Shahrukh at 26 Video: What Did He Chose to Leave In and What Did He Chose to Leave Out and Why?

This video went up on Friday, but I have had a busy weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to watch it closely until now.  Lot’s of interesting things to discuss!

First there is the way it was launched.  Not through Shahrukh’s twitter, or Red Chillies, or a business friend/famous person like Karan Johar, or Rishi Kapoor (first co-star) or Hema Malini (first director), but through his wife Gauri.  It is part of positioning him and his 26 year journey, his entire film career, as something that happened to a private citizen, not a public figure.  Bringing him down to earth just a little.

The entire tone of the video matches that.  It is intimate, in his home, talking to the camera.  Shahrukh has done twitter videos like this before, but they are usually short and less than professional, just fun things for his followers.  But this is professionally shot, later he thanked Aanand L Rai for taking time to film it along with the two crew members who also helped.  And the way the lines are delivered, I am sure it was written out in advance as well.  Probably written by Shahrukh himself, but still written, not just off the cuff.

It feels like part of a repackaging.  Shahrukh, for the past ten years or so since social media and the global market took off, has been strangely approachable and unapproachable.  He had random twitter posts revealing his deepest thoughts, he brought his family out to wave to the crowd on Eid, he was completely open.  And at the same time, he accepted an untouchable position in his professional life, he was the King and all powerful and all knowing and so on and so on.  So you could love the Shahrukh you knew as a real person, and revere the Shahrukh as a movie star, and he had the best of both worlds.

Until recently when he has begun to have the worst of both worlds.  His personal self is attacked over and over again, every photo and every moment dissected and critiqued and analyzed.  He has left himself vulnerable to that, they aren’t just attacking some fake image that serves as a shield, they are attacking the real him, and that is painful.  And on the other side of things, he is expected to be the perfect all powerful King of the industry, every flop is blamed on him, even if it isn’t his film sometimes it is still blamed on him.  Every bad action by an industry member, every foolish quote, every flawed business decision, comes back to him.

And so now, very slowly, he has started repackaging.  Giving us the real but slightly fake versions.  Like this, it’s his real self talking in his real house, but it is carefully lit and carefully written and presenting the best version of the real.  If this Shahrukh is attacked, it doesn’t really matter, because it isn’t exactly the “Real” Shahrukh.  Don’t like his hair?  Who cares, it was styled and dyed and set up to look like that, that’s not his real hair.  Don’t like his words?  Who cares, they were written in advance and polished even further in post-production, they aren’t his “real” words.  And on and on.  It was the same with his accepting the award at Davos, his producing the TED talks for India, he is moving more and more into this formal kind of persona and personality, keeping some part of himself out of view, and at the same time downplaying the parts that always seemed a little superhuman, rejecting his status as the all powerful industry God who gets both the credit and the blame for everything.

 

How does he do that in this video exactly?  And what is the version of himself he wants to present?  Let me count down year by year as he does!

1.Fauji to Deewana (“I thought was a good performance”)

He starts with his first film, casually says that “I thought it was a good performance” and then smiles as he indicates that not everyone agreed.  He is doing two things here, making fun of his arrogance and being humble, and also making fun of his younger self, distancing himself from that person and acknowledging that now he is very very old.

2. Gentleman-Baazigar-Stalker/Darr (social media)

He mentions 3 movies for this year, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman which was his first movie with Juhi and Aziz Mirza.  And Baazigar, which was his first movie with Kajol and his first major hit.  And Darr, which of course was his first movie with Yash Chopra.  He skips Maya Memsaab, choosing instead to look at his commercial hits.  This is part of a trend in this video, he is selling himself as a simple movie star who we shouldn’t take seriously, a humble boy who came to Bombay and worked hard.  This was the year he turned “Gentleman”, he says, accepting the identity he got from that film as a sweet innocent brought to the big city.  He brings that into the present day by self-deprecating humor about stalking on social media, he’s still just like us.

(Just a simple boy who came to the city and tried to make good)

3. Competitiveness-Anjaam

He skips Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa.  Another challengingly good performance, another film that makes him a little more than just a silly entertainer.  Instead, he picks Anjaam and claims it taught him competitiveness.  But, oddly, his choices here and in the video as a whole are showing him backing off from the competition, the “I am the best” attitude.  He isn’t going to bring up his best films, the ones that make him a brilliant actor and top star, just the non-threatening ones.

4. DDLJ-Raj taught him about Love

Of course he can’t skip DDLJ, people would notice that.  So instead he flips it a little, says that he learned about love from Raj, people fell in love with “Raj”.  He separates himself from the character visually as well, brings in a DDLJ doll to represent Raj while he is speaking.  We shouldn’t be threatened by nice normal Shahrukh, he isn’t the one who made DDLJ a record breaking hit, it was Raj, someone other than himself.

5. Love you all had for me…or Raj Chaahat

For 1996, he only mentions one film, Chaahat.  It probably is the best film of that year, the others were just sort of odd.  But I suspect he also brings it up because it is his film with the Bhatts, now that the Bhatts (Alia, Pooja, and Mukesh) are on an upswing right now.  And again, he carefully separates himself from Raj, makes sure that he is not claiming love from the people, that was Raj, he is just a normal humble guy.

