From being born in a refugee colony to becoming the world’s eighth highest-paid actor, Shah Rukh Khan has had quite the journey. The 51-year-old is, as he proudly proclaimed in his TED talk this April, still the face of Bollywood romance. And this talk succinctly summarises the ups and downs, the many epiphanies and myriad realisations he faced in this journey. With characteristic self-deprecating arrogance (his way of being humble), SRK talks about how, even now, as an ageing but certified superstar, he has to grapple with oncoming obsolescence – with not fully understanding a completely new world around him, built by a newer generation of actors, workers, and craftsmen.
Two of the most striking moments in his speech are when he talks about discovering social media, and the way he conflates his journey with that of humanity as a species. Humanity, as he says, is like an ageing movie star trying to deal with all the newness around it – and with this extravagant proclamation, he somehow still grounds himself and his anxieties of fading, of losing whatever it is that makes him stand out, or becoming irrelevant. SRK, being the showman he is, shamelessly and openly exhibits his “self-obsession” through this elaborate metaphor. And yet, he paints a picture of a resolute yet vulnerable person. Through his hilarious anecdotes about discovering acronyms towards the beginning of his Twitter career, he puts into words the experience of entering the vast and intimidating avenues of social media (and the internet) for the first time – full of expectations and potential, and a simultaneous reminder of the collective power of humanity and the limits of a single individual.
The speech, complete with Lungi Dance, is well worth watching in its entirety for a unique insight into the mind of one of the biggest superstars the world has ever seen – the Baadshah of Bollywood.