Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Should I make a train pun or just ask a rhetorical question? OH SHIT THE QUESTION TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION!

This happens EVERY time there is a new Shahrukh Khan release so let me spell it out again:

I saw Om Shanti Om twice in the theaters.

At the time I really enjoyed it, although, at the time, I had yet to see a lot of the old, great classics.

I skipped Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi for reasons I can’t recall; it’s not impossible that I just didn’t have a ride to the theater. I did see Billu Barber and remember it being quite a pleasant little film but from that point forward I have deliberately skipped every single Shahrukh Khan film to come out.

Was it the unending Ra.One promotions? The holy posing in My Name Is Khan? The massive ego, unflatteringly revealed, in interview after interview? The desperate grasping at Hollywood?


Here’s the deal: I really dislike Shahrukh Khan but it didn’t start out that way. He’s earned my dislike over the past few years with his dismissal of everything that I loved about Bollywood and his embrace of everything that I hate about Hollywood.

Take visual effects. (No, take them, please!) While I do appreciate the improvement in film quality and fun editing tricks, these things should be a bonus to a film, not the whole purpose. One of the things I love about popular Indian film is the reliance on the human being as special effect. I mean, what can a computer do that is better than Prabhudeva dancing? Better than Sonu Sood ripping off his shirt or Vidyut Jamwal executing a sweet roundhouse kick? What can a computer do that is better than Sonakshi Sinha’s jiggle? The answer is: nothing.

I would gladly trade all the special effects in the world for one dance by Mumaith Khan.

But if you want to talk Chennai Express--which seemingly everybody does, specifically while using train metaphors--the problem I have with it (other than the Kollywood minstrel show thematics) is the promotions. Shahrukh has said a few times that this is his contribution to the “mass entertainer.” And, oh, won’t the masses be grateful for whatever scraps Shahrukh throws their way after his promotional jaunt to London.

I do recognize the fact I’m a white lady in Washington, DC, and please believe that I am not speaking for anyone other than myself when I say that for a guy making a movie “for the masses,” it does seem like an odd decision to a) raise ticket prices 40% and b) crow about how the film is opening in the most non-diaspora global markets ever and c) give lengthy interviews to the Times of London about being a global superstar. Correct me if I wrong--I don’t want to stereotype anybody here--but I don’t think too many villagers in UP subscribe to Rupert Murdoch’s prized print outlet nor are planning trips to Germany and/or Israel to do any film viewing.

Exactly which mass is this “mass entertainer” aimed at? Judging from the trailers, it does seem to be a midlevel Rohit Shetty comedy-actioner that the heartland viewers who made Golmaal: Fun Unlimited a hit would enjoy, which just makes the promotions and “the most global screens ever” even more baffling. Is it good business sense to ignore the very people you claim to have made the film for? A midlevel Rohit Shetty movie is generally a pretty good one-time watch but does the fact that Shahrukh Khan is in it, suddenly make it worthy of a HUGE global release and tons of media hype? Shahrukh Khan would answer yes but I’m not so sure. Imagine sending Bol Bachchan or All the Best: Fun Begins to Tel Aviv and Munich. It’s ridiculous, right? People there don’t care so why waste everybody’s time and why generate endless press releases about it to waste MY time, specifically?

Because make no mistake, the money being thrown around all these Internet “Bollywood news” outlets is staggering and keeps increasing. AND NONE OF IT has been proven to actually get people into the theater. I may excitedly track upcoming releases months in advance (RAMBO RAJKUMAR) but your average aam aadmi does not and why should he? He’s busy working hard for his family and just living his life, not watching an unending stream of 30 second dialogue promo videos on youtube. The only people with time to do that are college boys in their dorm rooms, in between searching for Sunny Leone videos and calling home to mummy.

To be perfectly honest, Shahrukh Khan reminds me of another bloated media figure--Jay Z. Sasha Frere-Jones, one of the few Americans writing anything worthwhile on popular culture, had an insightful piece in the New Yorker on Jay Z; a lot of the points he made could be applied to Shahrukh Khan, too. The drive to earn money; the increasing laziness in his art; the disengagement with real social issues affecting his audience; and the corrosive effect of his own self-importance.

Shahrukh Khan stopped making movies I could connect with back in 2007 with Chak De India.

He may call himself the king but he lost my respect a long time ago.

I've grown to dislike Priyanka Chopra for many of the reasons. The media hype over her Planes red carpet appearance in Los Angeles was just embarrassing. Do you know who else attended that event? Ashlee Simpson. Dane Cook. Yup, the cream of the A-list right there if by "A-list" you mean "people whose names you might recognize because they did things like get caught lip syncing on live television." And to add to the embarrassment, Piggy was barely mentioned or shown in the American coverage of the event. Maybe she'll go drown her sorrows in a Mallika Sherawat-themed milkshake, you know, the one on the menu a good three years before PC's. And look what an honor that was! Mallika's career has just soared since then. Oh, wait, typo. SOURED since then.

7 comments:

Stuart Martin said...

We don't often agree on much, but I find myself very, VERY much in synch with this post! I too have been drifting from SRK passive non-fan to anti-fan in the last few years, although I do like RNBDJ, probably because of my soft spot for Anushka.

Filmi Girl said...

@Stuart, that is very heartening to hear. :)

odadune said...

