By Lata Jha:
Dear Mr. Shah Rukh Khan,
I want to begin by saying that I’ve loved you for as long as I can remember. And I shall continue to, always. You’re as much a part of my childhood and my growing years as the friends I made, the school I went to, the books I read, and the music I heard. Like the sights, sounds and smells of home, I’ve carried with me your performances, dialogues and unmistakable charm. You’re inexplicably dear to me. You’re the only guy whose posters I ever put up in my room. And you shall always be the only one. I’m told I smile like a retard each time I see you. And I’m not surprised. In a world that threatens to make it only tougher for me progressively, I have tended to seek a lot of joy in you.
I don’t hero-worship you. I look out for you like I would, for friends or family. I’m anxious when you falter, and ecstatic when you rise. As fandom studies would show, we’re a strange country. We love our celebrities like no one else. We bring them out of screens into our homes and hearts. This is why I know I’m not the only one who feels that for me and a lot of people belonging to generations even other than mine, you’re a part of our lives and dreams. We grew up watching and loving you. We hate to see you get hurt. We love it when you fight back and even more, when you emerge victorious.
There might be other competent actors and better films. But for Shah Rukh Khan loyalists, he matters much more than the quality of his work. So we try and make peace with a Don 2 and even a Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Because though we have our reservations about the films, there’s no denying that you make the entire movie experience worth while by just being there. By making it the event of the year for us, something we look forward to, irrespective of the frills.
What we cannot take is, have you embrace and endorse the frills and fear that we might be losing you. A Chennai Express hurts us. We don’t just hate to see your sensibilities get encumbered under mindless gibberish masquerading as comedy. What makes us really upset, is to see you stoop to this level. It’s like you’re trying to prove a point. All our lives, we’ve seen you as this effortless charmer. Why this sudden attempt to be cool and funny? You always were cool. You never had to try. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is one of the coolest takes we have seen on romance. Because it’s genuine and heartfelt. It’s not trying to be a classic. It’s this ordinary, simple film that we love to death.
Your latest release, on the other hand, is just the opposite. It’s not funny. It really isn’t. Not one moment in the film made me laugh. And I don’t say it was something I regret wasting my time, energy and money on. I’ll do anything to be able to watch you once a year. It’s something I look forward to.
But of late, with Ra.One, Don 2 and the newest monstrosity, I don’t feel I’m watching you at all. You’re just out there to prove a point. And which, despite what you say, is not to entertain your audiences. The point is to make more money than anybody else. The point is to be the biggest star and belt out the biggest hit, the most popular film of the year. And if slapstick, moronic comedies seem like the flavour of the season, so be it. I’ll get on to the bandwagon ( read train) too. Life was so much better when you were just an entertainer. Now of course, you’re this superstar who has to walk around with the weight of his stardom. He just has to be better than everybody else. And in doing so, he ceases to be himself.
By trying your hand at everything from mindless comedy to science fiction, it’s like you’re trying to tell us that you’ve moved so well with the times that you can give the people who rule these genres a run for their money when you dabble with them.
You don’t have to. Trust me, you’re the best. When we say we’d love to see you experiment, we don’t mean you should get into spaces that don’t deserve you only to prove a point. Swades is about being experimental, Chennai Express is just about being arrogant, overconfident and irrational.
It’s okay when other actors ask us to leave our brains behind when we go watch their ‘massy’ films. We never expected them to sweep us off our feet. We do expect you to. And we always shall.
A face in the crowd.