(It’s also another simple innocent boy who comes to the city character)

6. Aryan-Stork

I may have missed it, but I don’t think there is any movie mentioned for 1997, the year of Pardes and Dil To Pagal Hai and Koyla and Yes Boss.  Instead he only talks about Aryan.  But not a true story of Aryan, like in other interviews where he has talked about how difficult the pregnancy was for Gauri, or how it feels like getting his parents back again to have his children.  Just a superficial impersonal joke about how the stork brought Aryan, he hopes Aryan knows better now.  Shahrukh is the silly old-fashioned father of a teenage son, a little behind the times and a little shy.

7. Dil Se

Only one film mentioned for 1998, which means no Kuch Kuch.  And Dil Se is his only difficult art film mentioned, he refers to it as learning the importance of doing things from the heart.  As in, “I was a silly shallow movie star slowly growing up and learning to respect my art”.  He is creating a narrative in which he was naive and inexperienced, no Maya Memsaab, no Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, no Oh Darling Yeh Hai India, or even In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones, just Dil Se and the risk of moving out of the commercial and into the art realm for the first time.  And not for nothing, this entire video is also in English, and Dil Se is his most popular film among the English speaking world, while Kuch Kuch lags behind.

8. Baadshah (hope I am worthy)

Well, this is just ridiculous!  He mentions Baadshah (as the music plays lightly in the background, just as it did for Dil Se), and says it is a name the people gave him and he hopes he is worthy.  It’s his own name!  He picked it out!  And he produced the movie with that title!  He is so cautious about any sign of arrogance, he even rewrites that part of history.

9. Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani Suhana (risk taking, fatherhood)

No Hey Ram, because that version of Shahrukh, the one who wants to take interesting roles even in other industries, doesn’t exist.  Instead, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani which he refers to as risk taking, a backhand way of acknowledging its failure. And also labeling that fairly safe movie as his biggest risk.  And he talks about Suhana and learning the joys of fatherhood again.  He is just a normal father, remembering his children’s youth, not a movie star.

10. Asoka, moniker too seriously, long hair

For Asoka, he has a double humility, first saying that he was taking the “Baadshah” title too seriously, thought he was really a king.  Making fun of himself for thinking he was worthy of playing Asoka.  And second, making fun of himself for making a flop movie.  He even makes fun of the long hair for the role.  And he ignores Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, just as he ignored Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, his two biggest hits.

11. Hit the bottle Devdas, quotes lines

He turns Devdas into a joke, saying that he hit the bottle because he was so upset about the flop of Asoka.  He also quotes the lines, “Paro Paro Chandramukhi Paro”, and then laughs at himself.  He can quote Devdas because it isn’t just a Shahrukh film or a Shahrukh story, it is an Indian classic that is bigger than him.  He isn’t quoting himself, he is quoting the character.  No pride here, still humility.

12. Kal Ho Na Ho

Kal Ho Na Ho is pretty straight forward, just says he learned to appreciate what he has as the title song plays in the background.  No need for anything fancy there, the title itself gives the message.

13. Main Hoon Na unconditional friendship

Interesting choice here, the title “Main Hoon Na” lends itself to the friendship message, and unconditional friendship is a nice humble regular guy kind of concept for this video.  But it is also sort of hidden in the background that Farah directed this and he produced it, his first big producer hit.  And again, no mention of Swades, a movie too challenging and a performance that was too good.

(This version of Shahrukh, the one calling out India’s hypocrisy, that’s not going to be the version they want for this video)

14. Paheli, good bad, I don’t know

He has to talk about Paheli for this year, because it was his only major film release.  But he doesn’t really talk about it, just says “good, bad, I don’t know, it’s a Paheli”.  Turning the title into a pun, avoiding acknowledging the quality of the film.  Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, that was his “risk”, not this odd period drama with classical soundtrack.  This movie, just forget about it.

15. Don, bad

He jokes that he turned bad with Don, making us aware that of course that dangerous sexy powerful figure is completely unlike this nice humble real guy in front of us.

16. Chak De India, proudest film

And of course he is a patriot.  Says he is proudest of Chak De, gives us an image of him literally waving the flag.  The only difficult performance that he spends real time on, because it is the patriotic one, and patriotism is never threatening.

17. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, simplest men have greatest hearts

He spends time on this one too, he wants us to think of him as respecting the “simple men”.  He is a movie star, but he honors the regular man as better than him.

18.  My Name is Khan, I do smell sweet

He can’t not talk about My Name is Khan.  His only film in 2009 was Billu, a movie in which he played a massive powerful movie star, what he is trying to make us forget.  Plus, it was a small unsuccessful film.  And his only real film in 2010 is My Name is Khan.  To skip it would mean skipping two full years.  And MNIK is still a recordholding film for the international market, the English speaking market this video is partly for.  So he finds a way to talk about it, says he learned what is in a name, Shakespeare says a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, his name is Khan and he has been told he does smell sweet.  This is ridiculous!  He avoids pretty much everything real about the film in order to turn it into a vapid humble compliment.  The film is too difficult to address in any real way and keep this simple persona he wants.

