Is Shah Rukh Khan over-reacting? Are we?

I cannot seem to open any major newspaper these days – Indian or US – without hearing how badly Shah Rukh Khan (SRK from here on) was treated by US immigration authorities.  The New York Times has an article on how it overshadowed the celebrations for India’s independence Day, the Wall Street Journal says the incident “roils India” and even India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram feels the need to comment that the US “overdid it.” Not to be left out of the limelight, Shashi Tharoor comments about SRK “reacted with great dignity”. When I read about SRK’s reaction, I personally thought he reacted angrily, if anything.

Since Diwali is months away, some Congress party workers in UP decided to use this opportunity to burn Obama’s effigy while some other protestors in Mumbai decided to protest against Salman Khan’s comments on the SRK issue.  I am sure we will soon find more protestors protesting against these protestors, and so on.

Some people have drawn parallels to Continental Airlines’ treatment of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.  As someone who had a strong opinion on that issue and blogged about it, let me say that the two incidents are not at all similar.  In the Continental case,  the airline had no right to disregard an Indian Govt. rule on Indian soil and adopt its own regulations.  In this case, the US is well within its right to question any visitor on its own soil.

So what is all the outrage about?  Is it about racial profiling?  Are people protesting that Muslims are being profiled, or that Indians are, or Indian Muslims are?  Or is it specifically outrages that SRK, the demi-god of Indian cinema could be treated as anything but a demi-god by anyone?

Because if it is the questioning that people are objecting to, that is not really news.  There have been many reported instances of Indians being questioned, whether Muslims or not, and I haven’t heard any objection from the Home Minister for any of these incidents.

If India is going to use this opportunity to take up with the US immigration procedures that can be improved, why not start with issues that are affecting thousands of Indians?  Take, for instance, the issue of security clearance for Indian students and work visa holders  which sometimes takes months  these days, inconveniencing them and throwing all study/ work plans in disarray.   I am sure thousands of Indian citizens have been affected by this, but I haven’t heard the Home Minister take up this issue with the US.   I haven’t even heard him publicly comment on this issue.  Why not?

SRK says he doesn’t feel like “stepping on US soil again”. Well, that’s his choice and he is free not to visit the US again.  But for thousands of Indians who are employed by software companies in India and sent to the US, it’s not a choice they can make.  How are they supposed to sympathize with him, tell me?  Besides, if SRK really wants to have a serious discussion about profiling, how does his deciding to stay away from the US solve the issue for everyone?

At the end of the day, I don’t get the impression that SRK is angry at the profiling, I get the impression he is angry that He was questioned.  I can also understand why he would like to blow up this incident into a big issue – for it is very welcome publicity for his upcoming film which talks about racial profiling.  This is the best thing that could have happened to that film.

So I can see why SRK would act offended.  What I fail to understand is – what is it exactly that the rest of those protestors find offensive?


35 thoughts on “Is Shah Rukh Khan over-reacting? Are we?

  1. SRK is bitter for he is often used to breezing through security while we stand in lines at teh TSA agonizingly. He has a reason.

    the rest are bitter for they need something new as Dr.Kalam is so passe, and so is Megan Fox.

  2. “What I fail to understand is – what is it exactly that the rest of those protestors find offensive?”

    Perhaps we all are channeling our inner Johnny Strabler, who responded to the question “What’re you rebelling against?” with “Whaddya got?”. Or maybe rishi Durvasa who would get angry at the slightest pretext.

    • Strangely, though, we don’t seem to protest (or protest enough) the things that really matter – corruption, inefficiency, red-tape, lack of accountability…the list goes on.

  3. I’m amazed at the spin the US govt has given this, and how prone we are to self-criticism.

    The issue is not why SRK was subjected to a special check. The security software apparently threw up his name : too bad.

    Now, the check is supposed to clear him, i.e clarify that he is not one of the evil guys, right ? They didn’t allow him to ring the consulate. Merely googling his name would’ve done the job in 10 secs. Presumably they could’ve checked out the American lot who had invited him to identify him in 5 minutes flat. Taking 2 hours to clear a known public figure is the issue. It smacks of arrogant harassment.

    Oh well, a country that bombed Iraq cos Bin Laden bombed them is capable of ANY spin.

    The merely funny part is the lot who find (a) Being on the phoren side (b) Schadenfraude an irresistible mix and are crowing about Aah SRK, you may be a VIP in India, but yay for the Yanks who brought you down!

    • Granted, it took longer than necessary, perhaps it was overdone. I can see SRK being upset.
      My point is – is this really worth the Home Minister’s time? Or call for protest marches?

