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'King of Bollywood': The emergence of a star and a global phenomenon

I consciously avoided Anupama Chopra's book on Shah Rukh Khan, 'King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema', at first. I abhorred the idea of what I presumed was an attempt to cash in on the SRK brand (the gaudy cover didn't help either). But then, word got around and people were raving about it - people who are not SRK fans. It's ironic because I am one and a steady one at that.

The first thing that impresses you about the book is that it is not about Shah Rukh from a very personal, emotional viewpoint but rather from an industry's perspective. Anupama writes about how Indian cinema evolved right from the beginning. There is rarely a period she misses out on as she talks about how popular Indian cinema became Bollywood, an exportable phenomenon by India. She describes it as:
There are only two rules: There must be love and there must be songs.
Shah Rukh did not initially consider films, concentrating on theatre and TV where he felt the real acting happened. However, Fate had a different role for him, and he finally fulfilled his dream of ruling the city of Mumbai - though now he rules over many more.

Anupama describes how Bollywood turns from a hierarchical network into a corporate-style industry and how this helps SRK achieve his global superstar status by wooing the hearts of the Indians abroad and the liberated Indians at home. There is no doubt that Raj of DDLJ is where SRK the superstar was born, though he had proved his acting (in his own style) earlier in movies like Baazigar. Anupama writes:
Raj resonated with the aspirations of a post-liberalization 1990s India. Shah Rukh became the personification of the collective ideals and longings of a country undergoing social upheaval.
The book's first few chapters are about Shah Rukh's intense struggle with life, especially after losing his father. After a series of misfortunes, SRK is ultimately thrust into the film world, which is particularly taken by his incessant energy, which gives a signature style of acting.

Even after achieving a star status, life wasn't smooth all the way. First he fielded threats from the underworld, and then his home productions flopped. The downpoint of his career was:
At least one distributor suggested to Shah Rukh that perhaps he could compensate for the distributor's financial loss by dancing at his friend's wedding.
Of course, SRK recovered and reigns as King of Bollywood, but even if you are not a SRK fan, the book gives you an inside view of how the industry works, though Anupama does not go too deep. The book is about a star's ascent to superstardom and the industry's ascent to global fame.
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3 comments

Consumer said...

"A steady fan of SRK"... It's funny how sanitised truth can become with a sentence...

Stark, raving, irrational fan of SRK shd be more like it:)

Anonymous said...

kya body shody benaya tumhara sharooookh ne. Hope your next blog will be on that.

Lotus Reads said...

So happy to have discovered your blog! A search for reviews on "King of Bollywood" brought me here. I just read and reviewed the book myself, I absolutely loved it! Will visit again.

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