In­dia star Aamir now ‘King of the Khans’

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Three In­dian ac­tors shar­ing a sur­name have ruled Bol­ly­wood box of­fices across three decades, but the suc­cess of wrestling block­buster "Dan­gal" means it's Aamir who's cur­rently king of the Khans. Known as the "Khans of Bol­ly­wood", Aamir, Shah Rukh, and Sal­man have been the un­doubted su­per­stars of the Hindi film in­dus­try since the mid-1990s, tak­ing it in turns to reign supreme. But with "Dan­gal" smash­ing records, Sal­man suf­fer­ing a rare flop and Shah Rukh without a ma­jor hit in four years, the crown for now is firmly placed on Aamir's head.

"The Khans used to be on a par but Aamir has moved ahead and Shah Rukh is kind of lagging be­hind re­cently," film trade an­a­lyst Ramesh Bala said of the trio who all turn 52 this year and who are not re­lated. "Dan­gal" has set new and pre­vi­ously unimag­in­able pa­ram­e­ters for the box of­fice po­ten­tial of a Bol­ly­wood movie since it was first re­leased in In­dia in De­cem­ber last year. It quickly be­came the high­est-gross­ing Bol­ly­wood film ever, knock­ing an­other of Aamir's movies off the top spot, and has made close to 20 bil­lion ru­pees ($310 million) world­wide.

Khan plays the role of wrestling coach Ma­havir Singh Phogat who de­fies the odds by rais­ing his daugh­ters Geeta and Babita Phogat to be­come cham­pion wrestlers. Geeta won gold for In­dia at the 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games while Babita topped the podium at the 2014 edi­tion. Crit­ics say the movie res­onated be­cause it was a pa­tri­otic story about a tri­umphant un­der­dog that dealt with In­dia's skewed at­ti­tude to­wards girls, and credit a large part of Aamir's suc­cess to his care­ful choos­ing of movies with a mes­sage. "Aamir is one per­son who re­ally puts a lot of thought and ef­fort into se­lect­ing films that are rel­e­vant to an In­dian au­di­ence. There are very few ac­tors who re­ally do enough of that," film dis­trib­u­tor Ak­shaye Rathi told AFP.

Au­di­ences lapped up Aamir's 2014 satir­i­cal science fic­tion com­edy "PK", num­ber two on the all-time Bol­ly­wood gross­ing list, for its ques­tion­ing of re­li­gious su­per­sti­tions. His 2009 hit "3 Id­iots" ap­pealed for its com­ing of age tale about stu­dents strug­gling to deal with the pressure of be­com­ing en­gi­neers. 'Ge­nius' Rathi also points to the fact that Aamir does one film ev­ery two years on av­er­age, while Sal­man and Shah Rukh reg­u­larly re­lease two a year. "Aamir has been very con­sis­tent for a very long time. He doesn't do as many films as Shah Rukh or Sal­man and the more films you do the higher the chance that one misses," Rathi ex­plained. Sal­man's an­nual Eid hol­i­day re­lease is usu­ally a block­buster shoo-in, but the lat­est, "Tube­light" bombed. Crit­ics panned the script and said the star's por­trayal of a "vil­lage id­iot" failed to res­onate with his largely young In­dian male fan base.

Bala blames Shah Rukh's fail­ure to reg­is­ter a hit since "Chen­nai Ex­press" in 2013 on "ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent gen­res", in­clud­ing ro­mance, ac­tion and drama. Aamir is lauded for tak­ing on chal­leng­ing roles. For "Dan­gal" he gained and then lost again 25 kilo­grams (55 pounds) in weight while cin­ema­go­ers adored his por­trayal of a hu­manoid alien stranded on Earth in "PK".

"As a star he doesn't en­joy so much of a fan fol­low­ing as he en­joys the trust of the au­di­ence for his craft. Peo­ple be­lieve at the back of their minds that if Aamir ap­pears in a film there will be some­thing, dif­fer­ent, some­thing novel in it," said Rathi. "Dan­gal" has made around $180 million more than "PK" in global sales thanks to a record-break­ing run in the hugely prof­itable Chinese mar­ket, where Aamir has worked hard at build­ing his brand, be­com­ing the big­gest In­dian star there. "Aamir has time and again proven his mar­ket­ing ge­nius and his ge­nius when it comes to choos­ing the right script, de­liv­er­ing a ter­rific per­for­mance and en­thralling the au­di­ence," said Rathi.—

This file photo shows In­dian Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Aamir Khan at­tend­ing a poster launch of his up­com­ing bio­graph­i­cal sports drama "Dan­gal" in Mum­bai. — AFP

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