How SRK and Dilwale got punished for Aamir over intolerance
You could call this the 9/11 moment for the Twitter user versus the celebrity dynamic.
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Poor Bollywood badshaah Shahrukh Khan! He just got punished for something he didn't do. You don't know what I am talking about? Well, let me explain. While SRK's latest movie Dilwale is a hit and he'll make money, the truth is that it's a much smaller hit than expected and some distributors may actually lose money, a rarity for SRK films.
While Salman Khan's Prem Ratan Dhan Payo made Rs 40 odd crore on the opening day, Dilwale registered barely half of that at Rs 21 crore. The collections dropped on Saturday, but on Monday, Bajirao Mastani overtook Dilwale!
That's significant because the weekend runs mainly on advance bookings and Monday tells a better picture of how actually people have treated a movie.
So SRK is only half as good as Salman on weekends (Dilwale was way behind even Bajrangi Bhaijaan) and loses to Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone on Monday? Ouch!
And we are not even talking of Aamir Khan's mega hits PK and Dhoom 3. Clearly the #BoycottDilwale campaign seems to have worked. But SRK has every reason to feel short-changed.
Let's begin at the beginning.
One day at the start of November, SRK said that "Religious intolerance is shocking and will take us to the dark ages". Now most people wouldn't have watched that on TV but that sound bite was enough for Twitter to outrage for days on end.
To be fair to SRK, if you watched the entire interview then you'll find that the questions were extremely loaded and SRK merely rambled and made comments like: "It might have been there earlier, it's not a recent phenomenon"... "There are more platforms and more voices today"... "I can tell you one million things that will define my country beyond intolerance" et al.
But Twitter had its fun, but forgot and moved on as it usually does after a massive outrage.
Then towards the end of November, the other Bollywood superstar, Aamir Khan, jumped into the intolerance debate and said something more specific and substantial...
"When I chat with Kiran at home, she says, 'Should we move out of India?' That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day."
Endorsing the move, he added, "This feeling exists in me too."
That's when it hit the Twitter fan. The outrage was much greater this time: The social media powers to be decided to act. Aamir had crossed the line and had to be punished. The first target was Snapdeal for which Aamir was the brand ambassador.
Lakhs downgraded Snapdeal ratings and uninstalled the app. Snapdeal was late to react and issue a statement and the protest continued till Snapdeal was forced to remove Aamir from its Twitter home page.This was the first time such severe commercial damage had been done over a mere public statement.
You could call this the 9/11 moment for the Twitter user versus the celebrity dynamic. This was a commercial disaster and the common humble Twitter user had smelt blood.Now they wanted more and the target shifted to Aamir's next film Dangal. However there was a small catch. Dangal is set to release in December 2016! That's too far off.
So the net was widened to Aamir-SRK (even though SRK's was a relatively old outdated controversy) and the boycott Dangal-Dilwale campaign was born. And since Dilwale was to be released in some weeks, #BoycottDilwale became the sole target.
People stood with posters asking for the film's boycott in front of movie halls and Facebook statuses and blog waxed eloquent on how SRK was anti-national and simply had to be taught a lesson.
The winning argument seemed to be to donate the ticket money to charity instead. Indeed some status messages indicated that they had done just that.
Aamir, meanwhile, couldn't have cared less and issued a statement which showed further defiance! Again this ire was shifted to SRK even though he had apologised unconditionally. So the damage has been done.
Dilwale won't be a biggie when it comes to the universe of the three Khans.
Celebrities called this boycott a new form of intolerance, but whether we like it or not, it is here to stay. Twitter virtually elected the last prime minister of India and it has now started denting commercial fortunes of celebrities. That sounds quite dangerous. But there's not much we can do about it.
In fact, the journalist conducted the intolerance interview with SRK wrote and released a book. On Amazon, a whopping 1,000 people gave it a 1-star rating as against just a handful of three to five stars. The concerned journalist called them trolls and eventhe publisher complained.
But there's nothing Amazon will do. They are all registered buyers which Amazon will not want to antagonise.
Celebrities, companies and world leaders beware.
First Twitter severely dented your ego.
Then it made and unmade political fortunes.
Now it can make and unmake commercial fortunes too!
As SRK has learnt a bitter lesson...
Never underestimate the power of the common virtual man!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.