19. Ra.One reminder of something, if I forget it, I will still make a sequel

Ra.One, he talks about wanting to play a superhero, and half mentions it’s failure by saying that it was a reminder of something and if he forgets, he may still make the sequel.  No mention of wanting to drive Indian film forward, special effects accomplishments, any of that.  He is just a simple man who wanted to play a superhero.

20. Unleashed the Don at a Cricket Stadium

This is the first mention of something from his real life besides his kids.  Because now we are getting into the recent era, the stuff that was repeated and talked about over and over again, he knows that the casual non-Shahrukh fans watching this, the ones he wants to reach and reintroduce himself too, will know about the Wakhende incident even if they don’t know about the fight with Shirish Kunder, or the other ugly moments of anger.  So he addresses it, and apologizes, accepting that the public has the right to judge him.

21. Jab Tak Hain Jaan, father figure

Another real life mention, again we are in the recent era, people would know about his relationship with Yashji.  And just in case they missed it, he throws in the title of Jab Tak Hain Jaan to help connect the dots.  Again, he is just like us, he has kids, works hard, and now his father dies when he is a middle-aged man in the midst of his career.  That’s easier and more “normal” than the real story of his father dying when he was 14 and growing up in struggling poverty.

22. Chennai Express, stork visit

Chennai Express is the perfect film for this persona he is selling us.  And also, not so coincidentally, Shahrukh’s last truly massive hit.  He knows this is the last version of himself that people really liked.  Silly, average, out of date, the “common man”.  And there is the pay off of his “stork visit” version of having kids, he doesn’t even have to worry about wording to describe AbRam’s birth, there is no awkward discussion of surrogacy, no need to switch from “we had a baby” to some other phrase.

23. Happy New Year, made many people cry

This surprised me.  I understand the self-deprecating insults towards the older films, he has to acknowledge that they weren’t very good or successful.  But Happy New Year JUST came out.  And he still has a relationship with everyone involved, co-stars and director Farah.  He is really willing to acknowledge it as a flop?  That’s a big gamble on this new “humility” persona paying off.

(He’s risking offending all these people in the hopes of being rewarded by the public appreciating his honesty.  It’s a big risk)

24. Dilwale as long as AbRam, his little Dilwale, is happy, he is

And then we get him and AbRam playing catch, the only time we see him with anyone else, and the only time we see something filmed not in perfectly lit and professional.  This is what he wants us to think of as “real” him, playing catch with his son.  Not his older kids with their international boarding schools and universities, not his glamorous working wife, not even the other parts of his life, the famous friends, the houses in Dubai and London, just a regular father playing catch with his son.

25. Raees sold liquor (bad), Dr. Jug gave advice

Again, a movie which so recently was talked about seriously and deeply is turned into a joke.  He says that he gave liquor and advice, and drops his voice into a dangerous tone for the title “Raees”, just like he did for “Don”.  But, Raees wasn’t promoted as the same as Don, a silly action movie.  He talked about playing a gangster, but also the importance of the necklace that the character wears, the challenge of the role, and the film was a serious film.  But not according to this, according to this it is just another job, another silly thing he did to make money, he isn’t a serious person and we shouldn’t be threatened by him.

26. Zero, coffee cup

And all of this is building to the finale.  The mention of his current film, as he sips from a coffee cup,  The most trite and easy way of making someone seem like a real person, the coffee cup is present in half the ad campaigns and stock photos in existence.  So we will notice the Zero reference in particular, thanks to this extra visual touch.

 

So, what does this all add up to?  Shahrukh is rebranding himself.  He is making himself small, and simple, and easy.  At least for the audience this video is aimed at, the English language internet people.  That’s why it was released online only, and in English.

Shahrukh, the real person as we have come to know him from thousands of interviews, is a mixture of depression and artistic struggle, pride and confidence in his power in the world and abilities, and also a loving husband and father who gets happiness from his family.  These are hard things to bring together, the self-doubt and struggle of the artist and the confidence of the movie star.  And the confidence of an intelligent man, Shahrukh looks at the world and sees the truth and says it.  It’s why I love him, and it’s also why so many people hate him, you aren’t supposed to say that there is “intolerance” in India and then refuse to apologize.  You aren’t supposed to invite Pakistani cricket players and actors to work with you and then point out that there is no problem with that.  He can be all of these things, a serious struggling artist, a confident truth speaking powerful movie star and producer, and also a man who is confused by his teenage children and shy with women who aren’t his wife.  But he can’t be them in public.  In public, he has to choose a smaller easier version of himself.  At least, for now.

There is an issue called the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.  Describing a culture in which those who achieve a higher stature are then cut down.  It’s been updated to be referenced particularly with cyber bullying.  Shahrukh is a very tall poppy.  Intelligent, talented, powerful.  And over and over again, he has been cut down.  Especially by the English speaking portion of his fans, the higher class and better educated types, the ones who want to think they are just as good as anyone else, certainly better than a mere movie star.

So now he is voluntarily cutting down himself.  In a very careful way.  He is just an old fuddy-duddy looking back on a career which started out with bad acting and slowly grew into better acting, but with a lot of mistakes along the way.  He is a simple father who loves his kids and doesn’t even fully understand himself how he became so famous.  He is just an average guy, not in control of his own life, just like all the rest of us.  No, not as good as the rest of us, he wants to humbly beg our forgiveness for Happy New Year and the Wankhede brawl, it was a terrible injustice he did to his superiors, putting us through that.

