji, from circulating in the media. In a December interview, Mukerji said he wanted their child to have a “normal upbringing”, so they could spend a day out on the beach or in the park or mall, without drawing much attention.
The obsession with star kids also comes with a catch – and a cut-off date. A tot in a bikini on the beach is awww-inspiring. But a star teen in a bikini gets our knickers in a knot. From Suhana Khan to Trishala Dutt, some star kids are learning that the hard way, one post at a time.