Even as a fan, I find fans fascinating. And more than just generally fascinating, I think the process of becoming a fan is really intriguing, specifically the process of how one builds a knowledge about their object of fandom.
I remember one of the first times I met up with Stimpy, back when I had seen barely any films, and she threw around all these oldie star names I had no context for. I think she said something like, "It just seems like every Shammi film I watch nowadays ends with him and Pran chasing each other in a comic fashion." and I was just like, "Who's Shammi? Who's Pran?" but even as she answered, I couldn't really contextualize the two properly, having only seen maybe three pre-1980's films.
I think what happens when you're a non-Indian fan of Indian cinema, is that you suddenly come upon something that you've either sort of known about (it's been in your periphery) or haven't had any clue about, and little by little you build a knowledge of it. But your knowledge is based on what you watch, when you watch it and how you watch it - whether you focus on oldies, newer films, fluffy films, tearjerkers, plain masala, socially conscious, more arthouse films, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada.. And when I was a newbie, I became accutely aware of all my blind spots, all the blanks I had to somehow fill out to get a picture in my head of what other people were talking about.
Eventually the blank gets filled out. You learn who you like, who you choose to focus on.. You learn that not knowing who's Dino Morea is actually no great crime on your part. Not knowing who Salman Khan is, however, would be a different story. And the way the utter blankness gets filled out, but never completed (because nobody can know everything about Indian cinema -- there aren't enough years to live on this planet to do so), that's really interesting. And one of the things I kind of struggle with is how to write "newbie-friendly", so that I don't take for granted that everybody knows who so-and-so is, and so my posts can be more easily contextualized even if you haven't seen over 150 or so films.
Of course, Indian (or NRI) fans of Indian cinema are possibly even more fascinating. For them, it's not necessarily a blank slate they fill out slowly - it's different variables of ground knowledge, knowledge of language and culture (but not some other languages, some other parts of the culture), it's watching films when you're a kid you now can barely remember (or remember extremely well), it's having a mother who loves Rajesh Khanna films because that's what she grew up on, it's quoting Sholay because other kids are quoting Sholay, not because you've seen the film yourself.. It's taking your family to the movies. There's so much there, so many individual "how I became a fan" stories, and if I had my way, everybody would be recounting these stories because they are so cool. A lot of them may seem self-evident to the people recounting them (like watching films off TV) but those of us who haven't lived through them will find them interesting.
This isn't to say we are all operating on completely different playing fields, as obviously we are watching the same movies, even enjoying the same movies, and agreeing on things left and right, whether we're newbies, seasoned fans, Finnish, Indian, British NRI or Nigerian. But I think we all have our own ways of contextualizing things, giving them a place in our knowledge sphere if you will. (Does that sound pretentious enough?)
There's always going to be a million and one Indian films you could watch. But your choices are yours, as are your views. What we can give to each other is knowledge of what we've yet to look into, recommendations, and stories. And I think we should tell more stories of how we watch films, instead of just talking about the films, to give context to our own film experiences. But coincidentally, I may actually be the only one..