Shah Rukh Khan’s refusal to participate in a TV channel conclave citing his decision not to discuss his personal life in public set off a spate of stories that the actor has stopped giving interviews.
But honestly, how does SRK’s response to the TV channel change anything? Celebrities have always had the privilege of talking only to a handpicked lot of journos and it has always been understood that interactions will be restricted to topics they are comfortable with.
It is so in any field. Sachin Tendulkar has been stingy with interviews, the rare appearances giving premium value to his one-on-one chats. Even prime channels have been able to bag an “exclusive” only through Sachin’s sponsors, the questions carefully vetted and approved beforehand. That has been the case with coveted interviewees like Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi too, where questions are curated and the biggest names in the business practically prostrate before her/him.
How is the film industry any different? SRK’s decision may stem from the emotions attached to any answer he may give about son Aryan’s arrest nearly two years ago. While a battery of lawyers had inspected the case with legal eyes, a large network of SRK’s friends had done the job of keeping a hawk’s eye on tweets and Insta and FB posts.
Until Aryan came out of jail on bail, “who was saying what” was a daily discussion in that closed circle. Friends like Sanjay Kapoor or Chunky or a dress designer or filmmaker would do a follow-up and pat those who lent support to Aryan. “Thank you. Shah Rukh will forever be grateful to you,” was the cherry on top. It was a scene that would have been replicated in the house of any man in a position of power found in a similar predicament.
It was also not the simple circumstance of a star talking about what he had experienced as a parent. A muddled case against NCB officer Sameer Wankhede is going on concurrently and legal advisors always counsel a celebrity to desist from saying anything that may unwittingly work against him at a later date. Silence really is golden.
In any case, SRK is not the first celebrity to put a lid on interviews. Amitabh Bachchan had stopped interviews post-Emergency. After a victorious entry into politics along with close buddy Rajiv Gandhi in 1984, Amitabh had abruptly quit, singed by the Bofors scandal that had hit Rajiv and gang. But AB’s two-decade ban was lifted by him only for political reasons in 1989-90, when V.P. Singh became the Prime Minister. PRO Gopal Pandey had personally escorted me to the shooting of Shashi Kapoor’s Ajooba (the only film Shashi directed in his career), where Amitabh and I had our first on-record chat after years. That was the time Amitabh had stated that Singh would be arresting him. “V.P. Singh will be putting me in jail” had made headlines. It had pre-empted Singh from taking any such drastic action against the actor and AB maintained an unruffled relationship with the media thereafter.
Actors ban interviews and lift the ban for a variety of reasons. Amidst rumours of his closeness with fan and co-star Shabana Azmi, when Jennifer Kapoor had attempted to end her life sometime in the 70s, Shashi had told me, “I’m against your whole tribe.” But after swearing to Jennifer that in her lifetime he would have nothing to do with Shabana, Shashi was back to being the charming interviewee with everybody observing a tacit omerta on Jennifer’s distress call.
But in current times, with film magazines extinct and social media providing a direct gateway to their audience, celebrities don’t need to do interviews anymore.
Today, the disturbing case against his son may have prompted SRK to halt all public discourse on his personal life. However, daughter Suhana is poised to make her debut as actress in the Netflix series Archies towards the end of the year. So never fear, fans. Tomorrow, if Suhana wants him to feature in a premium father- daughter session, Papa Khan will beback in action.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author