Too much heat has been generated and too much dust has been raised by the 60 minute detention of Shah Rukh Khan by the US airport authorities. The Page 3 crowd has been vociferous in condemning the 'evil empire' and the whole episode is being portrayed as it an assault to India's dignity by some over-zealous US officers. SRK doesn't represent the collective honour of 1 billion people. (Nor does Dhoni or Rahul Gandhi for that matter!)
I have 10 lines of arguments to prove that SRK's detention is a complete non-issue:
1. A 60-minute interrogation must have been caused by some suspicious aberration on the computer screen of the clearing officer. It is one thing by the fans of the superstar to say that their icon was insulted but come to think of the mental state of the guy who dared to stop him. He felt suspicious about a passenger whose superstardom in India was none of his concerns. In the matters of security, one must err on the side of caution. Better to search a celebrity rather than letting a suspect go out and cause the mayhem.
2. If a former Defence Minister of India can be searched and a most revered ex-President of India can be frisked, then surely SRK can be detained too. Is a film star to be attached more importance than the former President of our republic?
3. Does anyone recall a movie titled, Sarfarosh. The story revolved around a famous singer from Pakistan who was much loved in India and was a toast to the millions of Indian fans but he eventually turned out to be a terrorist. Now we all know that that was a movie but sometimes the reel life can resemble the real life. If a Hansie Crownie, the much respected South African cricketer can be a match-fixing enabler then anyone can be anything. At least theoretically! Nobody should be exempt from detailed scrutiny if the initial checks point out that more detailed checks are required. After all who could have imagined that the lovable Munna Bhai once kept an AK 47 in his house!
4. Okay fine, SRK was detained and interrogated and he came out clean, so why should the matter not end there itself. Is it because there is a certain film My Name Is Khan that is yet to be released and all the current publicity will help the film which may have a similar theme. Sorry guys, just thinking aloud. No insinuations meant!
5. The recent Hindi movie, New York, portrays the fundamentalists in a rather 'none too bad light.' It tries to create sympathy for the terrorists by saying that all those who are terrorists are terrorists a result of bashing received at the hands of FBI. And the movie is a big hit, I hear. Anyone by the name Khan from India then becomes a suspect for the US state. I am really surprised that the movie didn't get the condemnation that it deserved. What else do you want the US authorities to do?
6. All the bigwigs of Bollywood are up in arms against the US. They say that US suffers from fear psychosis. That is correct my dear Bollywood biggies. Any country which suffers a man-made calamity like the 9/11 will have fear psychosis. Anything less than would make them more vulnerable and the US is determined to let its people feel safe once again.
7. SRK says that he doesn't feel like going to the US again. Well he can't avoid it. The US represents more than 1/4th of the huge overseas market for Bollywood movies. In fact, he shouldn't have made this remark. And why don't you want to go to US? Just because you were detained for 60 minutes. I think SRK made these utterances so that he escapes such detailed scrutiny the next time. Indian film stars find it demeaning to be standing in queues along with the ordinary folks. They would rather strut out majestically letting others gasp at their swagger!
8. SRK felt insulted by being detailed for a routine interrogation. This is most unbelievable. For a man who routinely insults fellow celebrities when he anchors some award ceremony, this was a like him getting a taste of his own medicine.
9. Spare a thought for some of the producers and directors in whose sets, SRK reaches late. They are virtually detained in their own sets by the star's tantrums. Good revenge for them.
10. And finally it's time these film stars started to think of themselves as mortals. From dust we all came and to dust we all shall go. There aren't any superstars really. We are all children of One God. My 13 year daughter says, "Dilip Kumar who?" when I tell her that Dillipsaab was the greatest actors of all time. In 20 years time, my grandchildren will say, "SRK who?"
So Mr Khan, just chill man.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi