Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why I Like Shah Rukh Khan

We're an edgy, intellectual audience today. We claim we understand the 'unconventional', we say we hate sappy romances and impromptu song-and-dance routines in films have been reduced to substitutes for jokes. Gone are the days when colour and over-the-top emotions were enough to keep us happy. Basically, Bollywood is out. No, really. Even Bollywood movies shy away from being Bollywood movies. A film with some razzle-dazzle, a nice disco song and some old-fashioned love and affection is commercially successful, but God forbid if someone admits to liking it. On the other hand, a movie like The Lunchbox or Dev D needs to be praised, even though if the majority of the population really appreciated such film-making without being told to do so by critics and intellectuals, then Do Dooni Chaar would be just as big a hit as Queen. 

The critical victim of this newfound cinematic intellectualism happens to be the Badshah of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan. He really is the critical victim because commercially he's doing just fine. i mean, he's the second richest actor in the world so it's not like he's struggling money-wise. It's the critical appreciation of the audience that seems to eluding him. How many times have you heard, "Shah Rukh Khan is old! What's he doing dancing with those young heroines!" or "Shah Rukh Khan only knows how to so romantic comedies" or "Shah Rukh Khan is so Bollywood" or just basic "Shah Rukh Khan sucks!"

Well, all of you SRK haters, I got news for you. You're wrong. Okay, so maybe I'm a die-hard SRK fan and wanted to marry him till I was six. But that does not mean the following justifications for Shah Rukh Khan's greatness don't stand true. Bear with me, folks, for I shall now tell you how someone goes from Jamia Milia Islamia Mass Comm student to the Badshah of Bollwood.

1. For all those who think Shah Rukh Khan only knows romance, think again. it wasn't romance that initially brought him success. It was his negative roles that endeared him to the audience and made him unforgettable. Yes, I did just use the words 'endear' and 'negative role' in one sentence because Shah Rukh Khan was capable of making that possible. He wasn't Mogambo or Badman or Gabbar. He didn't have a villanous laugh or strange costumes and he wasn't out to destroy the world. But he was evil. He was evil when he sang "Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein" in Baazigar, he was evil when he sincerely mouthed words of affection to his lady love and later pushed her off the parapet wall, he was evil when he stuttered "K...k...k..k...Kiran." He was evil, but he did it with so much heart. Befor him, villainry was so evil, it was laughable. But once he arrived, it was so sweet, it was chilling. Shah Rukh Khan changed Bollywood villains forever, and even though his role in Don isn't as threatening as his previous work, it does show the 'bad' SRK still exists.

2. For all those who think SRK hasn't dabbled in the 'unconventional', here's a surprise: he's been doing unconventional films from the beginning of his career. He was in Hey Ram, where he played Jinnah. He was a Rajasthani ghost in Paheli. A lesser known example is Maya Memsaab, which although arguable in terms of quality, does prove an actor's willingness to take a risk.  Other titles include Dil Se, My Name is Khan and Swades.The most commercially successful example, I guess, is Chak De India. because nobody could have played Kabir Khan the way he did.

3. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was Ranbir Kapoor's 10th film. A popular daily printed a list of the first 10 films of top Bollywood actors, out of which I was surprised to find that most of SRK's first few films were commercially unsuccessful while Aamir and Salman gave bigger hits back then. However, although other actors's films were better received at the time, Shah Rukh Khan's flops are remembered today. Tell me I'm wrong if these titles are unfamiliar to you: Deewana, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Chamatkaar...

4. Now, let's talk about romance. Now, this may sound strange to you, but the truth is that no Bollywood actor can go from 'actor' to 'star' unless he can be a 'typical' romantic hero. I mean, think about it. Irfan Khan is amazing, but he's not the star that Ranbir Kapoor has become. Same with Abhay Deol, Randeep Hooda, Kaykay Menon and so on. They don't have the success that one song gives Ranbir Kapoor, because they don't know how to look deep into an actress' eyes, spread their arms wide and be recklessly in love. They're...too realistic. Our audience needs a romantic hero, regardless of how much we try to deny it.

5. Another point about the romance. Before Shah Rukh Khan, there were two kinds of romances. One, where the hero literally stalks the heroine and then she falls madly in love with him. Two, where the hero is out on a mission and romance is actually just a sub-plot anyways. Shah Rukh Khan brought a much-needed vulnerability to the genre in Indian cinema. He didn't stalk anybody; he was charming. He wasn't afraid to star in a movie in which love was the primary theme. He didn't feel the need to sing cheap songs and verged towards the poetic.

6. Last but not the least, I'm an architecture student and here's something that made me like SRK even more. In his first film, SRK had an uncredited, wordless role. He just sat on the ground, a bottle of beer in his hand, listening to rock and roll at the end-of-the-year party in a smoke-filled role. Guess what he played? An architecture student! Yes, his first film was Arundhati Roy's telefilm, In Which Annie Gives It To Those Ones, based on Arunchati's experiences at School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. He appears in only one scene, and who knew he'd go on to become more famous than any television actor the world has ever seen?

So that's why I like Shah Rukh Khan. He has something for everyone, and if you're done being cool, you'll know it's time to give him a chance to win our hearts again.