Discussion Post, “Unplugged” Episodes With SRK and Amitabh for Badla

I thought I didn’t have a lot to say about these, but now all three are out, and I know a lot of you have watched them, I thought I might as well put up a space for us to talk about them. And then I turned out to have A LOT to say after all!

It’s a good promotional concept, a lowkey and slow kind of thing to match the lowkey and slow pace of the films. And it’s easy, a professionally shot semi-scripted conversation between Shahrukh and Amitabh. They don’t have to travel anywhere or memorize lines or dance moves or anything, just one day of shooting, post it online, and promotions are done.

And it’s especially good for this film where Amitabh’s character has surprising layers that can’t be revealed in advance. So instead they do one controlled interview with no spoilers present at all, and Amitabh is off the hook for any other interviews that might accidentally lead to reveals.

As for the episodes themselves, they are a pleasant watch, but pretty dull. Clearly scripted and rehearsed, both Amitabh and Shahrukh are mugging for the camera a little bit. Especially Shahrukh. I don’t think either of them are lying about anything, it’s just that the truth has been burnished and practiced and prepared in advance. Kind of funny considering they are promoting a movie that is all about carefully preparing your truth.

Image result for badla poster

The mugging and careful presentation starts right at the beginning. We get a quick flash of the lights and the set and so on, telling us “remember, this is all staged, you know it and we know it” and Shahrukh’s voice over it all checking the sound and stuff (a reminder that he is the producer of this film) and finally Shahrukh giving the “to catch Don is not difficult…” dialogue for sound check, and Amitabh finishing it “it’s impossible”. Amitabh mugs “old man tired of this upstart”, Shahrukh mugs “young cocky guy embarrassed to be caught by his teacher”, it’s fun and tells us (the audience) right away that this will be a series of videos in which Amitabh and Shahrukh are “playing” the characters of Amitabh and Shahrukh, at least a little bit.

And then they move into prepared questions and answer, kind of awkward, Shahrukh pulling out Amitabh’s same old familiar origin story, he left a job to become an actor, he wasn’t hired on All India Radio, blah blah blah. They needed a smoother intro into why Shahrukh is making Amitabh go over the familiar stories.

But it moves into a part that makes a little more sense, Shahrukh talking about how Amitabh has this long career and still works hard, playing a little bit of a promotional song with voice over that Amitabh did. This is very on topic, Amitabh’s performance is brilliant in Badla and pulls on his whole career of experiences. So it was a bit awkward to get there, but they tied it back into the film. This won’t be Amitabh sleepwalking through a film for a paycheck, he really cares.

Next section is Shahrukh playing the “devoted producer serving the star”. He jokes that he produced the film just so he could see an Amitabh film before anyone else, and he has Amitabh sign a poster for the film to go with the Deewar and Sholay posters he already has signed. Now, see, I believe that Shahrukh has expensive authentic Deewar and Sholay posters, and that he got them signed by Amitabh with great respect during the photo shoot with Dilip Kumar a few years back. But I think the little line about producing the film just so he can see an Amitabh film before anyone else is silly, and he invented it for this interview. That’s what I mean about him “playing” Shahrukh Khan. In this case, Shahrukh the shallow humble younger star who is so shy around Amitabh, he can’t even say the Shahenshah dialogue to him, “I am your father”, because it would be disrespectful.

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This was such a nice photo shoot. Both Amitabh and Shahrukh were very good about keeping their hands gently on Dilip so he wouldn’t get confused or scared, reminded me of how I was with my grandmother towards the end of her dementia

And that same “playing” Shahrukh is there in the final section, with Taapsee showing up. Taapsee is also “playing” a role, just like Amitabh and Shahrukh, she is playing the eager enthusiastic youngster who wants to impress the old hands. And with her, Shahrukh is “playing” the borrish egotistical star and producer. So he makes her say the line of “Badla is coming to a theater near you” instead of giving her a real line that she is enthusiastically asking for. But beyond the “playing” part, this is a good deal for Taapsee. She looks great, for one thing. In a way that was clearly styled and made-up and so on, the production team put a lot of time and energy into giving her a distinctive look for this moment. And it is instantly relatable, she is going to pick up young people fans and female fans from this moment, people going “I’ve been that person who was eager and ignored by the boss man!” Oh, and the simple fact that they didn’t have to include her in this video series at all. People are going to click on it to watch Amitabh and Shahrukh, not Taapsee. Sticking her at the end in this memorable way is a bonus. Good for the film too, since Taapsee is a major part of it, but also a bonus boost for Taapsee’s career, giving her this little goofy bit that will make people notice her.