(No discussion of the protests which cut into the Dilwale box office, the excellent overseas figures, no, the public says it is a bad movie and so he humbly apologizes.  I’m not saying it is a good film, just that the narrative of it being a flop movie that everyone hated is a created one, and Shahrukh has given up on fighting it and just accepts the false version that everyone hated it and he should apologize)

And because real “truth” is distrusted, he presents this to us as a carefully constructed lie.  Perfect lighting, perfect words, perfect editing.  Not the funky twitter messages he usually posts, those are actually “real” and no one believes them, rumors start that he has a ghost writer, he couldn’t really be that smart.  Okay, he will give us what we want, the created reality that we will believe instead of the real reality we doubt.  A twitter post from his wife that is transparently fake, unlike his birthday message from Red Chillies last year that could easily have been filmed without his knowledge, this was the work of several days and yet we are expected to believe Gauri is “surprising” him with it, and he didn’t know she would be posting it.  But then, no one believes in their real love story, every public appearance and shared moment is doubted, so why not give the fake one and see if folks will buy that?  And then a video that, unlike his usual personal videos, is scripted and edited.  But then the personal videos are ignored and made fun of and only his die hard fans like them, so why not create something fake and see if those people who haven’t been paying attention to him will like him for it?

(See how similar it is to this?  It’s an ad campaign video, only this time Shahrukh is selling himself.  Packaged enough to go down easy, personal enough to grab your attention)

My hope is that, at least in some ways, Shahrukh keeps that funky real person available to the public eye.  I think he will.  He still puts up the occasional odd tweet, he still forgets himself in interviews and reveals the real person, and of course there are still his actual film performances, where we have that real brilliant actor he is trying to hide away from the public.  But maybe this new rebranding will help him win over some people who have drifted away from that funky real person, no longer trust or like that version of himself, and cut through a bit of the created hatred that is so painful to read on the internet.

 

And all of this makes me hopeful for Zero.  This may be sold as a 26th anniversary personal video, but it’s not, it’s an advertisement for Zero.  Produced and directed by Aanand L. Rai and the Zero team, all building up to the Zero title reference at the end. They have created a promotional video for Shahrukh the person, a rebranding video, as the first step to getting us to accept him as his character in Zero.

And it seems like they have a good grasp on how they want to rebrand him.  He is humble, he is weak, he is average.  He isn’t going to be the big overbearing hero type that causes the “Tall Poppy” reaction and gets him hatred and smear campaigns.  No, he is a simple soul who makes mistakes and acknowledges them, powerless and harmless and non-threatening.  He is too tall, it makes people want to cut him down, so they are (literally) making him short again.

 

Anyway, that’s what it looks like to me, feel free to disagree.

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37 thoughts on “Shahrukh at 26 Video: What Did He Chose to Leave In and What Did He Chose to Leave Out and Why?

  1. When I watched it, I was wondering why they did a 26 year video and not a 25 one, but yeah they’re building up for zero. I think he realizes he can’t have both the single screens + multiplex so this feels like he’s setting expectations.
    But why leave out Swades, he came back to India in that and patriotism always works, was also a multiplex fav.
    Also, when he says – “Was the love for Raj or for me, the lines are really blurry” I was a bit flummoxed, cos he always owned those characters when talking about them.

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    • Maybe because Swades wasn’t a simple story? Chak De, in the end, is a sports story about winning. At least you can watch it that way (I watch it as a story about the pain of patriotism for a country that doesn’t appreciate you, either because you are Muslim or because you are a woman). But Swades, there is no way to watch that movie besides “India is backwards and needs help, and NRIs should come back home”. It feels like this video is aimed at the upper middle-class multiplex viewers in India who want to be told “everything’s fine, you are better than me, I am a simple entertainer” and also at the NRI audience who wants to be told “remember all those fun silly movies from the past? remember how much you liked me? There’s nothing to be afraid of her, nothing to challenge you”.

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  2. WTH was that? It felt like he was eschewing his entire career. Also, quite a bit of SRK-style overreacting, humble-mugging, and the tics and mannerisms that are emblematic of his mid-career acting style.

    Notice at the start of the video, when he walks up to the door, he’s only as tall as the door handles.

    And at the end off the video, he calls himself “vertically challenged”.

    I’m thinking this really is a promo piece for Zero, and not really an SRK video, such that in Zero, he plays a version or variation of himself, as he did in Fan, and this is that character’s expose, as an internet campaign of sorts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So much overacting! That was part of the careful lighting and so on for me. If we won’t believe him when he gives us the unpackaged version, then he will provide a packaged one, something obvious and impossible to miss.

      I don’t know if I think this is him in character exactly, but I am guessing the Zero character will be a similar older type who has to learn and grow (mentally) and come to understand his small place in the world. So Shahrukh had to reframe himself as just a simple entertainer who doesn’t really know what he is doing.

      And yes to the eschewing his entire career! Every single interview for the past 10 years when they ask about his career, it is theater actor-Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa-Dil Se-Swades-Chak De. Those are the things he is proud of as an actor, he has said it over and over again. And his humility is in acknowledging that he hasn’t done the kids of films and performances he is capable of and he should do more. Not that he is but a simple fool who can’t act, but that he can act and should try to be better. This was a whole different thing, most of his great performances were erased along with any pride in his acting ability.

