Out there in the cosmos, stars that shine much brighter than the sun die spectacular deaths that are caused by their heavy hearts. Their core possesses such great mass that gravity fuses gases into increasingly weightier elements: sulphur, magnesium, silicon … and finally iron.
Iron at the core means death for a star. The energy consumed in fusing elements into iron is greater than the energy released during the fusion process. With no energy radiating outwards, the gravity of the iron at its centre, results in the rest of the star collapsing onto itself at tremendous velocity. As one science website puts it: “the star starts consuming itself from inside out”.
Are these the kind of cosmic forces that are causing the implosion of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan? You could say so. Just replace iron with a fusion of ego and (a) sense of entitlement.
Like the healthiest stars in space, the younger Shahrukh Khan had a luminosity, whose source could be traced back to the levity that was present in his core. He never seemed to take himself too seriously, had a sense of mischief and an effervescent, unscripted wit. Once, early in his career, when he was told that he had only five expressions in his repertoire, he laughed and said: “the others have four”.
Once. That time has well and truly passed. The year gone by has seen the hardening of the core (and perhaps, a heaviness of the heart) that seems to move the superstar inexorably towards the fate that the greatest bodies in cosmos must face some day.
His behaviour in public is a symptom. Where once he ducked and weaved expertly, smiling at his adversary in the face of provocation, he now thrusts a jab (or a slap). In January, his one-time friend and industry colleague, (the irritating) Shirish Kunder received one. Kunder had not been kind in a tweet about Khan’s big project, RaOne.
Recently, at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, Khan got involved in an ugly scene with the police. He claimed — and there may be some truth in this — that his wards were manhandled, and that is why he lost his cool. But how appropriate is it to let fly all manner of verbal abuse and threaten to kill people in the presence of children who are under your charge?
His work in recent times should be a source of further disappointment to him. But the sense of entitlement that tells him that anything he does will work well, is capable of turning the argument around in his head when it doesn’t: ‘if they do not like it, then they are the fools’.
His recent films have hardly matched the hype that surrounded them. As for his television appearances, there have been some lamentable lows recently, with the worst of them being a poorly scripted, juvenile ‘comic action’ show called “Zor ka Jhatka”. As the failures fused into one another, the core seemed to become denser.
And what of the heavy heart? After nearly two decades in the business, the first serious rumours of an affair started making ripples and they simply would not die down. The lady in question is Priyanka Chopra. The tabloids feasted on the story: it did not help that the two were photographed together at 3am and their security details tried and failed to apprehend the brave photographer.
In Bollywood, such scandals can affect the career of the lesser star and the home life of the superstar. From invites to parties, to getting work, Ms Chopra was having a bit of a hard time. She fed the tabloids a juicy morsel. Speaking in the deniable third person she spoke derisively of insecure star wives.
India got its clearest view of the aggrieved party i.e., Khan’s wife Gauri, on the night of the Indian Premier League final. His franchise had won, but SRK made a pathetic spectacle of himself. He clarified that he wasn’t drunk (if not, then what?) and offered belated apologies. Surrounded by the shield of his children, he tried to get Gauri to dance the dance of the happy family for TV— and failed. Her body language spoke clearly and scathingly that night.
What remained was the sight of a star consuming itself from inside out.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.
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