Sunday, August 06, 2006

On an Interview of SRK

An interesting — and telling — Shah Rukh Khan interview; more interesting were the reactions of numerous fans, who read it as testimony to the man’s humility. My random responses:

There was nothing humble in this interview...and I like that, as I'm one of those who prefers his big stars cocky.

In the pre-'90s, the method of releasing films was very different from now. Then you began with eight prints of a film, which incidentally, you released only in the few very big cities. If the film did well there, like Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, you got the money and the guts to go deeper into the country.

This is a shockingly dishonest statement. Because the "eight prints" bit was true of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, but significantly , was not true of any other big film in the period. By the late 1980s, virtually all big films were being released on a lot more than eight prints around the country. To select the exception -- Hum Aapke Hain Kaun -- and treat it as the rule, is disingenuous.

But note the other point: Khan pretends to believe that the charge of making films that focus on a particular demographic to the exclusion of others doesn't stick, because even formerly they were essentially doing the same thing, with releasing "eight prints" here and there and then expanding as and if the film became more successful. This begs the question: i.e. Khan doesn't answer why the contemporary metro-film just does not run outside its demographic, whereas by his own admission formerly prints would find their way into the boondocks and be consumed there (i.e. what does the fact of simultaneous release have to do with the fact that those films are not being watched in large swathes of the country? What does that have to do with the fact that millions of Bollywood viewers seem to have simply seceded into the Bhojpuri industry?).

India resides in the villages, but not in their pockets. They don't have what it takes to buy the product at the price we are willing to sell.

Maybe, but over the last fifteen years many in Bollywood seem to believe that she has stopped residing in her smaller towns either. What Khan ignores is: those directors who have not forgotten this make a lot of money (Rakesh Roshan habitually, Anil Sharma with Gadar, Dharmesh Dharshan with Raja Hindustani). The point is not everyone should make those films. The point is one should be honest about what one is doing. i.e. Ram Gopal Verma honestly says that he doesn't give a damn about anything outside multiplexes in major metros, and that’s fine, in the sense that it's a free country; whereas Khan here pretends that nothing has "really" changed, that it has "always" been this way, and so on and so forth.

I do agree that this is a fantastic interview. My ideological reservations about it, and about Khan’s distortions here do not obscure the fact that it is a bravura performance by a star, and as such it is finely calculated to produce an effect. I might be in the minority here, but I don't equate great performances with sincerity. And as a great performance, this is vintage SRK-the-star: but not a trace of humility here (plenty of mock-humility though), and plenty of disingenuous statements. Like I said, I prefer my stars cocky.

It was Vijay, an urban anti-establishment character, who took the machine gun, ran into Parliament and shot them all.

Yet again, Khan takes an exception and identifies it with the rule. This description only fits one Bachchan film -- Inquilaab (where he was called Amarnath or Amar, not Vijay). In fact when one considers the entire history of Amitabh's Vijays -- Zanjeer, Roti Kapda aur Makaan, Deewar (and its contemporary revision, Agneepath), Hera Pheri, Trishul, Don, Dostana, Shaan, The Great Gambler, Shakti, Shahenshah, Aakhree Raasta — not one of these characters was the sort to kill MPs and liquidate the cabinet. In fact that was the very point in a film like Inquilaab: i.e. precisely because the "Vijay" personae would never do for this sort of thing, the filmmakers of Inquilaab gave him a name he had never had before: Bachchan's Amarnath was a different animal from what we had seen before (though we would see his descendants again and again, and in surprising places, from the Tamil action hero/vigilante of films like Saamurai — and many others — to the likes of Rang De Basanti).

From the list we see that Yash Chopra and Ramesh Sippy films/scripts seemed to have an especial fondness for "Vijay". Interestingly, Manmohan Desai, perhaps because he had a different Bachchan in mind than either of those two, never used "Vijay": Amit (Parvarish); Anthony (Amar Akbar Anthony); Amit (Suhaag); John/Jaani/Janardhan (Naseeb); Master Dinanath & Raju (Desh Premee); Iqbal (Coolie); Raju (Mard); Ganga (Ganga Jamuna Saraswati). It would be interesting to speculate why these are mostly: (i) nicknames ("Raju"); (2) variations of Amitabh's own name; or (3) the names of religious minorities. [The one exception is when Bachchan was called the mythologically significant Ganga; interestingly Ganga Jamuna Saraswati was a disaster.]