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    • Humble-mugging is perfect. I had the same reaction, it felt scripted and sort of fake sincere. Thank you for writing this analysis, Margaret, helpful context. It felt like another one of those moments where I was missing something and clearly not the intended audience.

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      • I hate Shahrukh’s fake humility. I respect his real humility, but it seems like his default public face is crazed confidence, which I very much enjoy and also kind of respect as a decision, that there is no reason for him to act small just because he is Indian, or an entertainer, or a Muslim, or any of the rest of it. And then very rarely he will give a sincere interview that delves into his depression and self-doubt and so on. But this, this is just playing the part of being humble so we will like him. It feels Eddie Haskell-like.

        On Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 8:34 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

        >

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        • This kind of packaged fakeness is exactly what the English speaking multiplex audience wants to see. These are the people who will write essays about how smart they are because they refused to buy that Suri and Raj were the same person in RNBJ but will brag about watching Superman. Raju Hirani is the best director that knows how to exploit this. Make the silliest dumbest movies but make the audience feel extremely intelligent for watching something “different” and “smart.” I think Anand Rai is a better director than Raju (in terms of quality) and he has given interviews on bringing the audience’s love back to SRK.

          Like you said, this is a carefully laid plan to turn him back into the simple humble underdog who loves his family and is just trying to make good. Take away all the threatening aspects of who he is really is so the audience doesn’t feel the need to pull him down. My guess is this will work. This video has had a lot more positive feedback than his usually quirky videos for fans do.

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          • Having just watched Sanju definitely changed the way I reacted to this video. Raju builds a very similar kind of movie star story for Sanjay, he isn’t a troubled tragic soul with a complicated romantic history, his parents weren’t giants in Indian society, Sanjay’s films didn’t challenge the morals and concepts of the time by making us sympathize with gangsters. Sanjay is a simple non-threatening young man with a mostly charmed life, from a nice “normal” family like any other family, and his films were silly little things that aren’t worth mentioning and should never be treated seriously. He and his family are less than the rest of us, not greater than.

            And Shahrukh here is selling the same kind of revisionist history. He was a simple untalented inexperienced boy in Deewana, not a talented theater actor with years of experience and an already hideously tragic and troubled life. His marriage isn’t mentioned, or his mother’s death, because that is too real, just light weight stories about his kids. And now he is just trying to make something that will make us happy, that’s all he’s wanted all along. No deep artistic urge to challenge himself, no wide-ranging plan to expand the industry, none of that.

            And of course he has his sex appeal on a strong leash here, he’s that nice older guy who you can see how he used to be attractive but he certainly isn’t any more. Nothing to see here, nothing to worry about. And come to think of it, he skipped JHMS entirely in his little speech, even while mentioning both Raees and DZ.

            In my article on the issues with his Brand, I suggested greater honesty about the power he has, but it looks like he is going the other way towards the Big Lie, deny any power (financial, sexual, political, everything) so completely as to make it invisible instead of acknowledging when it is relevant and ignoring the rest of the time the way he has been. Turn his age into a weakness instead of a strength, not “I am mature and am reaping the rewards of 26 years of building a powerbase”, but instead “I am a silly old man who loves his kids”.

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          • Yes, the lighting and blocking were significant. He was deliberately made to look older and more unattractive, mostly shot with his profile so you notice the big nose. It isn’t that visible when he’s shot from the front. Dark lighting so the wrinkles are more visible than usual. He’s not the international superstar millions of women go crazy for. He’s just the average looking old guy trying to raise kids and who lost a father figure himself. He makes flimsy films like Dilwale to make his little kid happy. Don’t worry about him.

            Denying his power is the only thing he can do. He has witnessed this before with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani when he paired up with an actress (unheard of) to produce a movie (unheard of, Amitabh had failed) about the vileness of the media (cue media houses tearing down the movie). Each step forward where he consolidates his power is met with strong resistance and his cockiness about it just wasn’t working. Even his cricket team was trashed in a way that was unbelievable. The fact that a sports team could inspire so much hate and revulsion was insane. It took almost a decade for it to settle down.

            I think the plan now is to do it in as low-key a way as possible to slip past those that are not paying attention. Zero isn’t just about the box office. It’s about building his VFX company as he has been doing for the last few movies. If he can make this work and is able to attract other domestic/international work for his company, Red Chillies will move into the stratosphere in terms of reach and finances. There is industry-wide envy of the steps he’s been making and it happens any time he does things than an actor isn’t supposed to. Even the idea of Ra.one infuriated people before the movie even came out. Why should any movie inspire that kind of anger before even seeing it?

            It makes sense that he’s trying to package himself as just a regular aging guy trying to care for his family and making movies hoping to get it right one day.

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          • I’ve started staying for the full credits of every film just to see if Red Chillies VFX is listed as working on it. It’s about 90% of the films I see now, including southern films. Mostly their coloring department. And no one is reporting that, and Shahrukh isn’t talking about it, you would only notice if you obsessively looked for it like I am. They worked on Mahanati and Sanju this year, two major releases completely unrelated to Shahrukh, Red Chillies clearly got the contract just on the quality of their work and the reach of their reputation.

