Let's kick the superstar when he is down, for god knows he makes good copy and helps us grab eyeballs, says Sanchari Bhattacharya.
When Neha Dhupia had famously said 'Only sex and Shah Rukh Khan sell', she probably would not have guessed how oft-quoted or prophetically accurate that statement would remain years down the line.
Shah Rukh Khan sells.
You can love him or hate him or remain indifferent, but you cannot dispute the fact that the man wields celebrity power like no one else does.
That is why, even after three of his recent films met with a lukewarm response, he still gets to work with the biggest directors and banners in the Hindi film industry. That is why he can sell anything from toothpaste to innerwear to, unfortunately, fairness cream.
That is why an incident at the Wankhede that could have been resolved with a few apologies and cordial handshakes has snowballed into the biggest news story of the week. It has led to screaming headlines about a superstar losing his famous cool, an outbreak of pejorative comments on social networking sites, and a formal police complaint.
Unlike my colleague Harish Kotian, I was not present at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium the night the now infamous brawl happened between Shah Rukh and officials of the Mumbai Cricket Association.
Like most Indians, I read about the incident the next day. And I watched the drama unfold on television, as everyone remotely connected with the incident rushed to milk it and get their 15 seconds of fame from the not-so-pleasant encounter with the superstar.
So MCA officials, frothing at the mouth after being put in their place for once, spoke about how Shah Rukh was drunk, how he had ranted against them, even how he had 'misbehaved' with a woman there. There was even talk about filing an attempt to murder case against the actor and banning him for life from the Wankhede.
The media gleefully lapped it all up, going on and on about how 'Shah Rukh Khan was in trouble again', 'Will he be arrested?' and the rather tiresome 'Is this SRK's mid-life crisis?'
Shah Rukh Khan sells, we all know that. So we put him on our front pages and television channels and Twitter posts and in columns. For the mere mention of Shah Rukh Khan attracts millions of page views and readers and viewers.
Who cares about what Manmohan Singh said in Parliament or why the Rupee is sinking? Let's all kick the superstar when he is down, for god knows he makes good copy and helps us grab eyeballs for our happening social networking sites which otherwise have exciting updates about being stuck in traffic and having idli for breakfast.
I am NOT defending what Shah Rukh Khan did or did not do that night. Yes, as a public figure he should not have lost his temper. Yes, he should not have used that kind of language in front of the very children he was supposedly protecting. Yes, he could have taken the higher ground and resolved the situation by walking away.
But should he apologise to the MCA officials whom he supposedly abused?
Anybody who has had any kind of interaction with the men and women who run the premier sports organisations in our country can testify to the fact that they suffer from hallucinations of being demi-gods.
Much like top politicians and bureaucrats, many of them are drunk on their power and are often ill-behaved. Many of them treat the sports bodies they govern as their personal fiefdoms.
If you listen to the recording of that night's ruckus, when Shah Rukh is injudiciously invoking their mothers and sisters while asking them not to touch the young girls present, you can hear some of those present provoking him and threatening him too.
No amount of provocation may justify Shah Rukh Khan's outburst at the Wankhede. But the only people he owes an apology to are his daughter Suhana and her friends who watched, shell-shocked, as the situation, spectacularly, got out of control.
Those children should not have been forced to witness an ugly spat like that and should not have had to hear SRK mouthing such uncouth words. For that, he owes them an immediate and sincere apology.
But to the MCA officials and security officials that he allegedly heckled that night, he owes squat.
Not surprisingly, in yet another exhibition of pettiness, the MCA has banned Shah Rukh from the Wankhede for five years for his 'disgusting' behaviour. Ironically, the announcement came from the MCA president, a former Maharashtra chief minister, who was sacked after 26/11, and is remembered most for insensitively taking a film director through an attack site hours after that horrific siege ended.
This worthy was recently slammed by the Supreme Court for misusing his powers and granting prime land to another filmmaker.
At a press meet on Thursday, Shah Rukh had pooh-poohed the MCA's threats and said it would make no difference to him if he was banned from the Wankhede for life.
It would not matter to him, sure, but such bans would make a world of difference to the many self-righteous cricket officials and pundits. They get to air their malice or advice while they enjoy their brief moment under the media sun, while riding pillion on the fame of the man Wikipedia terms as 'one of the biggest stars in history'.
As for those who have so much to say about how a celebrity like Shah Rukh Khan needs to be on his best behaviour in public all the time, please remember he is human and is entitled to his mistakes -- just like the rest of us lesser mortals.
On most days SRK doesn't make for an easy target. He is a happily married man who is image conscious enough to be extremely civilised and charming in public. In his interviews, he speaks about how much he misses his deceased parents and how much he loves his children.
Other celebrities may get away literally with committing murder, but King Khan is now hauled over the coals because he verbally abused impertinent men puffed up with their self-importance.
King Khan doesn't need me, or anybody else, to defend him. He has taken it all -- the jeers, the catcalls and the unkind reviews -- on his chin for years and he will continue to do so.
This time, for a change, he decided to hit back. He stuck to his guns and refused to apologise. Good for him!
I would like to believe that the millions of fans he has across the world will stand by him through this incident and probably adore Shah Rukh Khan a little bit more for taking on the panjandrums of sportsdom, just like his alter-ego Kabir Khan did in Chak De.