Shahrukh Summer Discussion Post: For the 4th of July, Which is the Best/Your Favorite American Set Shahrukh Movie?

It’s hot, I want to still be on vacation, let’s do a lazy question! It’s really just picking between a handful of movies for your favorite, a classic fandom challenge.

For the “NRI Hero”, Shahrukh has done shockingly few American set films. Which is fun for us, because it means we have all probably seen all of them and can discuss which is our favorite/the best and why.

Pardes

Kal Ho Na Ho

Swades

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

My Name is Khan

Which do you like best? Which do you think is the best presentation of America? Which is the best movie?

My ranking:

1.1. Kal Ho Na Ho. We see desi taxi drivers, rich businessman, middle-class restaurant owners, the whole cross-section (unlike KANK or Pardes where everyone is fabulously wealthy). And we see realistic interactions with the rest of society. They go to a nightclub with white people in the background, they have white people in their neighborhood, white customers at their restaurant. There aren’t any character roles for white people, but that seems realistic as well, your best friend and your family and your love interests can easily all be desi even if you live in America.

2. My Name is Khan would be my second choice, a mixed bag there. A lot of it is accurate in a way that isn’t show in Indian films, hate crimes against rural hotel owners and ugliness in small town America. Plus our salon worker/owner heroine with her modest house in a small town. But then the other stuff is so extremely tone-deaf (the Wilhemina section, the fake Oprah, the terrorists hanging out in Masques) that it almost ruins the good bits.

3. Swades is kind of okay, doesn’t make our hero fabulously wealthy or put him in an unrealistically desi community (he has one desi co-worker who is also his best friend, that seems realistic). But his apartment is so bleak! And working for NASA is still a bit of a fantasy. Mostly, there just isn’t enough of America shown.

4. Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Everyone’s amazing wealth is ridiculous, as is the string of call girls for Amitabh’s character. But New York looks gorgeous, Abhishek ends up marrying a white woman who looks like a perfectly nice reasonable person. and no one ever talks about returning to India really, America is their home now.

5. Pardes. This one is just crazy, the massive Indian combined family transported to America but somehow now evil and wrong, everyone is either cartoonishly rich or cartoonishly working class (really, his studio is also his garage?), there’s no recognizable sense of place for me.

Okay, those are my rankings/thoughts! What are yours?

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9 thoughts on “Shahrukh Summer Discussion Post: For the 4th of July, Which is the Best/Your Favorite American Set Shahrukh Movie?

  1. I think I would agree with your rankings when it comes to how the United States is shown but my favorite movie out of all of these is definitely KANK.

    Also, it’s probably not worth going back and finishing Pardes right? I stopped right when Shahrukh started lying to the heroine about how her future husband is a nice guy when he’s really not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, definitely finish Pardes! It is the rare movie where I would say start at the interval, instead of ending at it. The second half is SO MUCH better than the first. The first is all “ah, the idyllic rural India” which is very boring. The second gets all dramatic and juicy and over the top with the evils of the West. Plus the conflict of Shahrukh realizing he is in love with Mahima but can’t say anything.

      Just skip to the interval, Mahima is engaged to the American and flying to America with her aunt to get to know his family and household before the wedding, Shahrukh is arriving later. That’s all you need to know, you can start fresh from there.

      And KANK is a great movie for taking the over the top emotions and parties and mansions of an Indian movie, but putting it in really really pretty fall New York!

      On Fri, Jul 5, 2019 at 1:31 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • Another thing that bothered me was that Mahima was just so boring. I would have powered through the movie if it was someone like Preity playing the lead.

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        • Oh, she is so much better in the second half! Still kind of boring, but they give her stuff to do. She has a fight scene and all kinds of stuff.

          On Fri, Jul 5, 2019 at 7:15 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. My rankings would be:

    KANK: This movie shows the idealized NYC, New Jersey, Fall in the Northeast, and Philly that so many American movies do. Plus, I enjoy watching all the characters (including Amitabh when he’s acting with Kirron or Rani), and I’m glad everyine gets a happy ending.

    MNIK: San Francisco is a character in this movie it is a massive shame that no research was done to make African American movies in the deep South a real character too.

    KHNH: A dream about immigrants in America is the background for the story, where regional Indian differences are subsumed but not lost within an immigrant identity.

    Pardes: Immigrants can he hugely successful here, but at what cost? Great use of Las Vegas as a getaway with a dark side. I could see Shah Rukh and Mhima settling down in small town US as well as going back to India.

    Swades: Every time I walk on the National Mall, it makes me happy that Shah Rukh was there too. But why, WHY, din’t they find any actors for the white people roles? And the NASA “tech talk” is painful.

    I’d add Zero to this list, and put it after Pardes. Wish they’d have decided if Tan Hua, a song I love, was happening in NYC or Orlando.

    Like

    • Oh, you are right about Zero! Anushka’s confidence in herself as an American woman, her large supportive blended family, the work life that is a mix of people from all backgrounds, even the dream of “anyone can become an astronaut” is all very American.

      I think you hit it on the nose with MNIK. I think the film understood the places of America with a desi population very well, not just San Francisco but Michigan and DC and Atlanta and on and on. But an all African-American town in the deep south was a closed book for them.

      On Sat, Jul 6, 2019 at 3:03 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  3. Now that I’ve seen KANK, I agree with your rankings, except I’m mad at KANK so I’ll put it at the bottom. And I’m kind of mad at Karan by extension, so I’ll be snarky for a sec and note that his US settings are a tourist’s view of the US, like Woody Allen has done when he’s tried to film in Paris or Barcelona or anywhere but New York. It’s using the streets and buildings as a backdrop, but with no specificity that makes it belong to that city.

    Of the Karan movies, Kal Ho Naa Ho edges out MNIK because I like the Queens neighborhood and the Indian vs. Chinese restaurant scene and other tone deaf moments are not anywhere approaching Wilhelmina level. KANK is at the bottom because it just shows pretty buildings as a backdrop, it doesn’t feel like a real city and the characters don’t really belong to a recognizable place.

    Swades and Pardes show equally made up versions of the US, but Swades wins by keeping it small, just enough of the office and apartment to give the feeling of this character has a successful but lonely life abroad.

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    • To be fair, I think Karan does a tourists view of everywhere! It’s just how he makes movies. His London and Paris and Delhi aren’t exactly realistic either.

      Good rankings! Good point about Swades winning through keeping things small. That’s really all you have to do to succeed with an American setting, keep it within two sets that you are rock solid certain of instead of trying to expand it into areas where you just don’t know enough to keep it real.

      On Sat, Jul 6, 2019 at 11:23 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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