In the end, I had to choose the new SRK biography over the new Harry Potter (sorry, beloved sister)…
Anupama Chopra’s book is not just a biography of Shah Rukh Khan. It is an interesting look at the world of Hindi cinema and India’s emergence into the industrialized world as mirrored by Shah Rukh’s career. She draws parallels between the changing Indian economy and culture and Shah Rukh’s film characters, who usually exemplified the best of both East and West—western “cool” with traditional Indian values. It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how the movie industry changed as India’s economy grew and the film-going audience became increasingly urbanized and international in character. Shah Rukh was really the right man in the right place at the right time.
I’m a pretty die-hard Shah Rukh fan, and didn’t think there was much about him (that he’d be willing to share) that I didn’t already know, but I found several sections of the book fascinating. One chapter devoted to the Mumbai mafia’s connections in Bollywood illuminated their harassment of SRK. Not surprisingly, it isn’t something that he talks about much; but the book contains detailed conversations he had with these dons, and tells how he handled a scary situation over a period of almost four years.
There are also some lovely family photos—Shah Rukh really looks almost exactly like his father.
The author’s treatment of her subject is respectful but objective. She doesn’t gloss over failures — on the contrary, she provides a glimpse of how painful it was for him when his first productions (Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Asoka) flopped and he was dismissed as a “has-been.” There’s no juicy gossip or speculation in here, just a measured, almost scholarly view of one of the most famous people in the world. In the end, you are left feeling that you’ve seen as much of Shah Rukh as he will ever allow.
My favorite SRK movies: Maya Memsaab, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Swades, Paheli
My SRK guilty pleasure: Baadshah