Vantage point

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Defending Khan

I don't know why I am doing this. Maybe the rain water has seeped into my brain or something. I am actually going to defend Sharukh Khan!

Nope, I am not going to say he is one of the all time great actors of our times. As an actor, I think he is good....competent. No one can deny he has good screen presence.

What I admire about Shahrukh Khan is that contrary to popular perception, he experiments a lot, and takes many risks. A lot more than Aamir Khan, who is the poster boy of the urban intellectual Indian movie-goer.

Yes, what happens a lot of times is the characters he plays end up seeming more "Shahrukh"-ish than connoisseurs would prefer. As I said earlier, his acting is competent, not great. But you gotta give the guy credit for trying different things.

We all know that he came from a theatre-and-parallel-cinema background. So I won't list his initial "good" movies. I will concentrate on his career after the time he got firmly entrenched in the Chopra-Johar-candyfloss camp. I am going to take that as the time after Dil To Pagal hai.

After DTPH was a hit, Shahrukh did a lot of the vacuous predictable pink-and-blue-font-title movies on a regular basis. That is when he probably lost the respect of the "intellectual" crowd and Shahrukh-bashing became a trend. I too hate those movies. I'll list those movies, which inspite of being commercial successes are movies I endured only in Volvo buses -

Dil To Pagal Hai (Yash Chopra)
KKHH (Karan Johar)
Mohabbatein (Aditya Chopra)
KKKG (Karan Johar)
Devdas (Bhansali)
KHNH (Nikhil Advani)
Main Hoon Na (Farah Khan)
Veer Zaara (Yash Chopra)

In all these movies, the storylines are standard, the characters played by Shahrukh are almost identical, and there is very little imagination used by the writers and directors. However, every movie listed here has been a hit.

But there have also been several movies where Shahrukh has not played the standard Raj/Rahul type role. Where he has experimented. The result might not have been a cinematic triumph everytime. I have actually disliked many of those movies. But there is a difference. In the earlier genre, I dislike the concept of the movie itself. Here I like the concept, but sometimes end up not liking the execution of the concept itself.

Check this list -

$ Dil Se - Directed by Mani Rathnam. Very challenging role, and a big gamble considering how unconventional the structure of the movie and its ending were. I loved the movie, and it is still one of my all time favourites.

$ Baadshah - Directed by Abbas Mastaan, a goofy-ised copy of the Johnny Depp starrer Nick of Time. Khan plays a bumbling detective. Nothing too earth shattering, but slightly different nevertheless.

$ Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani - Directed by Aziz Mirza, and co-produced by Khan himself. The movie was a failed brave attempt to make a "different" movie, with a jab at the media. Though decent in patches, it was overall a shabby movie. Parts of the movie though could be seen as remarkably ahead-of-their-times. Remember the entire media hoopla connected with the hanging of Paresh Rawal in the movie? Now recall the Dhananjoy Chatterjee saga and notice the similarities. So anyway, a different effort, and actually co-produced by Shahrukh.

$ Hey Ram - Directed by Kamal Hasan. As radically different as a movie and a character could get. Shahrukh took on the role of Amjad Ali Khan and portrayed it quite competently.

$ Josh - Directed by Mansoor Khan who had an impeccable resume until then. It was an attempted remake of Westside Story. Shahrukh played the hooligan brother instead of the loverboy. Movie was horrid and blotted Mansoor Khan's career.

$ One 2 Ka 4 - Directed by Shashilal Nair. Didn't watch the movie, so have no comment. It sunk without a trace. But he played a cop, so am assuming it wasn't a typical Raj-rahul-ish role.

$ Asoka - Directed by Santhosh Sivan, and produced by Shahrukh Khan. Again, a bold experiment with a historical figure. I found the movie quite decent. His performance was okay-ish and he ended up Shahrukh-ising Asoka a lot. But still, it was a "hatke" attempt.

$ Hum Tumhare Hai Sanam - Directed by K.S.Adiyaman (who??? beats me!!) Have no idea about this movie, except for the fact that it also starred Madhuri and Salman and someone told me it was the only Hindi movie which has portrayed a "platonic" friendship between a guy and a girl properly.

$ Shakti: The Power - Directed by Krishna Vamshi. The movie belonged to Nana Patekar and Karishma Kapoor, and Shahrukh didn't. He plays a maverick I hear. Haven't seen the movie. Heard it was bad and a total mistreatment of a potentially powerful (pardon the pun) concept.

$ Chalte Chalte - Directed by Aziz Mirza and produced by Shahrukh. Okay, some might say I shouldn't include the movie in this category. It was very candyfloss-ish, his name in the movie was Raj, and he has a song-and-dance routine in Europe....everything so Yashraj-ish. But the second half of the movie was an attempt....albeit a feeble one, to depict the evolution of a marriage. However feel free to chuck this movie out of the "hat ke" list if you want.

$ Swades - Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. No need to write much about this great movie.

$ Paheli - Directed by Amol Palekar and produced by Shahrukh Khan. Again, a self-financed different movie.

From the list above, delete movies which you feel are not really "hat ke" and are really "Safe bets" similar to yashraj movies. Even then you will be left with a decent number of movies which were quite 'off the beaten path'.

If we take a look at his forthcoming movies, they are -

$ Munnabhai meets Mahatma Gandhi - Directed by Rajkumar Hirani. Shahrukh will go head to head with Sunjay Dutt in a sequel to Munnabhai

$ Don - Directed by Farhan Akhtar and written by Javed Akhtar, and co-starring Amitabh, this is probably Shahrukh's first proper foray into the gangster-flick genre.

$ Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - Karan Johar crap

$ Happy New Year - Farah Khan crap

$ Baiju aur Tansen - Being directed by NRI Krishna Shah, it will star Amitabh as Tansen and Shahrukh as Baiju in the "Battle of the Indian tenors".

Again, a fine combination of crappy-floss and experiments.

I hope you will now agree that Shahrukh has managed to strike the balance pretty well. He has acted in his share of Raj-Rahul movies, but there have been regular doses of offbeat movies, a few of them his own productions.

So the next time, while stating an example of a bad formulaic Hindi movie, don't say "Shahrukh movies". Say Yashraj-Dharma-Production movies.