'Shah Rukh is ours!' says Malaysian newspaper

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Kuala Lumpur, Dec 8 (IANS) "Shah Rukh is ours!", a Malaysian newspaper said in its editorial applauding the conferment of Datukship on the Bollywood superstar.

With the title akin to British knighthood, Malaysia could claim "personal ownership of a global product from India, the inestimable Datuk Shah Rukh Khan," the prestigious New Straits Times said Monday.

Nursing an arm injured during a film shoot last Friday, Shah Rukh flew in Saturday on a brief visit to be the first foreign actor to receive the award amidst rapturous ovation and took a rickshaw ride through Malacca, winning hearts of the citizenry.

The newspaper ridiculed critics at home, particularly some local artistes, who asked "what has he done that we have not?" saying the award to Khan had "evoked rather more bluster than it warranted."

"Those tasting sour grapes for being overlooked or ignored by such honours should wash their mouths out with soap. Certainly, these medals are intended as tokens of a state's appreciation for services rendered. In this case, the service rendered was simply in being adored."

Justifying the decision of the Malacca state to confer the award on Shah Rukh Khan, the editorial said: "Sadly for them, the answer is not what Shah Rukh has done but who he is. And who he is, is not just a fabulously successful 43-year-old film star with global recognition and vast masses of devoted fans".

"Nor is he just a talented and hard-working entertainer with more bankable cultural-crossover appeal than any other Bollywood stars of his generation (with the possible exception of Hrithik Roshan, who is taller and dances better but lacks Shah Rukh's political clout)," it added.

Trying to strike a balance in its praise, the newspaper said: "No, our latest Datuk's personal assets and career achievements themselves did not justify the honour. Nor, frankly, do his movies, particularly not "One 2 Ka 4", the last of his six movies to be shot in Malaysia, featuring a sequence of Shah Rukh and leading lady Juhi Chawla disporting themselves around a Famosa."

"This may or may not have boosted Malacca's tourism; when a star of Shah Rukh's incandescence is on screen, everything else tends to be reduced to, well, scenery," the editorial said, adding the justification for this award was proven at the ceremony itself, when his simple presence was enough to send the assembled dignitaries into a twittering fluster of swoons.

"Malacca, from Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Mohd Khalil Yaakob (the royal head of state) down, is enraptured by Shah Rukh Khan and unashamed to admit it. The award was an excuse to show it."

"As the star's subsequent day-trip around town displayed, this was not so much a case of presenting the state's attractions to him as ensconcing him among them."

Shah Rukh and other Bollywood stars, as also those from the Tamil cinema are immensely popular in Malaysia and their movies and music are released regularly.

The popularity goes beyond the estimated 2.5 million ethnic Indians who form eight percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.

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