Dear Shah Rukh Khan, berating media won’t make you Raees or Meryl Streep

You’re a public figure. That comes with a price.

 |  3-minute read |   25-01-2017
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Shah Rukh Khan, in a byline piece printed in today’s Indian Express, has said that he’s “waiting for mediapersons to get over their wonderful, newly-gained stardom”. Just one day before the India-wide theatrical release of Raees, snippets from SRK’s interview that will be published the coming Sunday have lines such as these:

“Journalists are not used to stardom – theirs as well as celebrities. Suddenly, everybody looks better, does better make-up and the anchor is the star of every show. The editor is the star of every snippet. Everybody writes an article with a picture. Everybody is trying to lose weight, look nice. When I was seven years into stardom, I used to behave like this.”

This was in reply to a question asking why he was being compared to Meryl Streep, whose Golden Globes speech has attained a legendary status already and has become a rallying cry for anti-Trump protests in the United States of America. SRK appeared miffed that not only was the comparison made, but also that the Bollywood brethrens were belittled for not speaking up enough when media itself isn’t doing its job that well.

He said: “Why don’t journalists here behave the way their counterparts do in the West? You see journalists asking pointed questions to presidential candidates fearlessly and with facts. If the other person interrupts, they would stop and say, ‘It is his time’.”

While SRK’s grudge that “every interview has become an editorial” is partly true, it’s also equally important to realise that the reality of our times makes it extremely politically charged and volatile. To the extent that it’s foolish to expect a noncommittal media only promoting a movie pre and post its theatrical release, while not finding political talking points and read between the lines of a star’s off-screen pronouncements and indulgences.

srk_012517084224.jpg Shah Rukh Khan cannot keep being the hassle-free, market-loving entertainer without taking a dip into the murky waters of domestic and international politics anymore. [Photo: DailyO]

The phenomenon of stardom has been complicated many times over by the explosion in media outlets and the presence of diverse social media platforms. Exactly when we have a Modi or Trump as democratically elected leaders, the personal becomes all the more political because attempts to push back the rights of citizens gain ascendancy. Shah Rukh Khan cannot keep being the hassle-free, market-loving entertainer without taking a dip into the murky waters of domestic and international politics anymore.

So, to expect such uncomfortable questions to not come his way is delusional, to say the least. It’s really the price of SRK’s stardom that his has to contend with other, lesser forms of stardoms within the media – on TV or social media. So, instead telling news anchors that they should look less attractive on TV, SRK should probably differentiate himself by representing all that’s salvageable.

India media, whatever it may be, is hardly SRK’s adversary. In fact, if SRK has an ally that has been loyal all through, it’s Indian media. Movie reviews notwithstanding, media’s fascination with SRK parallels a later-day enthrallment with Modi and Trump, though these individuals are like chalk and cheese.

So, berating Indian media won’t make SRK our Meryl Streep, despite her comfortably more liberal environment in Hollywood today. While we love SRK for his uncompromising stances on various issues – and we must applaud that unlike the older superstar he’s often compared to, Amitabh Bachchan, he doesn’t believe in greasing the palms of odious office bears of an illiberal, narrow nationalism - it's still important that he doesn't get the media en bloc wrong.

But, don’t shoot the messenger, Shah Rukh Khan.

Also read - One tight slap, Kailash Vijayvargiya

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