I start this note with the confession that I have been an ardent admirer of Shah Rukh Khan for many years. Those who do not like him as an actor/personality/celebrity – feel free to stop reading at this point. This note is not meant to edify the man, but express personal views both positive and negative. I also pondered about not putting down the negatives, probably out of a sense of loyalty to the star who had impressed me so much. But having called a spade a spade most of my life, I decided to write this note anyway.
I did not watch much television in high school and therefore did not understand why most of my classmates swooned over ‘Fauji’. But my fascination for SRK was born the first time I watched him on screen. He was not tall, fair, good looking or well built, but he had a ‘something’ that most actors did not have. A combination of irrespressible energy, charm, wit, charisma and chutzpah that made him portray negative roles with elan, he brought a whole new dimension to the stereotypical Hindi film hero who was otherwise restricted to being the just a romantic good guy. From the endearing bad boy in Baazigar to the banjo playing hearthrob in Dilwale Dulhaniyan Le Jayenge; from the brat in Deewana to the dreamer in Dil To Pagal Hai; from the stuttering maniac in Darr to the suave NASA returned NRI in Swadesh, from the prankster in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to the super coach in Chak De, he somehow infused believability into every character he played. His fan base stretched across ages and generations; mothers and daughters alike fantasized about this man and a lot of men wondered why.
I sat through many really stupid films and came out happy because Shah Rukh Khan’s presence made those movies worth watching. And of course, there were some really good films too. My favourites apart from Swadesh and Chak De would probably be the ones churned out by Farah Khan – unreal, funny, irreverent, spoofy and totally entertaining. I wish they had stuck to creating more films together! They were sheer value for money. Shah Rukh Khan had managed to make OTT a style statement in acting.
My first disappointment in a film starring SRK came when I watched Devdas. But to be fair, I was horrified with the screenplay and direction and not with the actors. Seeing an ageless classic reduced to melodramatic trash by a director who had made some very sensitive films before, was shocking. I can honestly admit I sat through the film only because it starred Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit.
The second disappointment was Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and this was a gigantic shocker. Knowing that Karan Johar and Shah Rukh are close friends, I expected an intelligent film, specially when it was being touted as a ‘pathbreaking effort’ by KJ. The director and lead actors went to town talking about how sensitively the complex issue of extra marital relationships had been dealt with. But the movie was awful. 3 hours of Shah Rukh growling; the ladies either simpering or crying and Amitabh Bachchan prancing around semi clad dancers was an ordeal beyond belief. If there was a saving grace in the film, it was probably Abhishek Bachchan who was his usual understated self, save the silly song sequences. But in all, there was no aspect of normalcy in the film which was supposed to reflect real life. And as usual, I did not understand the script writer’s fascination with foreign locales, but hey, that is not important!
Why would I mention films where Shah Rukh was just an actor and not sole producer (his firm Red Chillies Entertainment co produced KANK!) ? It is because his star power was at its zenith when these films were made and he could have put his foot down and demanded better quality. But he did not and as a result we got sub standard films like KANK.
At this point I have to mention My Name Is Khan. I cannot honestly say I loved the film, but there was an effort made to showcase something beyond candy floss romance and that in my eyes deserves a bit of credit. Shah Rukh Khan probably made more effort in this film that in a lot of others and that too deserves some credit. The person I found uniformly irritating through the film was Kajol who does not seem to be able to act without twenty six expressions per second on the face. While it was cute when she played youthful characters in her earlier films, it was extremely annoying in this film which is far removed from a college romance.
Earlier in 2011, I watched a film named Always Kabhi Kabhi. I cannot blame anyone who has not heard of this one. I would be shocked if you have heard of it since it ran for a week (if at all) in Mumbai and I would assume had the same fate in other cities. So why did I go for it? It was a high school film produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s company and directed by Roshan Abbas. Again, two intelligent and aware men who have been involved with media and entertainment for decades. So I thought it would be a sweet young film. Unfortunately, I was subjected to sheer torture for two hours. An amateurish film with a non-existent storyline and terrible performances from all characters save one, this film ended with a forgettable item number by SRK himself. And I was left wondering if the director knew what he was doing and if the producer had bothered to watch the film before it released. No answers to those yet.
And now to Ra.One – the latest from the SRK stable. Well what do I say! 150 crores, 175 crores…whatever the amount spent, is astronomical. The marketing has been so extensive that you cannot walk out of your house without the some promotional material staring in your face. So we decided that Diwali morning would start with us watching the film. The first half hour was awful and what followed was progressively worse save some special effects. There are so many scenes in the films vying for the award of ‘worst cinematic moment’ that I do not know which to start with. Would it be the terrible opening sequence with Priyanka Chopra simpering and Sanjay Dutt mumbling, or the kid who needs a haircut and a thrashing, or Shah Rukh’s Tamilian accent that keeps slipping each time he spouts Urdu/Hindi/English, or the abysmal toilet humour spirnkled through the film, or Kareena at her inane best redoing her Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham mannerisms, or the awful supporting cast trying to play normal characters but landing up as mere caricatures or………………..too long a list to go on and on! I must admit Arjun Rampal as Ra.One is inspired casting since he is naturally wooden and expressionless and has to make zero efforts to stay that way for his stint here. The film is inspired and supported by Karan Johar, you can feel his presence in every alternate frame. But somehow, Karva Chauth manages to come before Dussehra! Pity KJ and to a large extent SRK (in KJ films) who have made Karva Chauth a national obsession did not realise that error in the sequence of events.
The burning question in my mind regarding Ra.One – why the hell could the film makers not just copy Superman/Batman/Spiderman/Iron Man/Hulk and be done with it? Hindi films have unashamedly copied Hollywood films for decades; sometimes frame by frame, so why stop now? I believe every producer and director has some responsibilities and the first in the list is to respect the audience. I was embarassed watching Ra.One and I know a lot of others feel the same. I also know some people who have liked the film and I am happy for them, I so wanted to like it! I actually went prepared to love it and therefore was so let down. It is incredible that I could find nothing to take away from a film that I have waited so long to watch! Shah Rukh Khan – my one time idol and a man who still comes across as intelligent and smart could not have been a part of this film……but alas he was/is.
Now I wait for Don 2 and hope it will be able to erase the nightmare caused by Ra.One. And I pray that there is no Ra.Two – EVER!!!
Copyright © Tara Verma October 2011
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