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Who’s the No. 1 star? Khan’t say for sure

The way SRK dominates television channels, you’d think he actually pays them for footage by the hour. The truth is that TV cameras would come tearing down his house if he told them he was going to sneeze, writes Poonam Saxena.
None | By Poonam Saxena
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2008 11:40 PM IST

The way Shah Rukh Khan dominates television channels, you’d think he actually pays them for footage by the hour. The truth is of course that TV cameras would come tearing across the city to his house if he told them he was going to sneeze. While watching TV on Thursday night, I saw so much of him, all the channel IDs may as well have changed to SRK News or SRK India or whatever. First, he revealed to TV crews the flamboyant and aggressive theme song, video, logo, costumes, colours and goodness knows what else of his Kolkata team, called the Knight Riders. (You have to say this for Shah Rukh: he’s the fastest draw in the East. Does anyone know the song, video, costumes, colours, logo of any other team?)

CNN IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey hosted Face The Nation, where the topic of discussion was ‘Is IPL Just A Business For Shah Rukh Khan?’ There were three people to discuss this: cricketer Anjum Chopra, the sports editor of the Ananda Bazaar Patrika and the CEO of something called Bijoor Consultants. It might have been an interesting discussion except for the fact that all three turned out to be ardent Shah Rukh Khan fans and declared that he was the best thing to happen to Kolkata cricket, no argument about that, thank you. Poor Bhupendra Chaubey tried very hard to play the devil’s advocate (“But won’t the glamour outshine the cricket?” etc, etc), to no avail. He might as well have joined the chorus of approval.

So that was the first part of the wall-to-wall SRK coverage. The second part revolved around the burning question: Is Shah Rukh No. 1? Or is Aamir Khan No. 1? Apparently, Aamir made a statement at some press conference that he was No. 1 and Shah Rukh No. 2. And that was enough to launch a thousand programmes. Aaj Tak got so carried away that they put two of their anchors on either side of a chessboard; one rooted for one Khan and the second for the other Khan. Then – maybe in a moment of deranged wish-fulfilment – the two anchors started referring to each other as Shah Rukh and Aamir. I am sure I have as good an imagination as anyone else but to hear Deepak Chaurasia refer to himself as Shah Rukh Khan (“Yes, I dance at weddings, I am an entertainer”) was really a bit much.

Anyhow, every single channel, from Star News to Zee News to NDTV to Sahara Samay ran this Shah Rukh vs Aamir story prominently (but here too, SRK got the better of Aamir; there was acres of footage about Shah Rukh saying that of course Aamir was No. 1, his wife was a big fan of Aamir’s, he wanted to act with Aamir etc etc.)

I was almost relieved when Star News momentarily turned away from the two Khans to bring us “exclusive” pictures of Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, who are apparently in love. These turned out to be a couple of nondescript photographs of the two of them standing in front of some nondescript Mumbai building.

It’s a shame that news channels still feel obliged to call themselves news channels; most of them might as well re-name themselves Entertainment Channels and be done with it.

Away from films, news channels focused on the two great mysteries of Indian hockey. One: how did the world champions get to the stage where they couldn’t even qualify for the Olympics? And two, how does K PS Gill talk without moving his lips? On channel after channel, the great policeman sat immobile as anchors fired questions at him. Periodically, a voice would emanate from his figure but at no stage could we tell whether his lips were moving. Given the kinds of things that Gill was saying (“I’m not a coffee machine” – Really? We would never have guessed) I waited for him to finally lose his cool and sock the interviewers. Sadly, his immobile figure remained still till the end of every show when, I assume, they picked him up and took him to the next studio where he once again assured interviewers that neither cappuccino nor black coffee were available.

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