Book Review: Shah Rukh Can

By Joginder Tuteja Bollywood Hungama News Network

This one is a voluminous book. A real voluminous one at that. If Shah Rukh Khan has been known for his non-stop talk then writer Mushtaq Sheikh too doesn't appear far behind when it comes to translating his thoughts into words. He writes, and writes and then further writes about Shah Rukh, something that makes one feel that more than a friend and a colleague, Mushtaq looks at Shah Rukh as a hero. Someone who is not just his hero but also an entire country's - correction, entire world's hero! It is this very 'fan factor' that makes 'Shah Rukh Can' a read that seems to be coming straight from an admirer's heart.

For a writer, such scenario has two sides to it:

a) Because you are so much in love of a celebrity, you want to explore anything and everything that you had always wanted to know about him.
b) Because you are so much in love of a celebrity, everything about him is taken entirely positively. It all becomes quite one-dimensional and even when there is something remotely negative that pops up, as a writer you have defences available even for that!

This is exactly what one senses after reading 'Shah Rukh Can'. If the book is to be believed, Shah Rukh has never taken a step wrong, he is the smartest actor/performer around and if at all there are some areas of improvement for him, he doesn't need to work in that direction because he can be loved even with the weaknesses continuing to persist. Now this could well be true; after all it may all be a solid fact that Shah Rukh Khan is a fantastic human being after all. It's just that one feels the lack of a single written word which is 'not-so-good' about the King Khan.

Is he a perfect human being, may be, but we do not get to know about it 100% through this book.

Leaving aside this factor, 'Shah Rukh Can' explores those facets about the actor and so many other tangents in his life, both pre and post his stardom. The kind of detailing that Mushtaq explores in this 350 page book (which by the way is pure text with hardly any pictures) is a testimony to the fact that the writer would have spent quite some time not just with the actor in question but also quite a few other prominent members from the film industry. Not just that, there are clear indications that he did extensive research on the biggest actor in the country today and was fully prepared before beginning to pen down 'Shah Rukh Can'.

From a book that claims to talk about 'The Life and Times of Shah Rukh Khan', the least you expect is some trivia from the actor's life, both personal and professional, about which not much has been written about in the past. The kind which makes you wonder if something like that had really happened in the actor's life. Thankfully, Mushtaq extracts quite some trivia out of the actor's life and surely there would have been in numerous instances that even Shah Rukh may not have remembered unless specifically pointed in that direction.

So you get to know how Shah Rukh was offered the role of Anil Kapoor's car driver in 1942 - A Love Story, which he rejected (of course!). Eventually Raghuvir Yadav did that role. Or how Shah Rukh completely surrendered to the director's vision and withdrew himself when he couldn't follow the trajectory of Subhash Ghai's Pardes. It's a different matter though that Shah Rukh was appreciated for his performance in the film but so was he in Karan Arjun too, which by the way he dared not watch over the years because he didn't connect with the role.

There are number of such little instances that make 'Shah Rukh Can' an interesting read. But is it just about the actor and the trivia around his life? Not at all. One of the unexplored facets of Shah Rukh that is covered in the book in extensive detail is his views around acting v/s performances. There are reams and reams that are spent on the actor's philosophy around acting and other finer nuances of filmmaking. Now does that make for an interesting read? Well, not exactly and that's because this entire episode in the book not just becomes a lot verbose but also hugely technical.

Credit goes to the writer of the book to have got Shah Rukh into such conversation which has seldom (or shall I say never) been covered by any other journalist/author in the past. In this regard, Mushtaq deserves a pat on the back for bringing in something which no one ever thought earlier. After all so excited have audiences been about Shah Rukh's personality and stardom over last decade and a half that seldom has anyone bothered to know about what makes the superstar tick in front of the camera.

However, one fact that still needs to be considered is that majority of readers of this book would be the same set of audiences who love to see him as Rahul and Raj on screen. For them, how does Shah Rukh differentiate between acting v/s performance doesn't quite make for an interesting read. Probably, they don't even care. All they want is his arms going up in the year with the dimpled cheeks facilitating a smile that continues to make millions look at him in awe. Now how does he achieve that? Well, that thesis is left for the intellectually inclined, which actually forms a miniscule part of the readers. Hence the reason why 3-4 chapters have been dedicated to this very aspect of Shah Rukh make for a quick skip read!

But ignore this part of the book and you have so much to know about Shah Rukh. Views about him come from the biggest of the makers, some of them being the kinds who have never ever given an interview. Case in point is Aditya Chopra who opens up in a big way while talking about his association with Shah Rukh. He remembers how he had to literally chase Shah Rukh to make him consent to do Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Apparently the actor was not too keen on doing love stories and wanted to stay away from that until Aditya convinced him otherwise and paved the way for a dozen odd love stories to follow over the years.

Some of the other interesting stories the books talk about:

- Why Shah Rukh went ahead and did an atrocious movie called Guddu
- His appearance in TV serial 'Waage Ki Duniya' as a rash driver
- Shah Rukh coming into Chamatkar after Deepak Malhotra (who had a one film career in Lamhe) rejected the film
- Viveck Vaswani being Shah Rukh's pillar of support during his initial years in Mumbai
- His struggling period in Mumbai when along with wife Gauri, he had to keep working hard in order to pay rent for his house
- His admiration for Amitabh Bachchan and how he considered him to be THE hero when compared to Dilip Kumar (there is great detailing that he gives around this - visit Page Nos. 206 and 207)
- His lack of understanding with Devdas when Sanjay Leela Bhansali narrated the script for the first time
- How he motivated Karan Johar even though the first shot that he took for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was terrible
- Aditya Chopra believing that Dil To Pagal Hai wasn't great cinema
- How Farah Khan had reached the point of frustration when Shah Rukh Khan had made her wait for three years before saying yes to Main Hoon Naa.

And last but certainly not the least (after all this is most topical in the current scenario), how years back Shah Rukh had made a candid confession before stepping into filmdom -

"I'll destroy Aamir Khan. I'll take over Aamir. Main jab filmon mein aoonga na, baja doonga sabki"!

Ahem ahem!

Price: Rs. 395

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