  4. This story is such BS. He clearly must have overreacted to a little bit of extra questioning by a security officer. Whatever the flaws of the “names database”, these people were just doing their job. How is someone who probably has never seen any Indian movie, supposed to give a fuck about SRK? And even if he knew who he was, is he expected to think “oh, this guy is famous in India, he definitely can’t be a threat to anyone?”. Let’s face it people, NO ONE in America gives a shit if SRK comes to America again or not.

  5. Despite all our pronouncements on ‘progress’ et al, we seem incredibly attuned to VIP treatment. Having sten gun trotting security gaurds is a status symbol. Walking through airport security is one too !

    And when you are used to that here, i guess its irksome when you are treated as a ‘commoner’ ! The whole thing is completely unnecessary. And as for the rest of the others who are making so much noise…well, there needs to be something to make noise and get by you see. Particularly because the newsworthiness of Swine Flu was going down !


    • Well we definitely are a race that has to blow things out of proportion, find excuses to kick start a fight and blame others. Everybody else’s life is our business and SRK is our God, so we act to please him. Gah!

  6. I don’t know whether Sharukh is over-reacting, but bloggers and netizens certainly are over-reacting with such “What’s the big deal?” or “In USA everyone is treated the same” messages.

    He felt bad at the treatment he got and ranted about it, and that was that. But no, the netizens with their supreme wisdom, who have been to USA several times, etc. will have nothing of it. “How dare he rant? What is the big deal?” So many posts on this theme; it is nauseating.

    • Oh no, my point is not about SRK’s reaction as much as it about the protests and comments it seems to be spawning. As I said, burning effigies, Ministerial remarks – these are over-reactions, aren’t they? It’s not the “in USA everyone is treated the same” logic – it’s just that in India, everyone else is not/ will not be treated the same way (as SRK is).

  7. Every one is entitled to his or her opinion. The media and protectors certainly has put a spin in this case. For the safety of hundreds or even thousands of people in an airport, I think it’s justifiable to ensure any security warnings are given the utmost priority and clearance. MNIK would certainly pick up during opening – no doubt.

  8. SRK made a mountain out of a mole hill through backdoor of his loyal Indian TV news media which lack value-based journalism. SRK has shown childish attitude like another Bollywood star Emraan Hashmi who alleged discrimination that he was refused a flat in an upmarket part of Mumbai because of his Muslim faith. Yes, its true that these Bollywood icons often seek publicity stunts to seek attention on certain issues and to make their movies successful.

    Bollywood stars think that they have international rights to enter in any country without any protocol or immigration rules. They perceive as if they were the citizens of these countries. They forget that despite their icon status or being a celebrity, they are foreigners in other countries and they have to comply and obey their procedures, rules and laws like any other foreigners visiting to such countries.

    Does SRK expect that whereever he goes, all the securities personnel and immigration staff working at all the international airports should know or recognize him and relax all rules for this entry into that country. In North America and Europe, these days its very common for visitors coming from Asia and the Middle Eastern region to face inconvenient questions of immigration officers. Sometimes, they detain foreigners if they have slightest doubt because of the international security environment.
    If SRK or any other Bollywood icons think that they are too big above procedure and rules and Government of India should issue them a VIP passport/diplomatic passport , its their misconception.
    When we are traveling to other countries, we cannot force people of those countries to show respect to us. International communities’ thinking, culture, attitudes, educational level, social and political systems etc. differ. Some countries welcome , other do not, We have to go there because we have to go for work or in connection of our profession’s needs and requirements.

    There are other big tasks and issues for SRK and other Bollywood icons which this country and society need. Hence, SRK cool down and have patience , keep smiling. It is not good for your personality to react on the unwarranted comments made by some chawani cut political people whose job is to make such comments even if they are not involved in the incident.
    And, SRK your trivial incident gave breaking news food for these TV news channels because 40% of news for them are created by Bollywood icons like you,.. Bla.. Blaaa

    • Maybe it’s the media that made a mountain out of molehill, as it usually does.
      Here’s SRK’s interview – seems very common sense approach to the issue by him:

    • “When we are traveling to other countries, we cannot force people of those countries to show respect to us. “
      I really don’t agree with this – of course people have to be respectful to each other irrespective of which country they are from. But I don’t think anyone was trying to be disrespectful to SRK either.

