Joined: 08 May 2007
A fashion week is the last place you would think apt for a Bollywood superstar to consolidate position by exhibiting his camp following.
So when Salman Khan went about rejigging Bollywood's age-old camp culture at the recent India Couture Week in Mumbai, the clothes being sold didn't turn as many heads as the glam parade of the superstar's army of 'friends'. Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Ajay Devgn and Govinda turned up to rampwalk for Salman- promoted designs, hardsold at the Couture Week for the cause of his charity foundation, Being Human. Girlfriend Katrina Kaif, and brothers Sohail and Arbaaz Khan were of course also there.
Salman's overt gesture at flaunting a head count of powerful friends seems to be in sync with his newly acquired trait of being friendly with the media. Also, this is the first time that any star has openly taken on the only camp that was ruling Bollywood so far-the Shah Rukh Khan camp.
The knives are out. A day after Salman's starry fashion show, SRK hit the runway alongwith Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan and wife Gauri Khan. And a few days back, King Khan showed off his power by throwing a party for late Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine, attended by Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta.
Essentially, so far there was the Shah Rukh camp, besides of course Akshay Kumar's set of buddies who will work only with him. Salman was seen as his own man, unwilling to side with anybody.
Now Salman seems to be obsessed with brand building.
He too is in a mood to build his brand image with initiatives like Being Human, endorsing Indian football and even showing interest in buying an IPL team like Shah Rukh.
"Showbiz is a strange business. Here, as you start becoming successful, the vulnerability level too starts to shoot up. So, you start building your coterie and creating an illusion of security," says filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.
Salman's attempt is not surprising.
Brand SRK is estimated to be worth almost Rs 500 crore while Salman's brand value is Rs 200-250 crore. With an IPL team worth Rs 300 crore and his flourishing Red Chillies banner, Shah Rukh Khan has emerged as Bollywood's real Badshah.
Industry watchers feel Salman's apparent attempt at showcasing his power isn't surprising. After Wanted 's success, he realises this is the best time to consolidate his position. He might have invited the big names only for a charity show, but insiders are convinced there are bigger reasons.
They feel Salman knows well this is the right time to bolster his image.
Most in the industry also feel it has to do with his box-office lull of late. Besides Wanted and Partner in 2007, he hasn't had a hit in eight releases over the past two years. His latest, Main Aurr Mrs Khanna , has also flopped.
So he has shunned his care-adamn attitude to extend an olive branch to Aamir, Akshay and Ajay, with whom he was never really friendly before.
"It's a ruthless business. Almost all films are flopping and new kids are coming in. So, established stars like Salman are feeling uncomfortable. They need camps of their 'own people' to boost ego," says ad guru Prahlad Kakkar.
One factor that makes Salman's position strong is girlfriend Katrina Kaif. Besides being the top actress right now, Katrina is also friendly with Akshay and several influential filmmakers such as Vipul Shah, Abbas-Mustan and Anees Bazmee.
In fact, despite the Yash Raj camp being seen as pro-SRK, Katrina has even scored a hit with YRF by way of New York . While rumours abound about Yash Raj Films trying to score a casting coup by signing SRK and Katrina together for a forthcoming film, the buzz is that Katrina is playing a key role in trying to get Salman closer to Akshay and his buddies Vipul Shah and Anees Bazmee.
"It's a surprising move by Salman," says filmmaker Subhash Ghai, of the starry ramp show.
Ghai, who directed Salman in the dud Yuvvraaj last year, adds: "He is a shy guy, so it's amazing to see him coming out in the open and making his star power so obvious. In showbiz, publicity is important. That is what he seems to have realised."
Salman's budding camp seems to have a common thread-an anti-SRK sentiment.
Be it Aamir, Akshay or Ajay, they aren't known to be friendly with King Khan.
Salman's other star pals like Sanjay Dutt and Govinda too haven't ever been close to Shah Rukh.
"It's almost certain that their anti-SRK feelings make it easier for them to share the stage with Salman. Unofficially, all big stars don't like each other but if getting together can run down a superstar like SRK, they will do it gleefully," says a top filmmaker not wishing to be named.
Of course, Aamir and Akshay have been quite open while taking jibes at SRK. Aamir created a stir after blogging about his dog named Shahrukh, in addition to openly ridiculing SRK's claims of being Bollywood's number one. Aamir also created a caricature character mocking SRK in Ghajini. And Akshay claimed there is only one king in Bollywood-Amitabh Bachchan. He also cast a few snide ones at SRK in a song in Chandni Chowk To China. "All big stars have a mental block about SRK being hailed as the king. They feel that Shah Rukh's status is all hype. The feeling goes that Shah Rukh has stayed at the top for too long now. That creates insecurity," says Kakkar, who has worked with SRK in several ads.
