Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why I don't like Shahrukh Khan - the actor

I'd said I'd elaborate upon this quite some time back, but am only getting down to it now. To be fair this should've been done a long time back; one cannot allow the myth to be propagated unabated.

I don't have any problems with Shahrukh Khan the individual. I actually admire him for being well read, his generally civilized public demeanour, his sense of humour, for what he has achieved in life. I believe he is an extremely intelligent human being who would have succeeded in any sphere he would've ventured into. But I do have problems with the public image of the man. And I have serious concerns about the blatant media manipulation behind this public image.

While I will give Shahrukh his due (one must): he is very popular, he is an extremely energetic performer, he has a modicum of sparingly used talent as well; one thing I will not concede to is the myth that Shahrukh Khan is a good actor.

Shahrukh is at best a mediocre actor. Even if you do not compare him to previous greats like Dilip Kumar & Amitabh Bachchan, even if you compare him to his generation of actors like Aamir Khan, Akshay Khanna & now Akshay Kumar, he comes up short. And we're not even going down the Om Puri-Naseer-Anil Kapoor path! So that should really put an end to the argument that he is a "good" actor. He is like I said before an actor who has uptil now displayed only limited range. This may be in part because he has hitherto chosen to deliver only what the Indian movie-going masses required. There may be an actor inside him that he chooses to let out only occasionally. Let us examine that argument as well.

To be fair to him, he has recently attempted genuinely different roles (Swades and Chak De India), and he did put in a fairly decent performance in Swades. But again it is not the kind of performance that will come up while Om Puri's, Naseer's or Amitabh's performances are being discussed.

To every well educated, exposed mind it should be amply clear that while SRK is a huge star in crazy ol' Bollywood, calling him a good "actor" is belittling the other more serious practitioners of the craft. They may be too dignified to say anything, but it must hurt them when such irresponsible rubbish is printed.
Enough said about his acting abilities. Let us move on to more the sinister reasons for my dislike of SRK the "star".

Why is it that one doesn't read the opposite point of view in any form of media about SRK? Why hasn't even a single film journo written about SRK's limited talent? There are multiple magazines (and filmi channels now), and he has been around for over a decade. Are you trying to tell me that not even once in the last 10 years has a fair analysis of him as an actor has been attempted? There has to be a reason for this. And while I don't understand the workings of the Hindi film industry(!) or the media that thrives on it's fringes, one thing is clear enough: There is a filmmaker-filmstar-media nexus that is for the first time in Indian Cinema's history, manipulating the already semi-literate Indian moviegoer to further their cause!

When Anil Kapoor was attempting to fill the superstar shoes for a while, the media went all over town calling him manipulative. But you don't hear the media write anything negative about Shahrukh Khan. There's been talk about SRK buying awards, about doing favours to Filmfare & others to win them over & garner more awards, and I agree that it could be nonsense, but there's no mention of it in the media! Forget manipulative, the media has never even referred to his acting style as cinematic, forget a fair, unbiased analysis of the star! No wonder serious journalists have so much contempt for not just the Stardust/Filmfare types but also the Bombay Times kinds. It's quite a shame actually! In a greater sense, it is a reflection of the morality of the modern Indian. There are hardly any champions of truth left.

Anyway, Filmfare awards are hardly the barometer of acting talent. They're essentially popular awards that are voted for by the unqualified general public and very different from the National Awards that are judged by a jury/panel of experts. And the news is that SRK hasn't won any National Awards, while Ajay Devgan & Sunny Deol have been previous winners. Actors like Mamooty, Anil Kapoor, Mithunda & Amitabh Bachchan have all been winners. But no SRK.

So there you have it: I don't like SRK the star because of these 2 reasons:
. His limited acting ability and
. His being part of this blatant media manipulation.

There is another reason to not like him, but since it's a personal decision that he needs to take, I'll only touch upon it here.

SRK can use his stardom for great causes. He can influence public opinion against the BJP in Gujarat, lead an anti-spitting drive to clean up Indian roads, genuinely bring change about in India. But he hasn't done anything!

In contrast Shabana Azmi and even Aamir Khan recently have at least attempted to give back to society. And they're superior actors as well! When will the Indian public wake up???

And while I'm at it, here's the best review ever of SRK's latest OSO sorry film! Seriously! Best review ever! Looks like some of the movie-going public is waking up.

PS: SRK on being voted Sexiest Asian Man: "I get embarassed when people call me sexy."

Me: "You get embarassed??? I get embarrased when people call you sexy!!! What has the world come to!!!"

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What's wrong with the PadmaShri?

While civilian awards are meant to honour citizens with noteworthy achievements, the flawed selection criteria leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the richly deserving kind. How come sportspersons & film-folk are accorded the same honour as literary giants, scholars & explorers???

Sania Mirza is barely twenty & with a fairly limited set of achievements has a PadmaShri to her name. Others such as Leander Paes, Azhar, Shabana Azmi & Sachin Tendulkar too have received Padma Shris. No doubt they've made contributions on the world stage, but these are all transient achievements (with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar). Their work will not live on for years to come and will in all probability have no great social impact.

Compare this to the lifelong work of people like Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Dr. Zahoor Qasim and Ali Jawad Zaidi, giants in their own fields, people who put India on the International map in fields like music, oceanography and literature as opposed to sports!
Others like Kaifi Azmi too received a PadmaShri. As did his daughter Shabana & son-in-law Javed Akhtar. Both of them will willingly acknowledge the superiority of Kaifi's brilliance over their own achievements. Yet the Govt. clubbed Kaifi's literary achievements with their (in comparision) dabbles in art?

