You know him best as Cherry aka Chiraunjilal--the perpetually-frowning, formals-clad younger brother from the 2007 film 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' so it may be difficult to picture Parvin Dabas as a single, carefree man whose go-to outfit was cowboy boots and a leather jacket. But that look characterised Dabas in his early 20s when he was single and studying acting in New York while working as a host and waiter, and living in a place called the Young Men's Hebrew Association.
It was when the Delhi-based model and actor moved to the ad mad world of '90s Mumbai that his career took off. In that innocent, pre-digital era of Indipop and colas, Dabas would first taste his fame when kids would run up to him at a wedding to ask him to sign autographs on paper napkins. As the founder of Pro Panja League, Dabas now primarily extends his arm for the purposes of promoting arm-wrestling as a sport but memories of the time people would thrust a pen in his hand and ask him to sign body parts, still make him blush and flash his trademark dimple.
Do you remember the first autograph you ever sought?
Yes. This was when I was living in New York and attending acting school. I was in a book shop that day and comedian Steve Martin happened to be there as well browsing. I mustered up the courage to ask him for an autograph and got it. Of course, I showed it to all my fellow actors at acting school.
What's the most prized autograph or piece of signed memorabilia that you own?
The one i just mentioned. The 'Steve Martin' one.
What is your earliest memory of giving an
At a friend's wedding in Delhi. After having shifted to Mumbai, I had started doing ads and they were playing regularly on TV. First, one kid recognised me and brought a piece of paper to sign and then a lot of others seem to have got encouraged. They used whatever they got their hands on to take the autograph on...mostly the hotel napkins...which I think had to be replenished for the wedding dinner after that.
What do you think is the historical significance of an autograph?
It, of course, serves as document. An emotional document. And the signature itself says something about the person which gives us something to analyse from a historical perspective.
What makes an autograph superior to a selfie, in your view?
An autograph, of course, is a classic. And takes much more from the person giving it then just a selfie. In today's day and age, it also shows that someone appreciates the connection with the person giving the autograph so much more.
Have you had any strange encounters with selfie seekers? Any instances?
Well...sometimes people like to give you instructions or want you to put your hands on their shoulders or some such things. But i don't find these things strange anymore. It shows the affection of the people.
Do you regularly answer fan mail, even now? Has the number of people writing letters to you dwindled over time?
Yes, it has dwindled with the advent of social media. I used to get a lot of fan mail and tried to reply to as many as i could. Nowadays, of course, all fan mail has converted into 'comments' and 'DM's'. I do try and reply still as much as i can.
Do you think an autograph can convey much more about a personality than even a photograph?
I wouldn't say much more. but i would say 'as much as a selfie' depending on what message is written along with the autograph
Do you remember any conversations or interactions with ardent autograph seekers?
Most of the conversations have centred around where the people are from. And also a lot of times, where someone has a seen a film of mine and sometimes what it meant to them. We must remember asking for an autograph is the ultimate form of appreciation of one's art
How do you generally sign autographs?
Best Wishes and Luv from Parvin Dabas. And sometimes...if they tell me something
Are you particular about what to say?
I generally like to leave a positive and personal message
Why do you think this is important?
Good manners and shows my appreciation for their appreciation
What is the strangest piece of memorabilia or object that you have been asked to sign?
Usually, it's money (which I don't because it's illegal) but sometimes T-shirts and caps etc which are fine. One time, a guy asked me to sign his car...which i did
Do you recall any strange or quirky requests from fans seeking autographs?
Hmmmm...you don't want to know. Let's just say i was once requested to sign a female body part.
Is your experience with autograph seekers in India different from that of autograph seekers abroad? What differentiates them? Any instances?
It's pretty similar. Most people are respectful. Some idiots you'll find everywhere.
Why do you think the hobby of autograph seeking is dying? Is this merely a consequence of technology or the changing nature of fame/actor-fan dynamic or something else?
I feel it's more a consequence of technology because earlier, an interaction with an actor was a rare thing. And autographs or pictures were the only proof of that. Now, you can see them regularly on social media (or clicking pictures at airports) so the nature of the dynamic has changed.
If yes, what do you think we stand to lose as a culture with the loss of this piece of penmanship?
I don't think we will totally lose it. It will always remain, especially with the physical actor/fan interaction.
Do you miss giving autographs in these times of social distancing?
No (smiles). I would rather be safe then serve my
Are you particular about what pen you use while giving autographs?
Not really. Usually you borrow one fans pen and then that person has to hang around til all the autographs are signed to get the pen back (laughs)
What according to you are strict no-nos when it comes to giving autographs?
No personal body parts please
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