The Ef­fect Shah Rukh Khan’s Re­cent block­buster is a crowd- pleaser, but is it part of a dis­turb­ing trend that Sees Movies glo­rify their celebs?

WKND - - Bollywood Celebrity Idols - By Khalid Mo­hamed

Once in a very blue moon, art — if Bol­ly­wood cin­ema can be called that — seeks to im­i­tate life. Like Fan does. How close it is to real life, how­ever, is de­bat­able.

Shah Rukh Khan, re­named Aryan Khanna ( partly de­rived from his real- life son) is pre­sented as the kind of su­per­star who at­tracts global frenzy. Euro­pean tourists at London’s Madame Tus­sauds mob him for au­to­graphs, and TV crews in Croa­tia go bal­lis­tic when he’s ac­cused of bad be­hav­iour at an NRI wed­ding.

As di­rected by Ma­neesh Sharma, writ­ten by Habib Faisal and­mon­i­tored­bypro­duc­era­dity­a­chopra, the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the half- fac­tual, half- fic­tion­alised su­per­star is so hy­brid that your mind takes off on a spin.

To what de­gree is Aryan Khanna an au­then­tic re­flec­tion of the su­per­star? Not much, I’d say. Here’s a por­trait which is, at best, sketchy and, at worst, an ex­er­cise in glo­ri­fi­ca­tion. This man al­ways does the po­lit­i­cally right thing. If the script brings up the point that the su­per­star can slap an up­com­ing ac­tor — a veiled al­lu­sion to Shah Rukh Khan slap­ping direc­tor Shirish Kun­der in pub­lic — that’s con­ve­niently kept off- screen. It isn’t pic­turised, co­erc­ing the viewer to be­lieve that SRK’S jus­ti­fied in what­ever he does.

Con­tra­dic­to­rily, the su­per­star is shown to be piqued when his fan ( also en­acted by SRK) roughs up that corny car­i­ca­ture of the ri­val ac­tor. Dou­ble stan­dards, any­one? Sur­pris­ingly in­ert, de­void of any signs of em­pa­thy, Aryan Khanna tricks his fan into be­ing jailed, or­ders the cops to beat him up and dis­patches his ad­mirer as soon as pos­si­ble in a train, back home to Delhi. What? Why? The sug­ges­tion is that the su­per­star won’t tol­er­ate any mis­de­meanour, be it from a friend or foe.

More­over, when the Del­hi­wala fan goes un­hinged, stalk­ing his ob­ject of de­sire in the tra­di­tion set by Yash Cho­pra’s Darr, all over London and Dubrovnik, what do you know? He turns into an amal­ga­ma­tion of James Bond and Ja­son Bourne, dis­play­ing his skills as an ac­tion hero.

Grat­i­fy­ingly though, the fan comes off as quite be­liev­able, since he doesn’t have to be mythi­cised. Bol­ly­wood star wor­ship­pers can be ob­ses­sive, even pyscho­pathic, and although he’s still adorable and hu­man, at the end, he must get his just desserts, leav­ing his idol look­ing quite glum and re­flec­tive. Quite facilely done.

This de­ifi­ca­tion of a movie star at the ex­pense of his fan’s life is se­ri­ously ques­tion­able. But, as the say­ing goes, jaane bhi do yaaro. Fan has amassed up­beat box of­fice col­lec­tions and a largely ap­pre­cia­tive au­di­ence re­sponse. Any at­tempt at crit­i­cism and, dare I use the word, anal­y­sis, would be su­per­flu­ous.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that Bol­ly­wood ac­tors, who once just had mag­a­zines and as­sorted me­dia plat­forms to boost their im­ages, now have an al­ter­na­tive — the movies them­selves. Noth­ing new you might say. Af­ter all, Dhar­men­dra did drum some sense into the star- struck Guddi, and Jackie Shroff was gal­lant with the as­pir­ing ac­tress played by Ur­mila Ma­tond­kar in Rangeela. But those were de­par­tures from the norm, when movies about movies weren’t con­sid­ered fail- safe ma­te­rial.

Nowa­days, this is no more the case. The world ap­plauded but Amitabh Bachchan wasn’t pleased with Danny Boyle’s dig at him in Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire. A boy tum­bled into muck, ran to Bachchan, whowasa­light­ing from a he­li­copter, and whooped with joy on get­ting his au­to­graph on a stinky photo. An­other hu­mour- laced com­ment on Bol­ly­wood ma­nia can be seen in Anurag Kashyap’s fawn­ing ac­count, Murabba, about a young man from Amitabh Bachchan’s home­town Al­la­habad camp­ing out­side the su­per­star’s house. Mis­sion: to hand over a jar of home- made fruit pre­serve. Kashyap’s trib­ute to the Big B was

the least ap­peal­ing seg­ment of Bom­bay Talkies, a col­lec­tion of short films to cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of In­dian cin­ema.

To re­turn to Fan, I can’t help feel­ing that there has been an over­load of films that ex­tol Shah Rukh Khan. The Bad­shah of Bol­ly­wood’s own film pro­duc­tion com­pany pro­duced Billu, fea­tur­ing Irrfan Khan as a vil­lage bar­ber who re­con­nects with his child­hood buddy. The buddy has be­come a megas­tar, in­car­nated by the Khan him­self in a cameo. Pre­dictably, he’s warm and friendly, un­al­tered by his in­cal­cu­la­ble fame and for­tune.

Next, in Zoya Akhtar’s Luck by Chance, Shah Rukh Khan showed up in a guest ap­pear­ance to talk about how friends from a star’s strug­gling days are to be trea­sured. Quite.

Ac­tor- direc­tor Makarand Desh­pande came up with Shahrukh Bola Khoob­surat Hai Tu ( ti­tle redo­lent of Main Mad­huri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon), in which a flower ven­dor is com­pli­mented by Khan, but no one be­lieves her.

And there’s Nagesh Kukunoor’s soon- to- be- re­leased Dhanak, in which a girl is con­vinced that her lit­tle brother will re­gain his sight on meet­ing Shah Rukh Khan, who’s en­dors­ing an eye dona­tion cam­paign. In other words, our Khan could well be a mir­a­cle worker. The very sug­ges­tion is ir­ra­tional and dis­turb­ing.

At the age of 50, SRK is in a com­fort zone. His Dil­wale may have evoked a hor­ri­fied re­sponse but to­day, with Fan, he’s back in ac­tion. There’s no doubt he’s a for­mi­da­ble ac­tor, ca­pa­ble of re- in­ven­tion. Still, a sem­blance of bal­ance, if not cau­tion, has to be main­tained. Suc­cess is one thing, power an­other. And, as it hap­pens with clout- wield­ing ac­tors, power cor­rupts and ab­so­lute power cor­rupts ab­so­lutely.

SRK in­ter­acts with fans at the pre­miere of his lat­est movie; in

a fan waits out­side Big B’s house to give him a home­made pre­serve; Billu de­picts King Khan as a hum­ble, friendly celebrity; SRK plays a dou­ble role in Fan: both celeb and stalker

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