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It is hard to tell whether congratulations or condolences are in order for Shah Rukh Khan. The poor superstar has just been agreed to be brand ambassador for West Bengal. It’s one thing to own a losing cricket team. It’s quite another thing to be saddled with a bankrupt state.

Bengalis, being Bengalis, have already been sniffy about their chief minister’s choice as the new hope of West Bengal.  Mamata Banerjee could have chosen Mithun, a Bollywood star AND a Bengali. Anyway what’s wrong with our very own Soumitra Chatterjee, the intellectual cineastes say huffily. At least he can recite Tagore beautifully. And he is Ray-blessed already. What better brand could there be?

SRK’s cricket team has a new logo these days. New Dawn, New Knights. West Bengal is obviously hoping some of that change mantra will rub off on the rest of the state as well. But Shah Rukh’s Aami-tomake-bhalobashi connection to West Bengal is rather tenuous. “I had the option of Jaipur and Delhi but I always wanted Calcutta as my IPL team,” SRK told The Telegraph. Well, hisbhalobasha certainly did not prevent him from dumping the other great hope of Bengal, Sourav Ganguly, from KKR.

West Bengal is obviously hoping some of KKR’s change mantra will rub off on the rest of the state as well.Amitabh Bachchan actually does have a bona fide Kolkata connection, not to mention a Bengali wife. But alas, he has been taken by arch enemy Gujarat, along with our Tata Nano factory. So Bengal again has to settle for second best.

Advertising guru Harish Bijoor is all gung-ho about the hulchul SRK will bring. “For an internal audience, a Soumitra Chatterjee would have worked. But for the rest of India, Shah Rukh is the next best bet after Amitabh Bachchan,” he told the Times News Network. With  resounding praise like that, SRK obviously has his work cut out for him.

Here are some quick do’s and don’ts for our new brand ambassador.

• Do quickly find yourself a favourite Rabindranath Tagore poem. But do not choose “Where the mind is without fear.” Bengalis are sick and tired of that one. (Also choose your favourite Ray film. But do not ever say you want to remake any of them.)

• You will have to shoot a film in Kolkata. It’s not that bad. We don’t have a Burj Khalifa but there is the Shahid Minar pillar you can jump from.  For a more modern touch you can always play a cat and mouse game in the Metro, giving the villain the slip as the announcer warbles “The doors are closing” in three languages. The Howrah Bridge is quite scenic and good for a climactic chase scene involving souped up Ambassador cars. It will be very retro.
• Do think about applying to be the newest incarnation of Satyajit Ray’s detective Feluda.

Apparently there is a vacancy coming up. Sabyasachi Chakravarty, the current Feluda, has confessed he’s having a hard time keeping his paunch sucked in while playing the detective. It’s time Feluda had an eight-pack in addition to his cigarette pack. And the Macho Mustafas and Khokababus of Tollywood need a little competition.

• Do not, do not make comments about how Bengali is just Hindi with a rasagolla stuffed in your mouth. Bengalis don’t find that funny at all, not even when it’s said with your famous dimpled smile. Try and learn Bengali instead. That unfortunately means you are going to have to get used to eating water instead of drinking it.

• Do invest in gumboots for the trip you are going to have to make to the Sundarbans. You will probably have to tout that just as Big B has to showcase the Gir Forest. But take your own tiger since no one ever seems to see any. However they did animate a tiger for the latest Feluda mystery — Royal Bengal Rahasya. You can use that at a pinch.

• Remember one difference between Bengal and Gujarat. Big B has just got to promote it to the tourists. The state has the infrastructure to cater to them. In Bengal, we just think we want the tourists. But our infrastructure is falling apart at the seams. Please don’t send us any tourists before 11 am or between 1pm and 4 pm. We observe all federal holidays as well as state holidays and holidays for 150th, 125th and 175th birth anniversaries of Bengali luminaries. Do get yourself a bandh calendar. It will come in handy. Next one coming up is on 28th February.

• Don’t worry. You’ll do fine. Bengalis might carp but their bark is far worse than their bite. And you already have such huge expertise in presenting a loser as a winner. Just keep thinking Ra.One but on a grander scale.

This article was first posted here.

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