Does Shah Rukh Khan owe it to his fans to clear the air on whether he and his wife are having a baby through surrogacy?

A mysterious, pregnant silence is all we’ve got from Shah Rukh Khan (47) in response to the questions whizzing around the baby he and wife Gauri are allegedly having via surrogacy. The baby is said to be due in July. Nobody seems to know if the allegedly surrogate mother of this hitherto unconfirmed foetus will deliver the baby in Mumbai, London or elsewhere. PS. The baby is said to be a boy, but there’s no confirmation of that either.

I’ve deliberately inserted an overdose of journalistic doubts in that paragraph only to emphasise that so far, we have heard absolutely nothing on record from the rumoured father, mother/s, doctor, the actor’s close friends or publicist. One newspaper reported that the actor had emailed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) denying that he had made a statement on surrogacy. Which means the reports have not been confirmed or denied, but just about acknowledged.

But as Sherlock Holmes told us: “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth...”

Now, SRK is no Aamir Khan or Aishwarya Rai, given to strategic silences. He takes his controversies head-on; he will even joke about them when the dust has settled a little. His silence on this matter is terribly uncharacteristic (though many are reading desperately between the lines of an ambiguous tweet that the actor posted on June 18, four days after the story broke in Mumbai’s newspapers. “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist... so just keep walking...”)

So it is logical to assume that if Shah Rukh has not denied the reports, the story must have some truth in it — even if it may be off the mark on some counts.

But does that make it the truth, or even official? Is that enough for the media, publicity-hungry activists and government officials to jump into the fray — and all kinds of conclusions?

Amazingly, even Wikipedia has added this line to its entry on the superstar: ‘Shah Rukh Khan and his wife are expecting a boy through a surrogate mother.’ Of course, Wikipedia is far from the final word in accuracy but millions of readers seem to think so. Does Wikipedia know something we don’t?

Of course, Shah Rukh Khan could end all the suspense by issuing a dignified statement in the manner of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao. So why hasn’t he? Perhaps because this is incredible publicity for his new movie, Chennai Express? Promotional activity has just started, and the film is scheduled to release on August 8.

Now, there are stars who would exploit even a family tragedy for publicity and I’ve seen — and heard of — some far-out publicity gimmicks. But I would give Shah Rukh the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Granted, not confirming or denying the reports keeps the matter alive in the papers far longer than a simple clarification would. The reports suggest that the news was deliberately leaked, thus building up the suspense to the big announcement (if there is one, of course).

But really, Shah Rukh doesn’t need to do much to get talked about and he gets more than a generous share of the publicity pie anyway. And let’s not forget his wife Gauri has a say in the matter as well. Gauri is happy to be on the glam circuit and be photographed by the paparazzi (she is an ex-model after all). She has done just one ad campaign with her husband when she could have been roped into any number of them. She’s extremely publicity-shy in that she’s heard very rarely and gives few interviews and has held herself together in the most dignified manner possible through the Priyanka Chopra episode in her husband’s life.

On all the occasions that I have met or observed her, I’ve never seen her exhibiting any starry behaviour or throwing star-wife tantrums (unlike many others). She is a quiet presence at her husband’s side in public — by choice, not compulsion. At home, however, she is very much in control and has been the one stabilising factor in Shah Rukh’s life. It is unlikely that Gauri would be happy allowing such an important part of their life to be exploited for publicity. And it is unlikely that her husband would not respect her wishes.

What keeps me intrigued, though, is the behaviour of the media through the surrogacy episode. Shah Rukh has given a string of interviews to promote Chennai Express after the surrogacy reports, but not once have I seen or heard a journalist asking him about them. Not even a question that got a “No comments” answer.

It’s as if the mystery never existed. Strange, very strange. Looks like the journalists have been briefed before their interviews, much in the manner that political journalists are said to be briefed by Congress functionaries about Sonia Gandhi’s moods.

Finally, there is the bigger question: Does Shah Rukh Khan owe it to his fans to come clean at this point? There is no single answer to that one. A superstar has to learn to live with the loss of privacy. But then all of us, including superstars, need to have a space which is wholly and securely our own, into which we can escape to deal with life’s most difficult times and decisions. All of us keep secrets from the world, sometimes till we’re ready to face the world, sometimes forever. Perhaps this is one such moment for Shah Rukh Khan and his family.

shashibaliga@gmail.com

(This article was published on June 27, 2013)
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