            And there’s also the unprecedented move of purchasing up the rights to Shahrukh’s entire back catalog of films, which also meant they purchased whole libraries of defunct film companies like Eagle. They are on their way to rivaling Yash Raj in verticle and horizontal integration, only 15 years after being founded. But, sssshhhhhh! Don’t talk about that! Let it just happen out of sight and never acknowledged, Shahrukh is just a movie star here to entertain us, his life rises or falls on the box office of his films and he spends his free time playing with his kids, not hanging out with the head of Microsoft.

            Liked by 1 person

          • He has also bought sports teams in other countries for upcoming leagues – one in the Caribbean and another one in South Africa. Apart from 2-3 articles in the financial pages, there is nothing much available about it. SRK has clearly not been doing PR for his business activities and it makes sense not to.

            Hits and flops really don’t matter much to him anymore. It’s also not surprising that he’s cut down so much on acting work even when he’s known to be a workaholic. He’s just busy with other things that people don’t get to see through the media.

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          • What’s really smart is that he is expanding his business while staying within the entertainment realm, what he knows. Besides the Dubai housing investment (also not talked about), everything is sort of vaguely related to leisure activities, and aimed at the same audience that used to flock to his films.

            Maybe that’s why his films have been flopping, that laser focus on what people want has been turned to the investment part of his business instead of the films. Or maybe he knows films are on the way out in general and that’s why he’s been pushing the sports, TV, CGI branches of the business.

            Of course, none of that is in this video, Red Chillies isn’t even named.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I recall him saying in an interview that he understands entertainment which is why he sticks to that, whether it’s movie-based work or sports or something like Kidzania. He was saying that he believes India is finally in that space where it can spend money on other things besides necessities and these are the first things they go to.

            Interestingly, I think Gauri’s presence is helping him expand into home design and furniture, etc, another thing many Indian people have the disposable income to spend on now. Gauri has mentioned that apart from the Bombay and Delhi stores, another one is opening soon in Dubai. She is not coy about the fact that it’s obviously her husband who allows her to expand so quickly and that on her own it would not be possible. Right now my guess is it’s still a little too high-end but she has been mentioning wanting the products to be affordable. For the Indian market, I think the key would be to offer cheaper goods like a desi version of Ikea but with a signature style that helps connect it to the stardust that comes from the Khans.

            In any case, I always get the sense that he makes a movie here and there nowadays for visibility because that’s what it’s all built on but prefers to concentrate his real attention on his various businesses. It may not be resulting in huge hits but oddly enough him being so relaxed towards that area is making him a better actor IMO. His last couple of movies have shown a great range in terms of his acting regardless of whether or not the mainstream appreciated it or not.

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          • I agree about him relaxing on the films. I’m thinking back to Aamir’s Koffee appearance before Dangal, where they talked about how he just stops sleeping a few weeks before the film comes out, there is so much pressure on him to make every film a massive record breaking hit. Aamir is racking up the box office records, but doesn’t have much diversity in his business portfolio to protect him if something doesn’t hit. And the result is these massive hit films every few years, instead of getting to explore as an actor in smaller films. And we’re seeing Salman flail trying to produce films and raise the money for them by working two shifts.

            On a selfish note, I would LOVE to see Gauri’s brand and Shahrukh’s combine and use some of those back catalog films to inspire a cheap home furnishings company. Wouldn’t that be great? Om Shanti Om themed throw pillows and sheet sets, Dilwale car inspired furniture, Raees themed ornate wooden tables, the entire office from Dear Zindagi available for purchase.

            Liked by 1 person

          • This thread on his business ventures is so much more interesting to me than what he usually talks about in interviews and public appearances. Hearing insights about what he’s learned would be fascinating. Sigh. I get that the “tall poppy” problem is real, India isn’t the only place with a tendency to turn on exceptionally accomplished people.

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          • Yeah, he doesn’t talk about his charity, or his corporation, or his political connections. He sticks with film industry talk and his acting career and maybe, if you really push, stuff about his family. Unless it is a situation that is directly about charity or business. But never politics.

            On Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 5:19 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. So little time to appreciate all the tremendous work you do, Margret…I have to skip so much to read…but this, I don’t skip because it’s ShahRukh and you…

    They did a great thing, an intelligent one where I constantly have his lopsided (ironic-seeming) smile (mostly about himself or people’s opinion about him) in my mind…I just discovered this same smile in Aryan…

    Well, indeed it is a unique situation: he has 52 years in life and 26 years as a moviestar in Hindi Cinema…there won’t be another half-half situation like this in his life 😉

    I think your most important thought is in the conclusion: The timing is perfect to ‘cutting down’ (whatever)…basically, everything one lives can come down to the point of ‘zero’…and it is a perfect start to something never done/thought/dared before.

    I did not miss anything in this video because it was clearly done with a purpose (not a message, I did not get this feeling)…actually, I think you’re right with your analysis – the journey was thought through, scripted, performed and professionally filmed as one of the promotional steps for Zero. But as always with ShahRukh, there is more than one meaning, even more than a double meaning and he clearly made a choice how many of his multiple personalities he wanted to use.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is also the first semi-public thing he has done in a while. I think? You would know more than me. But I don’t think there has been an interview or a speech or a public appearance, he’s just been keeping his head down and living his life. So now he is reintroducing himself slowly as the Zero promotions begin to ramp up. I assume this is the start of another more public phase as he gets us all ready for Zero.

