SRK brought to book
It is a well-known fact that Shah Rukh Khan, barely into his second decade in Bollywood, is already working on his autobiography. With typical flamboyance, he has titled it Twenty Years of a Decade. What that suggests is that the star is convinced that he has packed into a span of ten years twice as much as a lesser mortal would.
Surprise, surprise. Shah Rukh Khan has never been suspected of possessing an undue sense of humility, so such grand pronouncements are only to be expected from him. He believes, and never tires of repeating, that he is the Best. Now, it seems, the rest of the world too is gradually veering round to that view.
Only a few weeks back, Shah Rukh received a special Power Award jointly with Amitabh Bachchan, a towering personality who has been in the business of superstardom for three decades and a bit.
Last week, Shah Rukh greedily hogged the limelight at the Zee Cine Awards in Dubai, even reportedly taking on the clout of political heavyweight Amar Singh when the latter objected to the fact that the organisers had shown "disrespect" to the Big B by allotting the megastar a seat in the 15th row of the auditorium.
And coming up later this year is an SRK season in the British Isles, where, among other things, Channel 4 has commissioned a 50-minute documentary titled The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan.
Name another Bollywood actor of Shah Rukh's generation who has had so much attention heaped upon him in print, canned images and live stage shows. No wonder Magna Books, a part of the publishing house behind Stardust, one of India's oldest film gossip magazines, has launched a series of star biographies with a slim book on the life and achievements of Shah Rukh Khan. Several more such tomes are believed to be in the Magna Books pipeline, but could they have kickstarted their film bios list with any other star?
Authored by Biswadeep Ghosh and "the Editors of Stardust", Hall of Fame: Shah Rukh Khan provides an overview of one Bollywood's most remarkable careers, starting at the very beginning - Shah Rukh's birth in late 1965 in a New Delhi nursing home. It traces his growing up years in the Capital, his school (St. Columba's) and college (Hansraj and Jamia Millia Islamia's Mass Communication Research Centre) days and his first steps in showbiz as a television actor.
The book is quite obviously a quickie, but it does not carry the sort of telltale pockmarks of haste and carelessness that enterprises of this nature normally tend to do. Its racy journalistic style exudes the kind of breathless energy that Shah Rukh himself brings into his on-screen performances and that obviously fits in nicely with the subject. The actor's energy levels have been frequently commented upon, often pejoratively, but this book attributes his success to that very trait in his character: a combination of the energy of a locomotive and the single-mindedness of an eager beaver.
The book isn't an authorized biography
. It does not, therefore, contain direct quotes from Shah Rukh himself. It talks around the star and culls out passages from interviews given to films publications and websites to piece together his journey from a house in Delhi's Rajendra Nagar to a one-room flat in Mount Mary to the heritage bungalow he now calls home, Mannat. It is updated till the making of Farah Khan's directorial debut film, Main Hoon Na, Shah Rukh's latest film, which is now ready for release.
Among the people interviewed for Hall of Fame: Shah Rukh Khan are close family members, former teachers, acting guru Barry John and many professional associates. While most of the reminiscences are laudatory in nature and the book, consequently, reads like a bit like a eulogy, it does not skirt some uncomfortable questions about his career. It alludes to incidents and gestures that may not have shown Shah Rukh in positive light, like the controversy over Darr involving him, Sunny Deol and Yash Chopra and his cold-shouldering of financier Bharat Shah in the wake of his arrest for alleged links with the underworld.
Is this for only Shah Rukh fans? Not really. Even if your interest in popular cinema goes beyond an individual superstar, it might be worth a read. The book does proffer interesting insights into the dynamics of Bollywood stardom through the story of the man who has probably already redefined its very scope.