|A sweaty, angry Shah Rukh Khan at Wankhede Stadium
On Thursday I woke up to see two photographs online — two very different faces of Indian cinema, 31 years apart. The first, a black and white photograph was making the rounds on Facebook. It represented the innocence and simplicity of an era long gone. The second — a photograph from the night before, showed a very angry face of Bollywood.
The black and white photograph is from the shoot of the 1982 comedy Chashme Baddoor and features Saeed Jaffrey and Farooq Shaikh as they lovingly stare at their director Sai Paranjape. The setting is a road side shop and Paranjape is showing Shaikh how to light a cigarette using a coir rope.
Paranjape inhales the smoke, her eyes closed. Her face, her hands, her entire being in a trance-like state. Jaffrey, with his chin resting on his left wrist, leans against a metal ice box that states two words in the script format — Campa Cola. And Shaikh, apparently a non-smoker, has a fresh youthful smile, reflecting the sense that an adult is allowing him to break a taboo — smoking a cigarette.
There is so much joy, bliss, a sense of fun and purity in that black and white picture that one wants to live in that moment. It may have been a long, hot, tiring day on the shoot, but none of that shows in the picture. The truth as it seems is what we see and what we are being made to believe, in that ideal setting.
The second picture is that of a very angry Shah Rukh Khan on Wednesday night at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. The picture was reproduced by practically every media outlet in India.
We see a sweaty Khan. His body is focused in the direction of a security guard who is blowing a whistle, perhaps clearing the cricket ground. Khan’s right hand is closed in a fist, aiming directly at the guard. His neck with bulging veins, and his head are also leaning towards the guard.
Khan appears extremely furious. The picture appears to shows the dark side of Bollywood’s biggest star as he seems to be saying, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore.”
A lot has been written about the infamous event. Many people have read into the picture and talked about the arrogance of the rich, the famous and movie stars who often believe that they are above the law. I was even asked by someone on Twitter whose story I believed — the spokespersons for the cricket stadium or Khan, who called a press conference at his residence, but did not deny that he got angry.
The photograph seems to show one truth. It is certainly not a moment I would like to live through. Anyone seeing the picture could believe that Khan was belligerent, perhaps drunk, even though that statement has been disputed.
I do not know where the real truth lies, but I would like to judge the picture based on certain other truths.
A few years ago London-based writer and filmmaker Nasreen Munni Kabir said this to me in Urdu: “Shah Rukh bahut sharif aadmi hai.” Her words – the result of the time she spent with Khan making the documentaries The Inner/ Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan — have stayed with me.
Over the years as I have interviewed Khan and heard him speak at press conferences, the man has impressed me with his earnestness, as he again and again talks about his children and the loneliness he feels without his parents. It is rare for an adult man to talk so intimately and with honesty about these personal details. But Khan, despite his cockiness, and his steadfast belief in his star status, never fails to talk about his family.
The picture from Wankhede Stadium may not suggest the sharafat of Khan, but he later said he was trying to protect his daughter and her friends. And that sounds like a right thing to do. I still do not know what the truth is, but this much is clear — the picture with Khan may not represent the complete truth.
• Of course, we are ugly!
I admired the frank and the bold view in the column ‘The West thinks we’re ugly’ (PM, May 13). There are many individuals in our country who like to appear poor and helpless in order to seek benefits from the authorities.
This cais evident especially when slum rehabilitation projects are brought into force, and the rehabilitated prefer to rent their home out and continue living in filth. This gives an impression of poverty to many, something that especially Westerners are not yet accustomed to. No wonder then, that we will be loked upon as a ‘poor’, ‘dirty’ country.
- Sayali Degwekar
• There’s another India too
I was quite amused to read how Indians like Rishi Kapoor were upset at the India depicted in Hollywood. They should know that this India depicted by the West is real. Lifestyles and habits of people in a certain segment of our country mirror that of the West. What ‘new’ flavour could this add to a film about what is perceived to be a country of great history and mystique?
I think they are making a big deal out of an issue. I understand that India has a large population of different people that work, live and behave unlike the people depicted by Hollywood, but then what would their USP be?
- Pradeep Basu