How far would one go to get a glimpse of their favourite movie star? A fan had to pay for this with his life and dozens were left injured at Vadodara Junction railway station on Monday night, when fans of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, rushed to the station to catch a glimpse of him, as the actor was travelling on a train to promote his upcoming film Raees.
The actor had boarded the August Kranti Rajdhani Express at Mumbai earlier in the day, heading to Delhi, and at a stop in Vadodara, unruly fans created disorder, leading to mild lathi charge by the police to disperse the crowd. In the midst of the chaos, a local politician Fareed Khan Pathan suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
Shah Rukh gave out this statement on Tuesday morning, “We started the journey thinking we all would travel, spend time with each other. When one of your own loses someone on a trip like this, it saddens us all. It was really unfortunate. On behalf of everyone, our prayers and blessings with the whole family.” However, the fact that the organisers didn’t account for the likely possibility of mobbing fans has people raising the issue of how the incident was not just avoidable, but the promotion stunt was completely unnecessary.
Varun Gupta, founder of Trigger Happy Entertainment (that worked on the publicity for Dharma films, such as Student of the Year and Baar Baar Dekho) says, “I feel that a promotional activity for a film should be related to its content — Dishoom, for instance, had action and stunt-related acts. What is Raees’ association with trains? Besides, Ranbir and Deepika had done it for Tamasha already, so there’s no novelty here.”
Varun adds, “I also believe that big stars like Shah Rukh and Salman don’t need extensive promotions — they get the numbers anyway. It’s the newcomers who need it. We had done extensive promotions for Student of the Year since Varun, Sidharth and Alia were new at that time. In films, such as Raees, content is the king apart from the major attraction that is the superstar actor.”
However, film critic Omer Qureshi believes that those blaming the star for the accident, are in the wrong. “An accident can happen anywhere and anytime, triggered by a very small thing. You can’t blame it on Shah Rukh. The makers might have thought of it as an innovative idea to let him travel in a train to Delhi as he is from the city, but it went out of hand,” says Omer.
Shailesh Giri, a Bollywood publicist, says that chaos created at the event was completely uncalled for — “Railway stations are extremely sensitive platforms and one must hold promotional events at such public spaces with utmost care. I think Shah Rukh and his team should not have been given the permission for this event. Apart from the person who lost his life, there must be several others whose train got missed, tickets got wasted and more accidents could have
“Proper announcement should be made about the entry and exit of the audience. Similarly the entry and exit of the artistes should be made keeping in mind the crowd’s safety,” he added.
The trend of over the top promotions itself is harmful, says director Sajid Khan. “We have seen not-so-successful films translate into bad box-office collections and even big names like Shah Rukh and Aamir haven’t been able to save the films; take Fan and Talaash for instance. With Raees, the trailer worked and all they had to do was build on that excitement. If the trailer had failed then the team would then tried salvaging the film from day one, but then again because it is pitted against another huge film like Kaabil they did what they had to.”