Security concerns while performing in India: Murder of Christina Grimmie by a fan

Fans and admirers are an unpredictable lot. At their best, they stand one as armies that cannot bear even the slightest slight against their idol; at their worst, the same idols need to take out restraining orders against them.

Worse still, tragic incidents occur around gigs and concerts, with the idol at the receiving end of a fan’s attention and cruel intentions. Former The Voice USA contestant Christina Grimmie found out the hard way at a club where she was performing, that an enamoured fan had managed to smuggle a gun into the venue where she was playing. He shot her dead.

As artists in this country will tell you, most people in most places and venues are the best kind. But, at times, in certain places, crowds do get unruly. For example, earlier this year, a DJ was shot dead in North India for not playing a request. But by and large, such incidents are few and far between.

We asked young, popular singers with legions of fans what their security concerns were and what precautions, if any, could be taken…

Shalmali Kholgade
Frankly, I haven’t imagined a situation like this, arising in my career. At least, not at this point. I have admirers and fans, but I have always assumed they are realistic in their idea of who I am. Having said that, during a government festival, college show or any public gig, it is important to have adequate security to avoid any unruly behaviour. My manager has the final say in what is safe for me to do and what not. I don’t question her judgement.

Anushka Manchanda
I usually don’t feel threatened during, before and after a concert. Sometimes there are huge crowds which are pushing and pulling, but I always have big, beefy security guards who are very vigilant, and my manager and team are super protective about me because I’m totally out there and never hold back. In different parts of the country and at different shows, the audience is always different. I would be more careful at a public show than a corporate one, or in the North of India than in the South. Danger can come from anywhere in any form. All you can do is be careful and not incite or invite trouble.

Neeti Mohan
This kind of an incident can happen to anyone irrespective of the quality of security measures undertaken, since artists generally get up, close and personal with fans at public events and there’s a high risk of threat to life when it comes to any public figure. However security measures such as screening of all fans at entry points with metal detectors, assigned artist security personnel, personalised electronic gate passes for all crew members, sniffer dogs at key access points, screening of meet-and-greet fans is a must. I would even go the extent of suggesting artists wearing bullet-proof jackets, artist’s families being insured and organisers ensuring all ticket holders have a clean police record. Artists in India don’t have standalone security riders really and that would be a great start to things. The basic requirement of venues being patrolled by local police and then being cordoned off 12 hours before a show is a must, with sound check happening only 24 hours before the show instead of the general norm of an hour before the show. Backstage green rooms should have strict regulations minus the ad hoc walk-ins and the live stage should also have armed personnel and not just stage managers. But I think, at the end of the day, if someone is mentally unfit, the chances are he or she will find a way to do something socially unacceptable. At the end of it, artists and fans are very closely integrated and no amount of monitoring can really protect an artist from a calamity of this sort.

Jasmine Sandlas
What happened to Christina Gimmie is heart-breaking. I pray that her loved ones find solace in the memories that they have shared together. As a performer, this incident doesn’t motivate me to necessarily beef up my security but it reveals to me that there should be an effort to increase awareness of mental health issues and treatments. I feel that there are many signs of distress before an act of violence is committed. It’s important to recognize these signs and get professional help before it’s too late. This way, we can combat the bigger issue at hand. I hope something like this never happens to anyone again.

Shipra Goyal
Often, I get to hear news of skyfires (celebratory gunfire), at our very own Indian weddings, which sometimes end up in untoward accidents. We all are aware of this. Not only weddings, though. Apparently, clubs in the metros are not safe either becasue sometimes one hears of people entering with guns. So, as an artist, it scares me, if the venue I am going to be performing at, a history of such incidents. I clearly refuse to go onstage Or the event managers or organising people they have to make sure of my security and remove any alien element or threat present in my audience. For security reasons, I have my personal bouncers present with me during all my shows.

But yes I feel there is a strong need for change in regard to security of artists across the globe because not just this one case, there have been numerous of artists shot down dead while performing in Punjab or Pakistan, too!