You have Fever. What is the first thing you think of? Crocin
You have Cold. What is the first thing you think of? Vicks
For Everything Else, there is Shahrukh Khan (SRK)
I have always observed with great fascination that the single most unifying factor of this country is Bollywood. Region, religion, language are irrelevant and the whole country is ONE when it comes to it. The reach of a Bollywood star is unparalleled and unmatched by any other public figure or politician. Cricket comes a close second, but the stars there are fewer and uni-dimensional.
To support my statements - there are many film stars whose names I can take right now. They are legends in this industry. But I choose to talk of one man. One man who has made a difference since the time he has entered the industry and continues to do so even today, not just with his movies but also with his way of life and beliefs. Yes, the man is Shahrukh Khan, also known as SRK.
Before I talk in detail about SRK, let me talk a little bit about India, Bollywood and a few other things.
India has always had a great tradition of producing inspiring spiritual gurus and saints. Bhagavad Gita the ultimate in spirituality and consciousness in life has originated from here. Mahatma Gandhi, born on this very land, started a movement so great that we call him the father of the nation today. From this land of saints, sages, and inspiring leaders, we unfortunately have transformed into an intolerant society; and care two hoots to the virtues of hard work, sincerity and tolerance.
Without a binding force, it is difficult to retain sanity in a country as diverse as India. This is where Bollywood tends to play its role. There are innumerable instances I can cite when Bollywood soothed and calmed the nerves of a nation on the edge. I would like to throw some light on the same and show why Bollywood and Stars matter more to this nation today than any politician worth his salt.
Let me start by talking about one particular year, 1993-94. What do you remember that year for? The Mumbai serial blasts and the aftermaths. Also, how can we forget the deadly earthquake in Latur. The impact of these two incidents shook the nation completely and plunged its people into a dark void of doubt and disbelief.
Yet, the single most important event that took place after this, was a movie which came out a year later. It was called 'Hum Aap Ke Hai Kaun'. Life had to go on and it was this movie that managed to soothe the nation and bring back smiles to its people. The stars were Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit along with the young director Sooraj Barjatiya. This was simply, the best display of the power of Bollywood. It healed the nation. Think for a moment about every big movie that has worked its magic on the audience and it would be at times of sadness thrust upon the nation. Think of a Sholay during the emergency, a Lagaan and a Gadar after the Gujarat earthquake, there are many other such examples.
Amidst all that chaos in 1993 also came SRK, stuttering the words “ I love you, Ka Ka Ka Kiran” and had us all hooked to his antics. The role he essayed in the movie 'Darr' was a negative one but the audience lapped him up. Also, a few weeks before that, in another role of a vengeful psychopath in ‘Baazigar’ he had the nation swaying to his charisma and chemistry with his costar Kajol. It was the beginning of a new era.
The one power that stardom gives, is the ability to put smiles on other people’s faces. No two ways about this, it is a fact.
How many times have you been in an alien land away from your hometown longing for a friend and then caught a Bollywood movie and felt a strange sense of familiarity seeing your favourite actor on screen. One tends to make the actor a best friend or companion and he or she becomes an integral part of life. This probably explains why SRK is the biggest name in the international market. His role in DDLJ has immortalised him and endeared him to millions of NRIs everywhere. This is the impact one star can have on the lonely heart of someone who is away from his dear ones. I have felt it personally, even when I watched Sunny Deol in some third rate action movie, it still made my day while I was badly missing home.
This ability to make people smile is something that SRK has been doing consistently for a long time. It would not be possible for me to write about all the movies that he has acted in and managed to plant a smile, but I will definitely talk about one movie from recent memory to highlight his and Bollywood’s importance.
26/11 the biggest act of terrorism to hit our country, that too captured live on television - it had a nation scarred and scared. People were not willing to venture out of their homes. Many wondered how life would get back to normal. I wondered too. Then, there came a poster of a simple unassuming man on the front page of my daily newspaper. It was the promotion for a movie called ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ directed by Aditya Chopra. I wondered, what a sad time for SRK to be releasing his latest movie. It was meant to be doomed from day one. Who was going to go and watch a movie in a theater? Climbing Mount Everest would have been easier at that time. Was I right in my judgement?
Your guess is as good as mine. I was proven totally wrong. The crowds were back at the theatres. Be it the multiplexes or the single screens. Everyone was out to watch the movie. I was driving down the Paharganj area of Delhi and passed by a single screen theatre and was amazed to see the crowds standing there in long queues. It was magic. I wondered, what the hell is this, it's just two weeks and people are already out there as if nothing has happened. Then I happened to catch the movie at a multiplex in Ghaziabad, there were entire families that came to watch this movie, grandparents and grand kids included. They cried, they laughed, they danced and they whistled and cheered for Surinder Suri. Yes, Surinder Suri, the simpleton played by SRK won everyone’s hearts and put the biggest smile on the faces of countless fans all over the world. I still wondered many many days after the movie released and thought why this movie did so well and that too at a time when the odds were totally stacked against it.
I realized, it was the sheer draw, power and magnetism of SRK’s presence. Felt more like a family affair where you look forward to meet your favourite cousins during summer holidays. And ironically by a strange quirk of fate, in the movie, SRK’s character is trying to comfort and woo the female protagonist who has lost her father and fiance in tragic circumstances. SRK’s empathy for that character struck a chord somewhere unknowingly and we all lapped it up merrily as if it were chicken soup for the soul.
There is lots more we can talk about SRK's movies, but is that all to him?
What do the three letters SRK signify? A film star? If that’s all one can think of, then one needs to rethink again.
Apart from his movies, SRK is also the face of multiple brands. The Voice and Choice of a Nation if one can say so. He could sell soaps, cars, colas, you name it and he can do it. And yes he can also be a great Quizmaster or a Baraati to dance at some wedding. Incidentally, he also runs a film company, a visual effects studio, an event management company, a TV production house and has time to own a cricket team and invest in some real estate among other things. Whew! What do you think after reading the above; he is certainly not just a film star. He is larger than life. He has modelled himself as a brand, which reads SRK.
Yet, with all the trappings of a star, he manages to retain his humanity. I have always suspected that he is a man filled with enormous positive energy and it somehow emanates from him when we see him on screen. My suspicion got confirmed when I got a chance to see him live on 3 occasions in the last 6 months. And when he choose to come onto Twitter the whole world is now able to get a glimpse of the real man without the shroud of Journalists and TV reporters in between.
Positive energy and conviction, filled with hard work and a burning desire to excel in all his pursuits is what makes SRK the man he is.
We all love him for that. Knowingly or unknowingly, he chose to be the healer of a nation, maybe, the world now. And, I deeply suspect he is doing the same with his latest movie ‘My Name is Khan’ (MNIK) by Karan Johar. I am yet to watch the movie, but my guess is, it’s going to be one hell of an experience. After all, we have the healer of the nation working his magic in a way only he knows how to do best. Pity that Shiv Sena failed to see that coming!
May the power be with you SRK - to be the Crocin and Vicks to our Souls.