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      • Oh, I bet there is more than that. He is well aware that there are (powerful) people who want to tear him down, to destroy his reputation/influence. So what would you do as a very intelligent ‘warrior’? You would use the enemy’s intention to your own advantage…
        It’s okay to smell the fake in the way he presents himself and he deliberately ‘thumbs his nose’ to those who would like to curtail his influence (I had a brief idea of “Nose, the Dwarf”). Maybe it’s a kind of ‘I’ll make you wonder’…in a certain way, I couldn’t stop smiling…

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        • It is clever, no one can attack him for this without looking like they are attacking a poor old man who just wants to play with his kids and has already said far worse about himself than anyone else could say.

          On Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 2:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I also like the idea that he is in a way starting over again from zero for this next part of the journey. It’s time to put aside that first part of his career and become something new. I wonder if maybe that’s why he’s okay with letting even his iconic movies go because he *wants* a clean slate to reestablish himself without expectations of the past weighing him down. It’s okay if the importance of his past work is passed over because it doesn’t matter anymore. This is the new him ready for the new journey to begin his career again.

            For fans who were already paying attention, he has already started with JHMS, Raees, Dear Zindagi but for the mainstream it hasn’t happened yet because most have not even seen those movies. Zero is his comeback and I believe SRK thinks it’s going to hit exactly where he wants. This might be PR but it’s a different type of PR. There’s a very strong confidence in this new beginning because otherwise, he wouldn’t have been so ready to let go of the past. That’s why he’s so keen on the “I’m just an average old guy, an underdog who wants to make you happy.” He wants a fresh start – for the audience to put aside past expectations of him- and let him be refreshed.

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          • I favour your view very much, Anonymous. I think, it is one of several reasons why he made this video and made it end with a look to the future…

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  4. I have DM conversations with a group of Shah Rukh fans, women from all over the world. They were very upset about your analysis (though strangely they said they’ve stopped reading your blog because you are too negative about him). I wonder if this isn’t the problem somewhat. Its like (hate to make the comparison) whats happening here: either you are with us or against us. it is very hard to have the ” I agree with parts and disagree with parts.”
    I have been reading credits forever and I noticed the Red chilies VFx over and over. I agree, he is building that business. He has always said economic security is his priority over acting and over stardom. He is quietly building the next stage. He wants to act as long as possible but since he has actually known hunger HE is not going back there.
    I hated this video. It was superficial, boring and inaccurate. I did not however think he looked so old or so bad in it. I hate when he agrees with the false understanding of which movies were successes and which not. Its the worst kind of “fake news” and I am sick of THAT on all fronts. I hope they have rethought the promos for zero and don’t make the same mistakes they did with JHMS.
    Also, where does the fact that he has not signed or announced at least that he has signed the next film fit in? That seems to be deliberate also, but I’m not sure to what purpose.
    While I don’t agree on all your points, as usual this is an interesting and provocative piece. Thanks.

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting!

      I don’t necessarily think he looks bad (I think that was another commentator who said that, it wasn’t in my piece), but he definitely doesn’t have that dangerous sexy movie star vibe, they made him a little smoother and easier than that.

      I saw some of those comments, very odd experience, kind of like being cc’d on a mean email, since they were talking about me behind my back but also tagging me in the tweets? If they commented here, I could directly respond, but on twitter there’s this odd feeling of being forced to listen to other people talking bad about me without it being socially acceptable to leap in and respond.

      Anyway, I agree, and this is something that comes up regularly in fan communities, it can turn into a tribal experience, we must all be united and saying the same thing or else you are against us, you aren’t a “real” fan. I’ve run afoul of this before, especially in terms of discussing the star persona, acknowledging that there is a created narrative being handed to us. For me (and I think for many other people), part of what I admire and enjoy about Shahrukh is the intelligent way he navigates his public persona. And a large part of what I enjoy about being a fan of him is observing and discussing how he creates that persona. But it is an adjustment that can be difficult the first time you stumble across this kind of discussion, that I am critiquing his persona without critiquing his person. And that I can acknowledge he is creating an image of himself without thinking he is “bad” or “lying” or “wrong” or anything else. And that you can disagree with my interpretation of this created persona, and both still be fans. The same way we can disagree about any other created thing, a film or a song or anything else. Even in grad school, the first time we had a discussion like this in our star studies seminar, it immediately got heated, and it took weeks of reading and discussion to reach the level of “okay, we can talk about this with a step back, as critics, not as judges of real people”.

      I didn’t actually want to discuss this video, or most of SRK’s public appearances, or anyone else’s public appearances, because I am always going to discuss them in this way, an analysis acknowledging that they are creating characters. And that makes people mad, which makes me sad 😦 But this is the Shahrukh news that is out there, and people like Shahrukh news.

      I don’t know what not announcing his next film means! It could be so many things. Maybe he is trying to keep the focus on Zero and so avoiding any talk of the next film until after it comes out? Maybe he is so focused on the technical challenge of Zero that he hasn’t had time to pick another project? Maybe he wants to wait and see if Zero hits and collect that data before signing his next film?