2nd video! This opens with the two little joke “ode” videos. The first is from Shahrukh, it’s a terrible poem made of quotes from Amitabh films, and some Shahrukh films, with a really well-edited together bunch of clips. The “joke” is that it is actually kind of terrible. It’s another bit of playacting, Shahrukh playing the shallow youth who thinks he is smarter than he is and Amitabh putting up with it. And then Amitabh responds with his own “ode”, a series of Shahrukh making nonsense faces with Amitabh saying nonsense. Amitabh is playing the wise elder, slamming down Shahrukh for his presumption. Another nice little “joke”. And both videos have such high production values and so on that by no stretch of the imagination could you believe that Shahrukh and Amitabh actually put them together, so it is another little nod to “you know this is fake, and we know you know it is fake”.

Those two little clips are very social media friendly, and the rest of the section is all about social media. Shahrukh asks Amitabh why he numbers his tweets, a super boring question along the same lines as the “tell me about applying to Air India Radio” question that we all know the answer to. And then he pulls out a couple of recent tweets with photos, all printed up fancy on cards, and has Amitabh explain more about them. And finally they take a video selfie together singing a song. So, this is the section for the twitter followers and all those folks who want the cute little things, the short “ode” videos, the “selfie” video, and the little story about a tweet.

Perhaps part of the goal of these videos is to introduce Amitabh to a new audience? Not new-new, these don’t feel like crossover videos, but maybe second generation NRIs who vaguely know him from seeing Sholay with their parents or something. They get the all-India radio story showing his humility, they get the little social media jokes showing his new age youthful spirit, and it’s all done in a very easily consumable way.

And then Taapsee comes out again! It’s a continuation of the same joke, Shahrukh is the shallow male star who is ignoring the intelligent sincere hardworking woman, just like in the first section. It’s so over the top that I really don’t think anyone is supposed to take it seriously as an insult to Taapsee. It’s supposed to be a joke on Shahrukh, he is so shallow and stupid (just like Amitabh was slamming him for being shallow and stupid earlier), that he doesn’t know what to do with Taapsee. And the end result is that Taapsee comes off looking very good and he looks bad.

She also literally looks good. Which is important to note, Amitabh looks dreadful, clearly not in costume (or if he is, it is a terrible attempt to make him look young). Shahrukh looks great, extremely polished in every way, definitely wearing loads of make-up and hair gel and in a suit picked out just for this and so on. But Taapsee is even more striking. She looks great, her hair is perfectly blown out but still with curls, her glasses convey “serious intelligent young woman” and are also super flattering, and her statement blouse plus heels plus pencil skirt, all in shades of brown, is both striking and serious. They didn’t put her in a ball gown or something, she is wearing adult working woman clothes. But they gave her this big statement blouse that draws the eye and makes you pay attention to her. Obviously these are not just the clothes she showed up in, Red Chillies stylists and make-up and hair and all must have been working on her for ages to get this right. The “joke” is that she was forgotten in the videos, but actually there was more prep work putting in to making her come off well than anyone else.

Image result for taapsee unplugged shahrukh

Now, video 3! (do you see why I hardly ever watch/report on these kinds of things? They make so many thoughts appear that my head can hardly contain them all)

Final section, they finally officially tie it back to the film. Although really the connection has been there all along. Shahrukh asks Amitabh about his character, and Amitabh describes him as a brilliant lawyer with 40 years experience who has to try to solve a riddle and save Taapsee. So, fitting with the “Amitabh” character as established in this interview, experienced and smarter than everyone else in the room.

To tie that in, Shahrukh asks him a series of riddles to solve like his lawyer character would. This is a great segment idea for this particular film. It’s very tricky and complicated, it will appeal to the kind of people who would enjoy solving a riddle more than watching a video selfie or any of the other silly ideas from the other segments. So, put in the riddles, including one that Amitabh can’t solve so folks can try to solve it on social media, and make everyone feel smart and excited to solve the greater “riddle” of the film itself.

And finally, Shahrukh asks Amitabh to recite one of his father’s poems. I love it when Amitabh recites his father’s poetry, I don’t even care what he is saying, I listen to it all the time without subtitles just for the flow of the words and Amitabh’s voice. This particular poem is about how we all live within worlds within worlds within worlds, and it is lovely. And a very nice way to end this three part series.

