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Shah Rukh Khan: Are film stars above the law?

Rituparna Chatterjee | http://MasalaBai

Updated: May 17, 2012, 2:10 PM IST
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Shah Rukh Khan: Are film stars above the law?
What makes stars display an arrogant disregard for rules and flout publicly acceptable behaviour with impunity?

New Delhi: Depending on his mood, actor Shah Rukh Khan is in turn philosophical, reticent and self derisive on Twitter. In front of the international media he wears his celebrity status quite well, casually slung over a shoulder, shifting that chip to the other. It's only during moments like those at the Wankhede Stadium that shows the cracks behind the carefully preserved veneer.

Shah Rukh faces a ban by the furious Mumbai Cricket Association for an allegedly drunken brawl at the Wankhede Stadium with the security and officials of the MCA after the Knight Riders won the May 16 IPL game against the Mumbai Indians. Photographs from the stadium showed Khan charging angrily at security guards, pointing an accusatory finger while his daughter Suhana, players and other officials try to hold him back.

Off the moral high ground, I can honestly vouch for the fact that the majority of us have had fights and done embarrassingly stupid things while drunk at least once in our life. So why should it be any different when it comes to a film actor?

Here's why.

Film stars enjoy a status in our country quite unlike that of any other. They rule our hearts and logical thinking in everything we do, be it the uncomplicated task of selecting a Friday cinema outing for the family or defending them tooth and nail, as if it were our own honour that was slighted, in the drawing room or on social networking websites. I speak from experience that a contradictory comment about any of our popular matinee idols is enough to bring on the wrath of their million fans on Twitter. Their counter arguments are often illogical, prompted more by emotions that logic, and frequently abusive.

What makes people like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, who mowed down people with his car, or Saif Ali Khan, who slapped a man because he asked him to keep the noise down at a diner they were in, display the arrogant disregard for rules and flout publicly acceptable behaviour with impunity?

The self-proclaimed 'King of Bollywood' has had an eventful two decades in an industry that has seen the rise of potential stars but never one to seriously challenge and dethrone him. But as he enters middleage, Khan's frequent outbursts and flouting of civic rules have drawn the attention of the media to instances that could not have gone unnoticed in the age of 24x7 television cameras and celebrity event photographers.

His spat with filmmaker Shirish Kunder was widely covered and he was summoned by a Jaipur court for smoking at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium during an IPL match between Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders in April in front of thousands of spectators.

Is a star allowed to be human sometimes in public? Of course, as long as they are not disrupting public law and order. Khan tweets often about his daughter Suhana, the same girl shown frantically trying to pull his dad away from the May 16 spat at the Wankhede.

A case of non-cognizable offence has been filed against Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan over the Wankhede Stadium brawl. Khan, in his defense has denied being drunk and said the MCA officials owe him an apology for misbehaving with him.

We have seen a silent Shah Rukh at times of controversy, we have even seen an indignant Shah Rukh Khan generously "overlooking" the flaws of his detractors but this fire-spitting, righteously indignant Shah Rukh is perhaps new to the media used to his silences when a storm breaks around him.

Professionally, Khan has taken some beating from critics for his beloved science fiction film RA.One. He is surprisingly philosophical on Twitter, sometimes reacting to the criticism to the film, sometimes maintaining a stoic silence to reports of his growing closeness to Priyanka Chopra and giving out his tongue-in-cheek one-liners to fans asking him how he likes to be addressed by people. "Like a rose...by any name...I remain the same...."

Yet behind the supreme self confidence is a man easily provoked and goaded into anger.

Ironically in 2012 Shah Rukh was among the top three youth icons in a survey of people in the age group of 15-24. The Brand Equity's Most Exciting Youth Brands Survey was topped by Sachin Tendulkar, followed by Shah Rukh and Salman.

Clearly our stars have little regard for the responsibility that comes with the faith that youngsters have in them.

While he shrugged off his airport detention during his visit to the Yale University, on Wednesday night he lost his cool at a guard who was perhaps only doing his duty. Yes, I agree stars too have to put up with heckling from abusive crowds and constantly live under the spotlight but the power, fabulous riches and international visibility are part of that bargain.

Do our stars consider themselves above the law? It's debatable. They have their version of events I am sure as Shah Rukh has. For officials at the Wankhede Stadium it's just another crowd control issue, for the media it's a field day with dramatic visuals, but for the boy in front of the TV set, more often than not, bad behaviour is something 'cool' to do because his 'hero' has led the way. Think about it.

First Published: May 17, 2012, 2:10 PM IST
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