A panelist on a recent TV debate – seemingly convened to declare Shah Rukh Khan guilty and deranged with anyone who dared suggest otherwise cut off mid-sentence – explained at some length that SRK needs better image management. He should, for example, have worked on looking contrite at the press conference, made the right noises, appeared sorry and sounded reconciliatory.
Alas, SRK has rarely obliged such expectations. It’s not as if stars don’t have sharp opinions; in private, many a top star will give you quite an unprintable perspective on a major issue or a colleague. But let the media camera roll, and, accomplished actors as they are, our stars will smile, give you smart one-liners, move on to the next question – but hardly ever be caught in hyper-aggressive postures such as SRK’s, or come the day after to meet the media in such a brazen, defiant mode.
Which is fine; we don’t want to bleep out stuff all the time, do we? But what it does often is give a fair amount of grist to the mills of mainstream and social media. We all speculate about hidden implications, cold wars, what’s happening ‘behind the scenes’, what the ‘buzz’ is, find sources that tell us exactly what the star is thinking currently. The next day, of course, someone else will find another friend or source even closer to the star who’ll give us still deeper insight, and so it goes.
And then comes SRK – and poof! There’s nothing left to decode. I’m a rockstar, he says. Period. Yes, Karim Morani is my friend though he’s been arrested, so kill me, he declares. I am the god of this (IPL) team, he says. I bloody well won’t say sorry for Wan-khede, he glares defiantly into the camera and declares for whoever cares to listen. And going by the volume of primetime TV dedicated to it, everyone cares to listen.
A lot of pop psychoanalysis has, following recent episodes, gleaned the deep insight that ‘superstardom has gone to his head’. I beg to differ. There’s something SRK has consistently said over the past several years: I’m not this way because i am a superstar; i am a superstar because i am this way.
He doesn’t say it for effect. It’s the simple truth. From the cocky youngster who came on stage to collect the Filmfare Award for best debut and said to Dilip Kumar, “Someday I’d like to collect the Lifetime Achievement Award like you’re doing today,” to the 40-something stating at Yale that he comes to the US for a reality check whenever he feels arrogant, the man has made little effort to be politically correct.
He attempts – not always successfully – to be safe and correct during the run-up to a major movie release, perhaps to try to not shift the focus to the latest debate, but that’s about it. He’s, thank God for that, never sent out PR-structured information hinting that he’s a bad boy ‘with a heart of gold’ – he’s content to be just a bad boy for those who think that’s what he is, thank you very much. And, knowing the cine industry, for that, if for nothing else, you have to give the devil his due.
Does he think too much of himself? Yes. Almost all movie stars do. He, however, literally spells it out, which can unnerve or irk those who tend to respond with an unsaid, “Who does he think he is?” and take subsequent delight in scampering to studios to slam him whenever called. But it’s just simple honesty, he’ll tell you.
“When I went up to collect the Filmfare Award for the best debut, and I turned around and said to Dilip saab, I would like to come here and receive a Lifetime Achievement Award too someday, so many people asked me, how can you say something like that? But if I feel like that, why shouldn’t I say it? I was honest enough to say what I felt.” Whether or not honesty has been the best PR policy, the man’s been consistent from day one.
Irked at his opinions being treated as that of “just a dumb, vulgar star”, tired of the loaded questions, especially about Salman and Sourav, he’s preferred to speak less and less on generic issues the past few years, but has kept his cool in public. Six years ago, in the course of an interview that i happened to take, SRK explained his fundamentals about avoiding anger this way: “The way it is, if I get angry, I shout at you, then I feel even worse, and I want to make up with you. So it’s a waste of time both ways. First I waste time fighting with you, and then I waste time trying to put that first waste of time righta¦My children think I never get angry. They ask me, papa, do you ever get angry like mamma? They don’t realise yet that I do get angry, but that I’ve stopped expressing it.”
Now, the children know he gets angry, and how. But, that apart, what verdict the Twitterati or the channels pronounce will probably not serve to make SRK wonder whether he should have res-ponded differently. Because, much as it infuriates most of his critics, he genuinely doesn’t care what they say.
Any guesses as to who is the journalist being referred to! 😉Tags: Shah Rukh Khan