I'm not belittling sport or cinema here; I'm just saying that most of civilized society will rate the Sistine Chapel over all of Navratilova's Wimbledon crowns! And over Citizen Kane or any other movie you please! And this comes from a die hard Tennis enthusiast! One who had to confirm the spelling of the aforesaid chapel on the net before hitting publish! Yet I realize that science & art has always held sway over sport for some reason.

So why are our awards lopsided? It's bad enough that we have so-called popular awards. Must our Govt. of India awards pander to popular taste too???

I don't want to make any random allegations, but a close look at the Padma Shri recipients list & Padma Bhushan recipients list does seem to point to the existence of lobbying. The more powerful a recommendation/lobbying, the better your chances of an award. As with everything else in the hands of the Indian Govt, I guess...

There is a story about of Ali Jawad Zaidi being shortchanged because of a recommendation/clerical error. He was supposed to have been awarded the Padma Bhushan but erroneously his name made it to the Padma Shri list. Genuine artists are never bothered by such things & Ali Jawad Zaidi let it go. But shouldn't someone in the department have been bothered enough to correct the error?

Why does everything in India seem so warped to me?

I dunno if ranting bloggers like me will help but I sure hope that leaders like Manmohan Singh, young blood like Rahul, Sachin & Jyoti and initiatives like Lead India bring more fairness & transparency into our system.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our turn...!!!

Letter I received from a group called Citizens for Peace that I am a passive member of (but I am a member!!!). This one is important. Please read & ACT! They've done their job, it's our turn now!!!

Dear all,

First, thank you for joining this group. I had planned a cheerier first mail to all of you but circumstances dictate otherwise.I'm sending the text below on behalf of the trustees of Citizens for Peace, in my role as consultant on their web presence. But I also endorse the contents as an individual.This is about Tehelka's expose on the perpetrators of the violence in Gujarat in 2002, which you can see here: press statement has been posted here: Statement - 26th October 2007The expose showing perpetrators of the 2002 carnage in Gujarat boasting about their crimes is an open challenge to all citizens of India. It is an urgent reminder that we must renew efforts to prosecute those who commit such crimes against humanity.We, Citizens for Peace, in particular appeal to the people of Gujarat to break silence and oppose the politics of hatred and terror. It is possible that many residents of Gujarat may have been unaware of the enormity of crimes committed in their state with open state support in 2002. Others may have hesitated to confront a truth so bizarre. Now, after the confessions, silence is equal to endorsement of the chilling crimes.Justice delayed is better than justice denied altogether. It will make a difference if citizens from all walks of life, across India, stand emphatically opposed to the continuing miscarriage of justice in Gujarat.We urge all citizens to:1. Write to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister demanding that they take immediate steps to prosecute the culprits of the carnage.2. Write to all national political parties in India asking how and why the constitutional crisis, of a dysfunctional judicial system in Gujarat, is allowed to persist and urging them to address this grave threat to the idea of India with utmost urgency.3. Write to the BJP, impressing on them that this is their chance to dissociate themselves from those responsible for these crimes, and to help this country make a new beginning towards justice for all.For the text of our letters please see these posts on our website:“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”Citizens for Peace is a Mumbai based non-party group of volunteers committed to working for communal harmony and a vibrant secular polity. The Trustees of CFP are: Julio Rebiero, B.G.Deshmukh, Titoo Ahluwalia, Rina Kamath, Tariq Ansari, Dolly Thakore and Cyrus Guzder. The Managing Committee consists of: Titoo Ahluwalia, Tariq Ansari, Dolly Thakore, Dilip D’Souza, Gulan Kripalani, Pervin Varma, Rajni Bakshi and Devieka Bhojwani.In addition, CfP has posted open letters to- the Prime Minister: the Home Minister: the BJP: all political parties: please pass these links around, discuss them, link to them from your personal websites and blogs, come by and add your comments to them if you like. Please feel free to use the text of these letters if you should choose to write to our leaders yourself.
Thank you

Things I cannot get out of my head...

However hard I try to get rid of them, there are some things that stick with me. Here are some of them. If you know how I can work on getting rid of some of the clutter in my head, let me know.

  • My first licking in a street fight in Bombay. It's been 13 years but it still rankles. Though, self admittedly, this one is fairly insignificant, but it's here because it plays upon some small part of my brain occasionally.
  • Not getting to meet my Dad before he died.
  • Losing our baby: Was quite a shock. The worst shock that I had ever received. I have come to terms with the loss, but it took a while. The aftershocks were more difficult to deal with actually. The event needs to be over-riden with good news I think, but all that is in the hands of the Almighty.
  • Job loss: So bloody unfair... While I have come to terms with the fact that the separation had more to do with the company than me, remnants of the event still float by occasionally in my head.
  • We'd just moved to Pune after two personal tragedies (we'd lost a baby & my wife had tragically lost her mother a few months later), and both of us had taken up new jobs. My wife was relating to a colleague, the list of appliances we needed in the house. The conversation went like this:
Colleague: Do you have Appliance X?
Wife: No. Need one.
Colleague: Do you have Appliance Y?
Wife: No. Need one.
Colleague: Do you have Appliance Z?
Wife: No. Need one.
Then in an obvious reference to Deewar, the colleague goes: You have a Mother at least?
  • Losing my Grandmother
All these things bother me I guess because I couldn't do anything to change their course. I was helpless, powerless. With the passage of time & with some effort, they bother me less each time they flit by, but up until recently they impacted me fairly negatively.

I know this post is in a very different vien from my usual rants, but I figured that the blog was supposed to be a personal diary among the many other things it has since become. So I went ahead anyway.

Tell me what you think.