Well, it would have been fun to see you tackle CE, but I respect your stance, and can understand where you're coming from even if those things don't bother me as much as they do you. (Having an ego the size of the Indian subcontinent is virtually a requirement to be a film star in any industry...)

Archee ologist said...

Hi FG. I am commenting on a post after a long time.

The issue you seem to have with Shahrukh Khan is just that you do not like him. You did not like what he did with RaOne BECAUSE it was him (compare your reactions to Krissh or the Rajnikath movie). You are rejecting the stereotyping of 'South Indians' in this movie only because it is by him- you are yet to see the movie and his stereoptyping might be much less offensive than the 'Aiyyyayo' saying Mehmood losing to the north Indian team of Kishore Kumar in Padosan. Further, Khan is hardly playing for a small northie/ urban audience here- indeed he is promoting the movie in Chennai, and all over Indian TV and also in the smaller towns. You have an issue with the global promotions of the movie because...? He is promoting the movie all over - and the movie is not one without song/ dance/ pretty heroiene/ Raj-Rahul/ Rohit Shetty... It might just be the masala movie that you would have loved if it starred Akshay Kumar instead, all else remaining the same. Yet, you take umbrage to the global promotions and money being spent on it!!

I did not watch RaOne, but I remember an interview where Khan said that the central format of a Bollywood film had to be kept alive, and only the technology had to come to par with the best in the world (I paraphrased there). The man sounded really proud of his industry. He seems to me a part of the new global phenomenon where the former colonial subjects assert themselves as equals or mores, in the global cultural landscape. When he made RaOne, he did not reject item dances at the cost of technology. Nay, he had more than one item song, with Kareena Kapoor's gown being torn so that she could dance. He made a Robot sing and dance!! In Chennai Express, there are item songs- as unfrotunate sounding as they may be.

I do not have a fundamental problem with your hatred of Khan. But of late the majority of the posts on your blog are about people you do not like- Priyanka Chopra, Shahrukh Khan, and the ilk. Wither the posts that were celebratory like the mood of a Bollywood film itself? I will keep checking everyday and wish for more positive things to read.

In your rejection of the global aspirations of Bollywood artists, I hope you are not committing to the some colonial attitudes where Bollywood tends to cater to the exotic tastes, while you are also at liberty to choose from other cinemas. Please allow this movie industry to evolve. It is a cultural product, please be tolerant if its evolution. It will try to assert itself over other comparable cultures, and then find its own habitat. Please tolerate it! You (you, FG) are an important link in documenting this evolution. Your blog is an important thing for some of us - I hope you will see my point.

Unknown said...

+ infinity @Archee ologist

Maya said...

I agree with every word you said. That interview with him in The Times was not biased, offensive or even uninformed as many people called it. The interviewer described SRK for what he really is- self absorbed, contradictory & completely submerged in his own stardom. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, I'm sure he's nice, but as an actor, as a star, he has become intolerable. He loves to remind us how humble he is yet also insists that there is nothing wrong with being pompous if you- like him- have earned it. That no one- Hrithik, Aamir, whoever- can touch his space because he is the KING & he has come to rule (his words) but cut to a few years later, post 3 Idiots & Dabangg, he wants to "grow up to be like Aamir and Salman Khan" because he can never be as great as them & has never even THOUGHT himself as. And his films! The last film of his I truly liked was Paheli. A film he bemoaned to the media, constantly stating how he was mad to make after it flopped. Oh, but when it made it as India's entry to the Oscars, suddenly it was "very close to his heart".
Also, am I the only one sick to death of hearing him go on about how alone & isolated he is? How he lives to make us happy but no one is quite great enough to bring the same emotion out in him so he lives his life as this tortured artist, filled with pain & a kind of loneliness us mere mortals can never hope to understand?

Sunny Figueriedo said...

Hi FG!
Actually I think it makes sense to release CE in Germany... I'm a french speaker living in Switzerland, and I noticed that while in France and the french speaking part of Switzerland very few hindi movies are released on dvd, it's much easier to find them in Germany and in the german speaking part of Switzerland. Several movies were even released in theaters, sometimes as isolated projections, sometimes for a few weeks... For example this year: Himmatwala, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, Don 2, English Vinglish, Jab Tak hai Jaan... Also SRK has an apparently big fanbase in Germany, most of the indian movies dvds you can find in shops feature him, and his movies are shown on TV regularly. As a comparison, it's very rare in France. All his latest releases went to german theaters as far as I know... (But In general Germany seems more open to world cinema and have more projections/ better dvd offer also of japanese, korean, turkish movies for example)

That being said, I don't know why they suddenly speak about it for CE, I think SRK is indeed isolated and kind of lost track of reality (which can be expected in his position). But I would like him to actually stop giving so many interviews... I feel that he's run out of things to say. These endless promotions are annoying, and for they spoil the movie, as you've seen most of it already... Especially for songs, I used to love watching a movie and suddenly being amazed/ surprised at an awesome dance sequence... now I've always seen them already... and sometimes, like "chikni chameli", I don't think they work out of the context. Well I personally feel that these promotions ruin the movie, but apparently the industry thinks it's the only way to reach the 100/200/5000 crore club, which is of course the goal of any successful movie...... So I decided to stop reading bollywood news until after the release :)

So instead of following this media coverage, and as someone said above, spending most of your blog posts talking about actors you dislike, why not continue your series on the 100 crore club? those were really interesting! or explain the awesomeness of Helen or something :) The CE craze will calm down after a while...

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl