While his 20 boys are on the streets of Mumbai, running to get a celeb clicked, photojournalist or like many call him paparazzo Viral Bhayani sits in his office and edits almost “20-25” posts for his social media which almost has a reach of “180 million”. Bhayani started his career when he had a small camera, but today he is so occupied that he barely gets time for himself, except for his morning gym routine. He manages all his social media single-handedly and has no qualms about not taking a vacation.
While talking to us over the phone, Bhayani ensured his multi-tasking skills take care of his social media. “Urfi Javed ki photos aayi hai,” he exclaims. While speaking to us, he also edits Javed’s pictures to post on social media. It won’t be a hyperbole that Javed rose to prominence owing to her outings in eccentric outfits that are religiously captured by Bhayani and other sets of paparazzi. “Urfi Javed makes more money than any Bollywood actor right now. Even my sister questions us why we cover her so much. But she is working,” he mentions.
That’s just a normal day in Bhayani’s life. However, if a big Bollywood wedding is around the corner, there could be sleepless nights for him.”Three guys were hospitalized (recently) because of the pressure of work. They don’t get time to relax. We are at war every day. I feel attacked every day. We are always under pressure,” Bhayani shares.
When the reports of actor Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s wedding hit the web, Bhayani’s “boys” and other paps stationed themselves day and night in front of the couple’s abode Vastu. Bhayani calls the wedding “scary”, given the entire situation.
“I agree that they want to respect their elders, but they could have done the same at a five-star hotel. We would have got good pictures and everything would have been disciplined. Your net worth is ₹830 crores, what are you trying to prove by doing this,” Bhayani laments. He also recalls late actor Feroz Khan throwing a grand wedding for his son Fardeen Khan. “Feroz Khan jaisa aadmi chahiye. The wedding reception that he had for Fardeen and the way he treated us there…He ensured everyone got the pictures, his entire family posed for us as they would have for the wedding photographer. We pretty much got the same food as the guests had. That’s called a wedding. Yaar dil hona chahiye. Even Katrina (Kaif, actor) and Vicky (Kaushal, actor) got married but they didn’t do anything for us. Ek reception kar dete toh kya farak padta. Main sponsor karwa deta.” Bhayani elaborates, also adding “I’m no one to comment on it but this is the least you can do is a public person. Appreciate the fact that the fans love you so much.”
One cannot escape Bhayani’s vigilant cameras. However, he isn’t omnipresent. Contrary to the myth, most of the time he gets to know about a celeb’s outing, courtesy of their PRs. ‘Tip off …’ is one of the standard openings of PRs for these messages. Bhayani claims that everyone needs the limelight as everyone is replaceable. Everybody wants to be seen right now. No one can afford to have an attitude. Sabko apna brand banana hain. Pehle ke ghamand gaye sab,” Bhayani shares while he names actors like Salman Khan and Shraddha Kapoor who were once banned by the paps due to their behaviour. He names “Shilpa Shetty” one of the cool ones. “If there’s someone finicky we don’t focus on them.”
While this may be seen as a job for a plain jane, Bhayani reveals it has its inner complexities. “If I leak someone’s look from on-location ( film set) they (the producers) can file a defamation case. Recently I did a story on Sonam (Kapoor, actor), when it was reported that her house help was arrested for theft. Her legal team sent me a legal notice saying the report is fake. I was amazed, they asked me to remove it otherwise I’d be slapped with a notice,” Bhayani shares instances.
Another thing that Bhayani has to face daily is the “threatening calls” from actors. “Actors mostly call me to remove certain things. But even I argue with them. I have my point of view. That is why people don’t like me too much. I would accept my mistake but if there’s no mistake of mine, I will fight back,” he says. And when he says he learns from his mistakes, he does. Recalling an incident when his team chased a pregnant Anushka Sharma in a car, Bhayani adds, “We made a video and posted it. Soon, people bashed me. They said she is pregnant, what if there was a speed breaker and something happened, you won’t be able to forgive yourself if something happened. I realised they were right. We have to be disciplined and self censor ourselves,” he narrates.
Today Bhayani understands his responsibility and tries to maintain a distance. “Even you’ll feel offended if I click your baby’s picture without your consent. We often catch several married actors cheating on their partners with someone else. But we don’t indulge in it. Now even we understand,” he ends.
Bhayani wants to expand his brand, especially with movie producers and actors’ teams looking up to them to position their brand value. Not everyone gets to be a viral shutterbug, and Bhayani definitely wants to make the most of it.