Aamir clearly won't directly launch an attack on SRK. By getting friendly with Salman of late, however, Aamir seems to be sending out the message that he will back Salman in a war against SRK. At the Couture Week, though, the lines were clearly drawn. As Shah Rukh walked the ramp for director and friend Karan Johar along with wife Gauri at the grand final, several others made it obvious where they stand. Budding stars Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan rampwalked for K.Jo, while the normally diplomatic Hrithik Roshan watched from the front row. T HE most notable presence at Karan's show was Jaya Bachchan's.
The Bachchan camp for long has been perceived to be anti-SRK. It is a tiff that reportedly started around the time SRK remade Amitabh Bachchan's Don. So, the presence of Jaya Bachchan in an SRK show is being seen in the industry as the coming closer of King Khan and the Big B once again.
Subhash Ghai, however, also sees a media angle here.
"The media loves to pit one star against another because it works as entertainment. But Bollywood is fickle. Such camps can crumble in a single night and just after a hug," he says.
Industry experts feel that the presence of Jaya Bachchan, Hrithik and Yash Chopra at Karan's show sent out a message to Salman that if need be Shah Rukh can bank on the support of these people.
Last year, SRK surprised all by attending the premiere of Drona . And recently, he tried to appease Akshay by paying an impromptu visit at one of his sets.
The point worth noting is that if the Khan versus Khan war indeed erupts, the Bachchans will have to favour SRK. The reason is obvious: Salman's past relation with Aishwarya Rai, who is now the Bachchan bahu. SRK's best friend Karan recently put the fights in a different perspective on his blog: "We deny our relationships, affairs, infidelities, and enmities. We love denial. God forbid if we started admitting to things, the speculation would stop, and we just can't have that. We like to be in the news."
It all started, of course, after Shah Rukh and Salman's muchpublicised tiff at Katrina Kaif's birthday party last year. Reportedly, after Salman mocked SRK in jest about his superstar status, King Khan made some unsavoury remarks about Salman's past relationship with Ash. In fact, the superstars almost came to blows.
"It's unfortunate but Bollywood is definitely divided these days. Earlier, stars like Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna would indulge in healthy competition but today the rivalry has gone to the streets," actor Suneil Shetty told us recently.
After the fight at Katrina's birthday, Salman told the media he would not work with SRK again.
"It's difficult for two big stars to be friendly with each other for a long time in the fickle world of Bollywood," says Mahesh Bhatt.
Maybe, that's why Salman too is looking out for an all-new coterie.
After all, SRK has had his biggest hits working with friends such as Yash Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and Farah Khan. Even his next film, My Name Is Khan, is being directed by Karan. Of his last three hits, Chak De India and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi were produced by the Chopras. Farah directed Om Shanti Om, his home production.
"Everyone either works or looks to work in camps. But no one will ever admit it," says trade analyst Komal Nahta. "If Salman is bolstering his camp, there's no harm." Think about it, there seems to be a method in the 'rivalry' madness.
For over 10 years now, Shah Rukh has been comfortably perched at the top, with several blockbusters, a string of impressive future line-ups, a stupendous number of brand endorsements and an IPL team worth Rs 300 crore.
"Shah Rukh is easily the most successful brand in India. Since he has been at the top for more than a decade, he doesn't need to be scared of competition," writer and film critic Anupama Chopra, who has written SRK's biography, King Of Bollywood , recently said.
SRK's income from endorsements is more than Rs 90 crore a year, the highest for any Indian advertising model. And he is ranked second in the All India Power List of Percept Talent Management and Hansa Research, after cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"If Shah Rukh is being attacked, it's a clear sign that he is the most successful personality in Bollywood. When a person is at the top, he or she automatically loses the sympathy of others," filmmaker Pritish Nandy recently told Mail Today. Meanwhile, the Salman and SRK camps seem to be buzzing with activity. Some time back, heads turned when SRK's onetime friend Mushtaq Shiekh, who co-wrote Om Shanti Om, met Salman over dinner. The buzz is strong that Mushtaq is trying to convince Salman to let him write a book on him. Rumours abound that Mushtaq is no longer close to the SRK camp and is not even allowed inside Shah Rukh's residence, Mannat.
Elsewhere, Shah Rukh and Salman are also roping in new faces to strengthen their camps.
Rising director Prem R. Soni seems to be latest addition in Salman's list. Soni's debut feature, Main Aurr Mrs Khanna , may have flopped but Salman has again roped him as director for another home production.
Shah Rukh meanwhile will give a directorial break to his old friend Roshan Abbas. Abbas directs Always Kabhi Kabhi under SRK's banner, Red Chillies. Farah too is working on her next Shah Rukhstarrer, Happy New Year. "Bollywood has always been the hub of creative competition in the past. Greats such as Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan have gone through such phases and such rivalry will continue to exist in the future. When two stars reach an equal status in terms of popularity and power, groupism is bound to happen. It's a natural phenomenon," says Ghai.
As Bollywood goes global, expect more star fights. Friendships will be struck and busted, and coteries will be created and broken.
Joined: 07 March 2007
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