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Why Shah Rukh Khan, Mamata di?

Shah Rukh Khan has accepted West Bengal government’s proposal to become brand ambassador of the state. “Shah Rukh Khan has become brand ambassador of West Bengal,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters. Secretariat sources said that the 46-year-old actor had written a letter to the chief minister conveying his acceptance of the proposal, Firstpost reported  yesterday.

“West Bengal is my second home,” Khan said.

It’s hard to understand how West Bengal is his second home, considering his lineage has nothing to do with Bengal, he has not been born there, he has not studied there, he has not worked there, he has no Bengali connections in his marriage. His only connect to West Bengal is through his investment in IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders.

Shah Rukh Khan

Will those who are targeted by communication plugging West Bengal with Shah Rukh as ambassador believe all that he says? Reuters

For a brand ambassador to be effective, there should be a natural fit between the brand (in this case, West Bengal) and the ambassador (in this case, Shah Rukh). The greater the fit, the greater the believability. Does Shah Rukh understand and, consequently, appreciate the language, the culture, the arts, the people, the terrain of West Bengal?

Will those who are targeted by communication plugging West Bengal with Shah Rukh as ambassador believe all that he says?

What West Bengal has done is to confuse ‘brand ambassador’ with ‘model’ or ‘actor’. Shah Rukh can certainly do the job of a model or actor exceedingly well, and the communication will be noticed. As a brand ambassador, though he might come a cropper.

If the West Bengal government needed a visible, popular ‘model’, they could have found many who fitted the bill – and have a direct, credible connect to West Bengal.

Here are a few – and the list is not exhaustive. Aparna Sen, Bipasha Basu, Diya Mirza (her mother is a Bengali), Hrithik Roshan (his paternal grandmother is a Bengali), actor Imran Khan (his father is Bengali), Jaya Bachchan, Kajol, Koena Mitra, Konkona Sen Sharma, Lisa Ray, Rani Mukherjee, Saif Ali Khan, Sharmila Tagore, Soha Ali Khan, Mithun Chakraborty, Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar (father Bengali), Sushmita Sen and Shaan.

This is a Bollywood/music celeb list, based on the presumption that such a celebrity was what the West Bengal government wanted.

If you went beyond Bollywood and into sports, Leander Paes and Sourav Ganguly would so easily fit the bill.

All easy to recognise, popular achievers with a direct link to Kolkata and West Bengal. Yet the West Bengal government decides to sign on, and is delighted with, Shah Rukh Khan as brand ambassador.

It’s not that Shah Rukh will not work – any of the names listed above would work much better, as they would bring an authenticity and credibility to the messages they communicate.

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