As the adage goes, the higher you soar, the harder you fall. In a fickle world where careers are made and broken every weekend, box office numbers are the only failsafe to determine the way the tide will turn in future.
And no one is exempt from this golden rule in Bollywood, a cruel reality that has borne witness to legends such as Amitabh Bachchan transform into persona non grata overnight after a spate of flops sealing his fate in the early ’90s.
While Bachchan’s debacle served as a turning point for the actor to personify into the proverbial phoenix a decade later and resurrect his career from the ashes, Lady Luck is not always so persuasive in dishing out kindness.
Maybe Shah Rukh Khan should duly note that.
The superstar actor has been on a winning streak of bad luck with months of hardships, bad PR and stifling stories that has finally culminated in the ‘slapgate’ affair of Monday morning, which saw him allegedly assault former friend and filmmaker Shirish Kunder.
Is there more to the story than what is being reported in the media, or is it a simple case of a stress-fuelled midlife crisis that has finally snapped Khan into picking fights with friends, getting embroiled in an alleged affair with the much younger Priyanka Chopra and other crazy acts of vengeance?
While the drama continues to unfold in the media and on microblogging site Twitter, industry pundits are finally raising the question that many already have on their minds: Is this the beginning of the end for Shah Rukh Khan?
Khan vs Khan: The saga continues…
Shah Rukh’s pattern of erratic behaviour began a year ago, right around the time he was ringing in the New Year at his mansion, Jannat, in 2011 on The Palm Jumeirah.
It was at that time his one-time friend was frothing at the mouth when news reached Salman Khan’s ears that SRK had tendered a public apology on Karan Johar’s talk show, “Koffee With Karan”.
For those who can’t recall, the brawl between the two superstars erupted nearly two years ago at Katrina Kaif’s birthday bash, where the verbal sparring almost headed towards fisticuffs before Aamir Khan intervened and broke them apart.
Nearly a year later, the media savvy Shah Rukh shot up the TRPs when he spoke about his fight with Salman on his director-producer friends chat show, which was aired first week of January 2011.
As soon as Salman got wind of it, the actor refused to take this laying down. He took to the press with his own version of the state of their affairs, saying: “He (SRK) did that on the show so that I’m hounded by this question throughout the year. I’ll not accept such drama.
“If he really was sorry and wanted to apologise, he could’ve called me or dropped by at my place. Expressing regret on a chat show makes no difference to me or anyone.”
Salman was clearly in a chatty mood or simply to angry to what he said next: “Since he chose the media to communicate, he should also divulge the entire conversation that caused the trouble that day.
“I don’t think he’ll do that. Forget about me pardoning him, should anyone hear that conversation even they’ll not pardon him.”
Scandal has never been more delicious. And before you ask, the war still continues, with Shah Rukh apparently losing out in the popularity stakes here.
Adding to his personal problems has been Shah Rukh’s fluctuating health.
It is no secret that the actor has been battling health woes for several years, with a delicate back surgery performed a few years ago in London, followed by a shoulder operation in 2009.
The final (one hopes in his case) slice by the knife occurred as early as six months ago, when the pain in his knee intensified to the point that only surgery could save him from sleepless nights.
Struggling to wrap up the shoot of last year’s magnum opus, “Ra.One”, the actor shouldered on – even delaying his surgery for his home production – to finally succumb to the inevitable at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital in August.
At the time, a doctor from Shah Rukh’s team was quoted in the media as saying: “Shah Rukh’s physiotherapy team will consist of three specialists which will be led by Andrew Leipus as chief physiotherapist.
“We are expecting him to recover in a month.”
However, insiders say that the recovery didn’t exactly go according to plan, with the actor jumping back into the foray in a few short weeks to complete the post-production work on “Ra.One”.
People close to the actor say that the health setback continues to add to the strain of being pulled into 10 different directions and Shah Rukh’s physical breakdown is what has eventually added to his overall mental stress.
The “Ra.One” debacle
It was around the same time that much-touted sci-fi epic faced it first publicised setback when the highly anticipated Akon collaboration, “Chammak Challo”, was leaked online.
The pirated version of the track hit the airwaves faster than Shah Rukh could blink, which hurtled the actor towards growing rage, according to sources.
In an attempt to salvage his film’s ‘surprise’ track, the actor immediately announced that the leaked song was not the final version, roping in Hamsika Iyer to lend her vocals to “Chammak Challo”.
But the revenue lost to piracy here is anybody’s guess.
The “Ra.One” debacle continued with the entire soundtrack leaked online once again a few days before its release, adding to Khan’s rage and frustration.
What followed was a blitzkrieg of marketing and promotional events that continued for months and drained the actor of the rest of his energy before the film’s world premiere in Dubai.
What followed in the aftermath was a panning by critics that left Shah Rukh red-faced and at the brink of depression.
It was during this time that choreographer turned director, Farah Khan’s husband, Kunder took to Twitter and said: “I just heard a 150 Cr firework fizzle,” referring to the film’s budget, which rumoured to have cost an astronomical Rs1.5 billion.
Insiders say that it was this very tweet that caused brouhaha in the wee hours of Monday morning at Sanjay Dutt’s party earlier this week that saw Shah Rukh allegedly assault Kunder.
The Priyanka Diaries
While the “Ra.One” fiasco was slowly fading into the background, stories gradually started to filter out that all was not well in the Khan household between Shah Rukh and wife Gauri.
This news came as a shocker for many considering in the notorious corridors of Bollywood, where fidelity is considered just as fickle as your friendships, the Shah Rukh-Gauri marriage was above reproach.
While married actors were being linked with all and sundry, Shah Rukh’s status as a faithful husband was never brought into question. Not until people started to whisper a certain name: Priyanka Chopra.
Shah Rukh’s co-star in several films, the actress and him apparently started to get cosy during the shoot of “Don 2”.
Things heated up, allegedly, during the film’s promotions, which even saw the duo jet into Dubai with director Farhan Akhtar.
But those whispers became talk when stories filtered out that Gauri refused to let Priyanka into her house for the film’s wrap up party.
Shortly after, Gauri’s close pal Neelam Kothari was being named as the person who was spreading such nasty rumuours. But the former actress, turned jewellery designer, denied such was the case.
Finally, things came to head when news of a clandestine 3am meeting between Shahrukh and Priyanka emerged, prior to the Zee Cine Awards in Macau, where incidentally, Gauri gave the younger actress an open snub during rehearsals for the same.
While, both Shah Rukh and Gauri have maintained a dignified silence on this matter, it is being said that the added pressure has finally left the former at a tipping point of simmering frustration and rage that was simply waiting to erupt.
Taking a crack at things
The question that now begs to be asked is: Is the one-time superstar finally reached the end of his reign at the Bollywood box office?
Could the stress of being at the top for years and maintaining a public image become too much for Shah Rukh?
While Kunder has tweeted that he doesn’t plan to lodge a police complaint against Shah Rukh for the alleged assault, it is being said that the bad publicity to 2011’s spate of setbacks could cost the actor dearly.
Only time will tell if Khan emerges as a hero in the next few months or seals his fate with continued erratic behaviour.
Here’s hoping he chooses wisely.
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