Prakash Mehra went in for more grandiose names for the sorts of Bachchan personae he had in mind, and seemed to have better luck with outsized Bachchan personae that were just too "much": For his "normal" characters, he did use Vijay: I mentioned Hera Pheri above, wherein Bachchan played a "normal" metro-centered conman/thief, and Zanjeer, where he is an urban police officer (Khan is wrong to call him anti-establishment; Inspector Vijay is the sort of guy who wants to save the system from its rot and corruption, not tear it down: i.e. he is a quintessential "militant reformer", not the radical and disturbing nihilist of Inquilaab’s end). But in the majority of Prakash Mehra films he went in for stranger or more grandiose/mythic names when he had a different persona in mind: Heera (Lawaaris); Shiva or Tiger (Khoon Pasina); Arjun (Namak Halal); Sikandar (Muqaddar ka Sikandar); Gogeshwar (Jaadugar); the rich wastrel Vicky (Sharaabi) doesn't easily fit in with either characterization, and is probably best understood as a decadent nawab clothed in contemporary urban form. None of these characters was even remotely likely to be the MP-slaughtering sort either. In fact, Sikandar, Gogeshwar, Vicky can hardly be considered anti-establishment, even in the sense of Trishul’s Vijay. Not to mention that the Vijay of Kaala Pathar (wherein Bachchan is racked by guilt because he — mistakenly — abandoned a ship that was under his charge) and The Great Gambler (where he is a straight arrow cop, albeit with a twin non-Vijay brother who's a thief) were actually rather establishment figures.

Khan doubtless possesses more than a passing familiarity with the Bachchan oeuvre. I think we see here what the great literary critic Harold Bloom refers to as the Anxiety of Influence: in Khan’s case, he tries to "SRK-ise" Bachchan by attempting to reduce the latter’s oeuvre to one role, one pose, and one (homicidal) gesture. This is a misreading of Bachchan’s career, although it signals the extent of Khan’s ambition. Perhaps why I consider this a great interview, worthy of a top star.


Akshat said...

Qalandar,Its abotu KANK
I am not memeber of
so i am just posting my comment in your blog.
you can post it as comment in any KANK review on

In simple words if some one will ask me, do you like movie: Answer will be flat No.
Why?? Because for me story was weak. It does not touches heart.It even does not make me feel think that why a married man is falling in love with other woman, in this case woman is also married. Nor it does make my heart cry for his wife.Nore it make me happy with joy on meeting of so called soulmates at end of whole drama.

It only make me feels exhausted .Just to prove that only soulmates should marry , Karan has created this more than 3 hours long Drama, without any valid foundation

I can write on each and every schene of movie.Some were quite good.(one with the Humors in first part) But you want to spend that much thoughts on movie which really want to address some issues
As whole film sucks.
In my whole life I have not seen a single movie which had described infedility so cheaply or you can say so lightly.
Karan has tried to show this aspect of life also like he is showing some great family value.
Sorry Karan but your treatment to biggest institution in Human History is hollow, fake and totally plastic.
Just a small example, Neither as son I love the father, who even does not show a single emotion of leaving his child.
Nor as Father I love myself if I left my son like that( But as I said subject is treated very cheaply).

But ever may be first week collections, as advance booking is quite good, film is not going to create any magic.
may be due to statistcis some one prove that film is hit, but take it granted that no one will going to take next movie of Karan Johar that easily.

The only schene when people claps: Rheas slaps Dev.So you can guess that people does not fall in love with Karan's hero this time. If people does not love hero, you can very well guess that how film will perform

Qalandar said...

Thanks Akshat for the detailed review; I have posted it on NG.

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting comments

Qalandar said...

Thank YOU akshat for taking the time to write such a detailed review. I have not seen the film yet, but you raise an important issue: if one makes a film on a fluff topic (e.g. KKHH, Dhoom) then lack of seriousness might be excusable; but the bar is higher when the pretemse is of a "serious" subject, as Johar attempts with KANK...

akshat said...

Ya exactly, when you are claiming that your film is realistic film and bla bla ....
But since when comcept of soul mate become realistic God Knows.
The only character seems realistic in movie was of Rhea, but character does not allowed to develop fully.Its look like Karan also did not want that but in end it happens.. you know what I mean.
To prove that soul mates should marry, to prove his logic he try to put some words in another characters mouth but in end he seems unable to justify the logic meantime making other charaters look realistic

akshat said...

and one thing
Thank God there are blogs now.
Other wise crap like taran who earns money the way you better know..., whould have sold us any thing.
As you had earlier in so many comments that the way business now done is changed alot.Films recovered their cost in first week itself on basis of hype created and get status of hit.But just imagine if films like Sholay or HAHK is being made and released today, how much they are going to earn.
I donot know why but I have gut feeling that Vivah (Suraj Movie) will not only be dark horse but one of biggest grosser like HAHK.

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