By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) The hero to anti-hero - Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has changed the idiom of the leading man onscreen, says veteran Bollywood writer, columnist and industry trend analyst Anupama Chopra.
"Shah Rukh is shirtless... On a typical Mumbai afternoon, he is 'Ram Jaane', a cynical criminal in a film of the same name. A thick gold charm knotted at the neck rests on his boyish smooth chest...He puts a sneer in place, runs a hand through his blow-dried bouncing hair and declares...'I love this, it's so dudey'," she said in her book, "First Day, First Show: Writings from the Bollywood Trenches".
The year was 1995. And 15 years on, Shah Rukh Khan is the toast of North America at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards in Canada -- a Bollywood behemoth with stakes in ventures as diverse as movie production, technology and cricket. The boy from Delhi is a man of the world, surefooted about tinsel town - canny and savvy.
Chopra, who described her first encounter with the Bollywood star in all its dramatic colours - gold charm, boyish persona, a pea-size diamond ring, a perfectly tailored purple jacket, purple trousers - said "Shah Rukh has consistently stretched the strait-jacket, straddled the commercial and parallel cinema - a feat that not even Amitabh Bachchan could manage".
"Energy translates into style, and for Khan, 'style is prime'," she said in the book.
Chopra told IANS: "I think Shah Rukh is an extremely charismatic star. He was very unkempt and almost unattractive when he first started and yet it is hard to look away when he is on screen. He has a very basic connect with the audience that has endured for two decades."
Referring to Shah Rukh's career trajectory, Chopra said: "Heroes in Bollywood are not born, they are constructed."
"There are rules to be followed to gain stardom, a prescribed staircase to be walked to heaven. Dress well, young men are told, wear shirts that are advertising hoardings for Versace, designer jeans so tight that they could put your reproductive organs in danger," she said.
"It means Shah Rukh is historically challenged for he has taken an entirely different elevator to success. He has no hairstyle - call it a 'Sadhana cut'- and with his baggy trousers and shirts, crumpled, sweaty half-tucked in, is a walking sartorial nightmare," she added.
Shah Rukh's resume is nothing but an eccentric compendium of roles -- all suggestive of a certain temerity, Chopra says.
"I think this charisma and his energy are his strengths, but his stylised acting can sometimes be a weakness. Earlier, he used to say, 'I will never become a character'. So he never really disappears into a role," Chopra said.
Shah Rukh's virtues include a crackling intensity, an unrestrained enthusiasm that flows from him as he says, "I go into every film thinking it's better than the Titanic", Chopra said.
"My two favourite films are 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' (DDLJ) and 'Chak De! India'," she said.
According to Chopra, "there is no ideal hero in Hindi films any more". And Shah Rukh is to a large extent responsible in busting the "hero" myth.
"I think the beauty of Hindi films today is that there is no one definition of mainstream Hindi cinema. It can include, 'My name is Khan', 'Peepli Live', 'LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhoka' and 'Three Idiots'.
"The traditional hero had to be someone who was conventionally handsome and morally upright, but today they are no longer the requirements," the writer observed.
"In fact, those qualities went out of the window in 1993 when Shah Rukh killed in the movie 'Darr' (1993) and 'Baazigar' (1993) - and still got the audience to applaud him. So there is no idea of a hero any more - which in my view is a good thing," she said.