      I am sure all celebrities get their head turned just a little by the adulation they receive, and in India we do idolize our movie stars (and cricketers) 🙂

  9. To all those who say that TSA officials should have googled – oh yes, as if they have full internet access on the computers there. I am certain that they don’t.
    Did you look at tear jerking photos of SRK? I don’t know why I am of opinion that all this is being over hyped just to bring out the movie’s name in bold where SRK says – I was frisked because “MY NAME IS KHAN”.
    I want to ask – was it a strip search like say George Fernandes had few years ago. Am sure no. SRK for sure isn’t bigger than what George Fernandes was than. SRK is no other than just a well known Indian citizen – not a parliamentarian, not an FBI chief or something like that. “I am Khan” – Sanjay Dutt could have said the same and could have gotten away with his jail terms right just because he is popular.
    And lets not get to the sentimental SRK loving Indian junta who fail to see logic. India treats its diginitaries differently, US doesn’t – it’s India’s problem hence which they should rectify if they feel so. Else, maybe the govy back home should lay out red carpets even to the next batch of terrorists that will head there.

  10. I wonder what would’ve been the reaction of the media and the Indian masses if it had been Sanjay Dutt in the place of SRK. My guess is the reaction would be the same. So what if that man spends his time equally between the courts and film shootings. He’s a star and We shall fawn on him.

  11. Are we so blinded by low self-esteem ?

    With your permission, a primer.

    SRK is checked.

    # Issue
    A gent who has myriad means of authentication : the net, his consulate, the people who have invited him there… is not cleared after the check. He happens to be an Indian Muslim.

    Repeat, but he is not allowed to ring his consulate.

    India has problems with how it treats so-called VIPs.

  12. That’s terrible, when will we put a stop to this nonsense. Yes, I understand that we need to protect our country, but if he says he’s a STAR, then let him go by w/o any hassles. What will he think of we as Americans?

  13. I do feel bad he got detained, but after 9-11 homeland security can not take any risks. Has everyone forgotten that we are still at war? Unfortunately, there will be inconveniences, even for celebrities and diplomats. I am sure everyone would rather have an inconvenience than have a plane blown up.

    • That’s what we keep telling ourselves, at least – when we remove our sneakers and empty our water bottles and throw away infant milk in bottles..

  14. The real problem of the situation here is that the security officer who detained SRK refused to acknowledge or hear what his colleagues (who knew SRK). That is a typical power hungry bigot being himself, you can see a lot videos of these power hungry maniacs who think humans are taser dummies .. its nothing but arrogance, ignorance and stupidity at the highest level coupled with authoritative powers. I wish there was a way to weed out such bigots.

    The other issue is that this bigot decided to detain SRK in the first place is because he’s a muslim. Now, for all we know US has been doing racial profiling for a long time now and this topic might be more dead than a dead horse .. it happens to many many people but media doesnt run this story. Now’s their chance. Atleast it exposed US of being its usual self.

    Also I find it amusing that there are people naive enough to believe or concoct conspiracy theories that this is a publicity stunt for his movie.
    1. My Name is Khan is slated 2010. Public memory is short, if you think this will mean 20% more people will see the movie then you are wrong.
    2. SRK doesnt need publicity stunts for his movies. Same can be said for all three khans, except for maybe Salman (ironically). 😀
    3. If this was a publicity stunt, you think that the security officials of US are also part of this elaborate plan? Not really.

  15. empty vessels make more noise….i know this has not happened for the first time to a indian….but i guess this has been the once has create too much of noise

  16. Based on the reports that I read in the Indian newspapers, I think it was a case of the media blowing up a relative non-issue, with some minor encouragement by SRK and his PR folks. News of Kalam’s frisking didn’t make it out into the media until months after the incident, which shows a vast degree of humility and lack of self-importance that the ex-President has, compared with a ‘King’ of Bollywood.
    SRK could have handled it gracefully, taking a page out of ‘Muhammad Kutty Ismail’ ,Mallu superstar Mammooty’s reaction to a similar Flying while Muslim episode with the TSA.
    Or maybe he did, but was ignored by an official on a power-trip.

    I recall some time ago finding companies which specialized in selling special search engines and databases that allow profiling based on name existed. I could type in my name in their demo version and was ‘assured’ that the probability of it belonging to someone of Arab extraction was ‘close to nil’.

  17. Well, the people of this country did not overreact, the media DID ! They were many other important news that were affecting the country and all they did was go around this starry news.

  18. Well, the new twist seems the promoters were suspected/being watched by the cops. Some underworld thingy. So that’s the end of the racial profiling bit. Anyone seen the Comedy Central take on this?

  19. As someone who has spent time waiting for officials to interview me at an airport, I see nothing odd about what happened to this man. I’m not from India, and have never heard of him, and I imagine the same could be said for the officials who detained him after their systems flagged his name.

    Sometimes it happens. Too bad!

  20. Well, the people of this country did not overreact, the media DID ! They were many other important news that were affecting the country and all they did was go around this starry news.

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