39 thoughts on “Discussion Post, “Unplugged” Episodes With SRK and Amitabh for Badla

  1. Was hoping that you’ll write about the “Unplugged”…and again I think that you ‘nailed’ the why and how the episodes were made.
    What do you think why Tapsee wasn’t anymore in the third part?

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    • I think because they wanted to end with the Amitabh poem and couldn’t figure out a different good place to slot her. The last section was also the most “sincere” section, with real talk about the film’s themes. Putting in a little Taapsee gag would ruin that mood, and making her part serious would have required a lot more time for her and less for Amitabh.

      On Sat, Mar 9, 2019 at 3:25 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • So I’m not the only one who doesn’t have any issue in the way Tapsee appears in two episodes & not in the last one…there indeed are people (feminists…fake or real???) who reproach that she isn’t involved in another way in that promotion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • What’s funny to me is that the videos set up that dynamic as a joke, “wouldn’t it be funny if we pretended that Taapsee was being sidelined because Shahrukh was an egotistical jerk?”, and then I guess people fell for it? Thought it was serious and not a joke and got all offended?

          Or, maybe that was the plan, they knew they could yank the chain of the outrage industry and put it in to get clicks and buzz?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I looked at it as an ironic (even sarcastic) take on the pretentious kind of feminism stirred by people like Kangana and others with a similar agenda.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. SRK looks great but why oh why does he insist on going back to the ponytail every once in a while? There is nothing worse than that ponytail. Maybe he’s showing off that he’s the only male star who still has his real hair? hah.

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    • YES! Oh thank goodness, I am not the only one who sees that ponytail in my nightmares. And it’s always such a little bitty ponytail! Like, just TRIM YOUR HAIR!!!!!! Or leave it down and let it be a little shaggy in back!!!!!!!

      Based on his beard, I think we can assume that his hair grows super fast, so maybe he just doesn’t want to bother getting it trimmed every 3 weeks or something? Or maybe he likes to have the option of loose for photoshoots, but likes having it tighter for interviews and parties and stuff?

      Or, most reasonable, Gauri thinks it is hot so he does it like that.

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      • Laziness would explain it but then in that case, wouldn’t his beard be salt and pepper? But no, he must be regularly coloring it because it’s black and that probably requires more maintenance than trimming his hair every few weeks.

        I doubt it’s Gauri. I remember her saying somewhere she prefers his hair very short like from his early Fauji days but he insists on it being longer.

        Here’s how it looks right now without the ponytail.

        https://www.timesnownews.com/entertainment/news/bollywood-news/article/shah-rukh-khan-reaches-switzerland-to-join-akash-ambani-shloka-mehtas-pre-wedding-bash-full-photo-inside/373215

        I guess he slicks it back and ties it to make it look more presentable and formal at events but it looks like a nightmare from the back.

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          • I was thinking that, but it is just slightly shaggy hair, if it was for a role surely he could grow it to that level in a couple of weeks, no reason to keep it hanging on for months and months without filming anything. Unless he is doing a secret covert movie and we will all be surprised by it in a few weeks?

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        • See, I really like how it looks not slicked back! It’s his youthful tousled shaggy look. So much better than the “formal” little ponytail and slick back. Maybe he likes the shaggy look too but thinks it isn’t right for formal events so he does the ponytail only then.

          Liked by 1 person

          • He definitely likes the “shaggy look”…and yes, I agree with the ponytail to give his face a “formal event” look…I think, it has been always like that (and had never been a style statement)

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Skimming today and missing most of it with no subtitles, here are my shallow thoughts:

    1. Also hate the ponytail. And lately more distracted by trying to spot the coloring since someone (Molly? you?) posted a photo a few weeks back where he had about a half inch of roots showing.
    2. Despite this and even while mugging, SRK still has adorable touches like folding his feet together like a restless schoolboy even as his top half is in poised interview posture and said feet are encased in very shiny expensive shoes.
    3. Taapsee is smart and super charming in this as in all promos and would never have agreed to this unless she thought it was funny and knew it would make her look sympathetic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1. Thank goodness. Hopefully we will be able to start an anti-ponytail groundswell and convince him to dump it. Oh, and at least when I watched it, youtube had subtitles available.
      2. Yes! I noticed the feet thing too! And I’ve seen him do it other times as well, I think it may fall into that grey area of “a thing that started as a natural gesture but then he became aware of it and uses it now as part of a performance”. He’s not doing it at all in the AID interview or his Koffee interviews, but it is there just a little in his Hardtalk interview when he is nervous.

