Minister of Finance
Today as you are getting ready to put up the biggest show of the year… The nation’s annual budget, which is going to shape up the economy of our country in the coming year, we would like you to introduce you to a man, who we all lovingly call ‘King Khan’ and learn from him what it takes to become popular and win over your worst critics and detectors.
Agreed Badshah Khan has an acquired a six –pack, but there’s more to him than his physical glory. What makes SRK… the brand King Khan or Badshah Khan as he’s popularly called in Bollywood. Is he a media made, PR savvy or a marketing whiz kid? We try to analyze and unfold the brand called King Khan..
He once had a production company called ‘Dreamz Unlimited’! The company shut shop soon after its maiden venture Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani went bust at the box office, but he continued to dream big and paved his way to create the million dollar brand called … King Khan! “It’s been 18 years in the industry and people say I’m the King of Bollywood and trust me I enjoy it. I’m not pompous, but I don’t know how it feels not to be successful, so I don’t know how it’s not to be the King of Bollywood. I feel it’s my birthday now,” says SRK.
Love him or hate him, but you simply can’t ignore him, that’s his power, charisma and skills. “He knows what he wants it and he gets it, courtesy his innovative marketing strategies and his cut sharp PR skills, which never fails him,” says a leading city based journalist.
What’s astonishing is that he doesn’t have any trappings of a conventional hero… in Bollywood’s lingo the ideal gora and chikna hero. “But the fact is that all his films sell like hot cake and media loves to write about him. He knows how to play the game and has played it to the gallery,” says filmmaker Sangeth Sivan.
A fact endorsed by SRK’s friend and colleague Salman Khan. “The way Shah Rukh saab promotes his films, he doesn’t give much scope to others, filmmakers won’t find a better marketing guy than him,” he feels. SRK’s PR skills and the way he pushes his products are widely known and recognized throughout B- Town. Says, ace Ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar. “SRK as a brand is much bigger than the actor and thanks to his media savvy and PR skills.”
A fact echoed equally by Akshaye Khanna “Hats off to Shah Rukh the producer. I’m amazed by the way he went blazing all guns for his home production ‘Om Shanti Om’, I don’t think any other guy in his position could have pulled this off.”
Bollywood is aware of SRK’s marketing and his expertise in PR skills, but it came into the limelight during the release of Janeman and Don .
It was the clash of the titans. Three of Bollywood’s biggest superstars, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar were tied up in a cat and mouse game of superiority on the big screen. On one side were Salman and Akshay, on the other Shah Rukh Khan. Bollywood’s two biggest films, but at the end it was SRK who walked away with the cake. “When you have Shah Rukh Khan as your competitors, you can’t do much about it. You either run away or face it; I decided to face it bravely,” reminisces Sajid Nadiadwala the producer of the film. A fact echoed by the hero of the film Salman “We were helpless, can’t beat him when it comes to promoting a film,” he says.
While Amrita Rao who acted with SRK in Main Hoon Na says “He thinks ten times ahead of us, his mind works like computer, marketing strategies, promotion, you name it and he has it everything in his head. And importantly media loves him, because he is a natural charmer.” The feeling is mutual for Showman Subhash Ghai, “Amazing PR skills, I don’t see any other Bollywood actor coming anywhere closer to him. He is a class apart. One day he should write a book on marketing, it will be a best seller,” he opines.
While SRK admits that media played an important role in his career, “I’m a media guy and the media have all the right to write about me, it good, bad or ugly,” he once told this writer.
And probably that’s why to acknowledge the importance of media, he promised that if his latest home production ‘OSM’ hits the bull’s eye, he will share the profits with the media and true to his words, a week after the film was declared a run away hit, he placed full page Ads in all the leading publications. “It was his idea of paying back to the media who supported and helped him in promoting his films. He wanted to share the revenues with them,” says an executive of his production company, Red Chillies Entertainment.
The move might come as a step forward towards sharpening his PR and marketing strategy, but the fact remains that unlike others, he didn’t hire a full time PR firm to help with the promotion of ‘OSM’. Just a lone lady, veteran journalist turned PR, Nilufer Qureshi was at the helm, while on the other hand Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Sawariya had the strong backing of the entire Sony Picture’s PR machinery which worked overtime and round the clock, but they were no match to Khan’s overwhelming power and charisma.
He single-handedly pulled out all stops to promote his home productions and emerged winner leaving his competitors away behind in the rat race. “The PR hired for ‘OSM’ handled only Farah and Deepika while Shah Rukh handled himself. He’s a one man army and he doesn’t require any PR manager to handle him,” laughs a veteran trade pundit. While Madhur Bhandarkar says “I thought no one can beat me, when it comes to dealing with the media, but SRK beats me hands down, we have so much to learn from him.”
Even the PR managers shares the same views about King Khan, “When you have a client like SRK, half of your job is done, he’s a marketing wizard and a PR’s delight,” says Alok Mathur, journalist turned PR. Mathur further unfolds the mystery why media loves him with an interesting anecdote “It was around 7 years back, I was a journalist and SRK by then had become King Khan, the superstar. I was in Film city, one night, waiting for an auto rickshaw; it was slightly drizzling, suddenly out of nowhere this shining black Mercedes stopped in front of me. The guy sitting in the backseat rolled down his tinted glass…it was Shah Rukh Khan, he rescued me that night by giving me a lift and ever since he became my hero. Call it his PR skills or a simple gesture from King Khan, but it certainly went a long way and I don’t think I could bring myself to do any negative stories about him after that,” he laughs.
While another senior crime reporter Nirmal Mishra remembers how one of his stories landed SRK in a soup. “I broke a story on SRK’s office property. There was some irregularity about in the deal and when the story came out SRK was fuming as expected, I wanted to meet him and explain my stand, but he wasn’t available. Next couple of days back he sent word through a common friend saying he wanted to meet me. I went to meet him in Filmcity where he was shooting for Main Hoon Na . He called me inside his van and told everyone to leave; I feared the worst, but he causally asked me what’s the source of my story, I told him I can’t reveal my source and told him I was just doing my job. He smiled and said its ok, but you should have checked with me, maybe I had something to say in my defense, next time please check before you write anything, shook my hand and the meeting was over in 5 mintues. I heaved a sigh of relief. Months later, I saw him at a party and was trying to avoid him, Shah Rukh quietly sneaked behind, tapped my shoulder and hugged me. Needless to say, I have turned into an avid SRK fan ever since,” says Nirmal.
Bollywood’s leading villain Gulshan Grover remembers an incident while shooting with Shah Rukh Khan for Yes Boss , “We were shooting for Yes Boss , and once we were sitting inside his make- up van and there were a couple of journalists with us. There was not enough space for everyone on the van, Shah Rukh opened his washroom and sat down on the toilet seat, it was hilarious, but I’m sure the journalists become his fans for lifetime. Shah Rukh can turned his worst enemy into his friend.”
While another veteran journalist reminds how SRK stood up for one of her colleague years back on the set of Rakesh Roshan’s Karan Arjun . “We had gone to cover the shooting and as usual Salman had a tiff with a lady journalist and started throwing tantrums. He told the driver to stop the bus and offload the lady. No one dared to question him, except for SRK, he took up for the lady. He told everyone, if the lady goes, so am I.,” reminisces the veteran journalist.
So MR. FM, how about hiring SRK as your adviser or maybe swapping roles with King Khan, Mr.P.Chidambaram? I am sure that your budget will be applauded and the Opposition will hail you as a Saint for rescuing the Indian Republic. Pl give it a thought. It is worth it.
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