      On Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 11:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • That’s what I really like here – the possibility to express the own thoughts without judgement about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and giving respect to different opinions.
        ShahRukh definitely is a master in creating different personas of himself. And there was a distinct purpose for the choices he made for/in this video. For me it’s somehow in the same vein as JabHarryMetSejal: the way one looks at him will determine the effect…
        He may have reduced his strength and position in the video but, boy, how effortlessly he makes feel his importance by n o t talking officially about his next project (after Zero) 😀

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        • It’s true, there are constant news stories about Shahrukh’s next project, without confirmation from him. Without any actual news, there has to be a fake story to fill the void, that is how big a story it is.

          On Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 1:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Ok, I’m going to give my take on the video, and on your take in this post, then will go and read everyone’s comments. 🙂

    I agree that this is a marketing piece for Zero, just as the “25 Anniversary of DDLJ” and even SRK’s 50th in some ways was turned into marketing for Dilwale. Which is fine. As you say, no one is trying to pretend that this is not a carefully scripted, shot, and edited piece.

    My thinking as I was watching was that he used the same device that he’s often done in the last few years, of using his movie titles and memories related to them to tell a bigger story and share his life lessons. So I was wondering if his choices of movies to pick or not had to do with which ones fit best into the story he felt like telling, or maybe he wanted to name ones that he hasn’t named every other time he’s used this device. Or maybe a mix of both.

    You are also saying that he’s picking movies to tell a story, but I’m not sure it’s the story you are thinking it is. I’m not sure he is trying so earnestly to cut himself down, but just a little, or to re-create himself, or to emphasize some aspects of his career and life story while de-emphasizing others. I think it may have been a smaller, less deep goal, of just making a nice thank you for fans in a way that is Zero-marketing friendly. That’s how it felt to me on first watching, and on re-watching after reading your take.

    I’m personally happy that he mentioned Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Asoka, Paheli, and Ra.One, maybe self-deprecatingly, but with affection. I have a place in my heart for those movies because they feel like such interesting windows into who Shah Rukh wants to be as a storyteller. I hope someday he feels the same way about JHMS, which I was sad he didn’t name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you cheer me up! I suddenly remembered last night that some of the first theorists of media studies were intellectuals escaping the Third Reich. One of them ended up committing suicide, they were all pretty dark folks from a dark time. And so they tended to look at all popular media as propaganda, as an evil force that must be exposed.

      Which definitely influences how I look at things, I tend to go for the darkest possible explanation in order to sort of expose the poison, you know? If this is possibly what is happening, then I should say it so that people can see it and avoid it. Still an explanation that makes sense to me and which I can defend and so on and so forth, but the darker side.

      Your slightly lighter version is also completely reasonable! A pleasant video with a cheerful vision of the world and soft philosophy that matches the tone of his next film, and some movies picked slightly at random to create an easy narrative, and maybe highlight some films that don’t get as much notice.

      So long as we both agree that it is a crafted piece in order to present a non-threatening persona related to the next stage of his career, I think we are on the same page. Just, you have sunshine and happiness in your version, and I have doom and gloom and misery in mine.

      On Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 2:21 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • Glad I could cheer you up a little. I feel like this persona of his is close to the one who shows up when people invite him to speak at industry meetings–humble-bragging, slightly self-aware cheesy mannerisms and line readings, and all. 🙂

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  6. Ok, now, having read through the comments, I still see this as primarily a nice thank you to the fans and a marketing piece for Zero. I hear what folks are saying about denying his power and humble-bragging, both of which are irritating traits in him sometimes (for example when he’s been asked about “me too” as it relates to the Hindi movie industry). But that all seems like a lot to hang on one short video.

    I agree this is a carefully crafted piece made to be as inoffensive as possible (hence the “stork” theme for all the babies as you so cleverly catch, Margaret). His sex appeal is on the chain, as you put it. I’m guessing because this is a pan-fandom video, so he’s aiming at the grannies, the aunties, the straight guys, the gay guys, the women, the teen girls, and the kiddos. At least among English speaking fans.

    I love the lighting in this. Shah Rukh, as an actor, is really comfortable with his body, his looks, including his big nose and his wrinkles. I do think he’s one of those old fashioned actors–his body is his instrument, warts and all. To me the lighting is the least contrived–and I always thank goodness for a professionally produced video where Red Chillies hasn’t done weird CGI stuff to change his face shape or get rid of wrinkles. I think this is probably how Shah Rukh looks when you’re chatting with him at a public event–dressed, styled, and made up, but not fake.

    Loving the conversation as always! No need for total agreement, with each other, or with Shah Rukh’s choices!

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  7. When I was new to fandom, I was always just so thrilled to find fellow travelers that I wasn’t so discriminating. As you know I am a huge Shah Rukh fan but the worshipping, the my guy’s right no matter he does or says and the “you are my world” are starting to get to me. You are aggregate andidote to all that.

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    • Oh, that’s so nice to hear! I was almost beginning to get worried that I WASN’T a true fan, just because I look at what people do and think “okay, what are they getting out of it?” So glad to hear from another fan that it is possible to love someone and also acknowledge their flaws.

      Like

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