      3. Come to think of it, a while back someone asked me why I don’t talk about Taapsee as much as other actresses and the best answer I could give is that she just doesn’t hit the news as much, I don’t have a clear idea of her. Similarly, she gave an interview recently about how hard it is for her to get interviews compared to the star kids. This is a nice way of making sure she is noticed. Really, it’s better than yet another “tell me about your art, tell me about your professional journey” talking head interview.

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    • After all the years in school (k-12) with the Christian Brothers at St. Columba’s, I imagine sitting with his feet together is a habit. The brothers would “encourage” Feet on the floor and No crossing the legs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry to buck the trend but I really like the ponytail and other versions of his slicked back look. Like them better than the shaggy look, though I will take him in any form, even the mullet …… except one! The curly hair in Ra1 was beyond awful. Please, never again!

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    • No!!!! We need consensus if we are going to convince him to change! It’s people like you that are making the ponytail happen.

      On Sun, Mar 10, 2019 at 9:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I’m with you, Zindagi. My favorite is his hair longer and naturally floppy, but I like every style except the Ra.One curly wig, and the times in Don where his hair resembled a church lady pixie cut sometimes–all feathery around the edges. Not cool.

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  5. I found myself re-watching these a few times over the weekend. Once you embrace the odd half-scripted-ness of it, it’s fun to watch three professionals–two who’ve known each other a long time now–do this little bit of work together. It has kind of a “weekend update” feel to it, but more laid back. And, as you say, Margaret, backed by great stylists and production team. The main thing about Amitabh’s look that was bugging me was just having one cord out and one tucked in on the sweatshirt. I don’t know how Shah Rukh resisted leaning over and fishing the other one out, or tucking the out one in.

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    • Yeah, I noticed the jewelry at the Ambani wedding too. I think it’s a good idea, let’s him stick with the black and white tailored look, but still shake it up a little. I’d far rather some statement jewelry than him trying the kind of prints and patterns that Karan or Ranveer do.

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  6. These remind me a bit of the Zero promo videos where each actor said they wanted to play one of the other parts. Obviously fake, but maybe with one toe based in reality, and entertaining to watch for 5 minutes, and packaged for sharing with an easy hook.

    As in, the middle video with the “odes” has twice as many views as the first one.

    I don’t know if these get people to the theater, but they have that meta internet vibe where they work on a couple of different levels, and people talk about them.

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    • The box office for Badla is really quite good, so something worked!

      That’s a nice confirmation of what I suspected, that the middle share-friendly video has the most views.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 11:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. Now you have touched on a subject I care a great deal about: Shah Rukh’s hair. (Yes, I am that shallow.) I am in the NO PONY TAIL camp. I have always hated it. It goes along with my feeling that the slicked back hair is old fashioned and he must stop doing it. Carol and I discuss all the time that there is some old world part of him that thinks its neater, more formal, more appropriate but its not. The current beard has me baffled. He has to dye it daily cause his beard grows fast. And I prefer him clean shaven. I’m hoping its for a part. As to the jewelry: That ring is so odd and he did not keep it on. More interesting is the pearls he wore to the other part of the Ambani festivities. That really is a departure…..

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    • Maybe he has gotten a new stylist?. He clearly isn’t the type to just blindly wear whatever is handed him, but I am sure he has some employee whose job it is to find interesting things within the parameters of “black or white, solid color, classic styles”. Maybe he has some gutsy eager young person wearing him down into trying out interesting jewelry and new textures and stuff. And then SRK himself is holding firm on keeping the same hair style and other features.

      He talked about in the Anupuma book remembering when he was young and the barbers would offer you an Amitabh haircut or a Rajesh haircut or whatever. Maybe he is holding on to that idea of stardom? Amitabh hasn’t changed his hair in 50 years, there is an iconicness to it. If Shahrukh thinks he has to keep the big poof as part of being iconic, it could explain why he does the slickback and pony tail look instead of cropping it short, or letting down his bangs.

      On Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 4:32 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Good point about the iconic hair. But BigB’s hair is a wig, so that is easier to manage. The last picture he posted with his hair down asked, “should I let it grow for a few months.?” Now, clearly he isn’t asking for advice but its interesting he posted that.

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        • BigB’s hair is not a wig! Blasphemy! It just grows like that! At least, that is what I insist on believing.

          On Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 6:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • No, I refuse, I will hold on to my childlike faith as much as possible. Also, Santa is totally real.

            On Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 12:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, of course Santa IS real as is the Easter Bunny AND the tooth Fairy; no one would ever dispute that. There are leprecans and unicorns as well for sure but Big B has no hair! :):):)

            Like

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