During Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure in the late 1980s, the seeds were sown for today’s political climate and its resulting artistic environment. Two parallel forces were at work at the time. First was the gradual movement towards liberalized markets that brought about the lifestyle of consumers and a degree of economic opulence among certain subgroups of Indians. Aditya Chopra’s and Karan Johar’s upper middle class / NRI grades were movie shows this growing prosperity.
Second, Ram Janambhoomi got more steam around this period.
Before these trends would reach their peak with the sudden opening of the economy in 1991 and the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, which triggered Hindu-Muslim violence across the country, three young Thespians with the same surname broke out on the showbiz scene.
For those unfamiliar with the extraordinary world of Bombay cinema, this trinity consists of Aamir Hussain Khan, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) and Abdul Rashid Salim Salman Khan.
Kaveree Bamzai’s second book, The Three Khans: And the Emerging of New India, equates the troika’s journey with India from the late 1980s to the present day, when the current regime becomes increasingly hostile to Khan’s fellow religionists. The Lord Meghand Desai-authored gem, Nehru’s Hero: Dilip Kumar in the Life of India, showed how the Tragedy King’s career was as the cause, result and representation of the nehruvian idea after 1947 of a socialist, secular republic.
The former India today editor also illustrates how the perfectionist, the NRI hero and Mr. Being Human’s paths have been intertwined with the winds of change that engulf the nation from the late 1980s until now.
These three actors – who happen to be Muslims and born the same year – have had their big careers involved in a country’s tapestry. Also that which constantly weaves different textiles of values, identities, ethics and ideologies in and out of its composition.
For biographical portraits that exclusively chronicle their personal as well as professional odysseys, it is better to read Christina Daniels’ I will do it my way: Aamir Khan’s incredible journey, Anupama Chopra’s King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinemaand Jasim Khan’s To be Salman.
But to consider The three Khans as three biographies permeated by a sociocultural evolutionary study of the film industry and India is to give this Westland Publications’ offer more of an academic character than it actually possesses.
Throughout the book, Bamzai keeps peeling many layers away from each of the stars’ personas – the accomplished professional who keeps experimenting, the business-savvy romantic heartbeat that resonates with Native Americans abroad, and the working-class hero whose vehicle- and verbal mishaps never went unnoticed. Scattered with each Khan’s journey, along with India, are some forthcoming accounts of certain interactions between the Khan and those who helped shape their lives to / from celluloid.
As he elaborates on Aamir, the author tells that he spoke with his cousin and psychoanalyst Nuzhat Khan. “She told me that he was adamant about honesty and that he simply could not tell lies. That, and the level of professionalism in his work, where each person was respected, was also reflected in his personal life. He was not superhuman, she said. He made mistakes and injured himself. But he was completely open to learning and feeling new things that she thought were a courage, ”she quotes.
Within this section is more unpleasant feedback from a former boyfriend quoted anonymously. “‘He is very literal. He has no gray areas,’ she told me on condition of anonymity. ‘It is his way or the highway. No ability to really connect and have dialogue outside of his own received reality.'”
In addition to the infamous blackbuck poaching that took place during the filming of Hum Saath Saath Hai (1999) and Jodhpur, an India today article reported on how Salman had complained that the lavish hotel room at the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel Room was not to his liking. Co-stars Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam were also set up in similar types of rooms. Of course, Salman Bhai ended up getting his own suite. The play also mentioned how, in the same shooting schedule, he lost his shirt, roamed around bare-chested in the hotel corridors and had also participated in target training by shooting lined up soda bottles with pistols.
But when shooting for No access (2005) another Salman appeared. Bamzai writes that he immediately downgraded his accommodation in a South African hotel from a suite to a room after finding out that the rest of the cast also stayed in normal rooms.
As for similar juicy details about SRK, there is a reference to an interview about Koffee with Karan where Gauri Khan basically described her husband as a possessive, controlling partner in their early courtship, and how he persecuted her when he came to Mumbai.
Three previously published biographies of Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan
The mix of such journalistic reportage, biographical and movie courses, and a certain amount of academic taste differs The three Khans from the individual biographies shown in the picture above.
The analyzes of various scholarly scholars give this book an authoritative but not pretentious brilliance. Bamzai, for example, quotes University College London sociologist Sanjay Srivastava about Salman Khan’s resonance with rural areas and the small-town male with characters like Chulbul Pandey, because migration from villages to cities has resulted in a certain romantic and nostalgic notion of rural areas. The author also incorporates insights from American Indian scholars who observed how Muslim characters began to appear as regressive, backward demons who did not want to experience the fruits of economic progress caused by liberalization in 1991. When Muslim film characters were not portrayed as outright disgusting in order to endanger national security, as well as law and order, they found themselves inside the exotic caricatures of qawwals or primordial poets.
To varying degrees, the triumvirate has not exactly steered around films with such depictions.
By rapidly switching between an academic and journalistic lens, the author never overwhelms the reader with scientific information. Although disappointment awaits those seeking extended celebrity bluffs or tabloid character assassinations on the three, which are stacked at about 200 pages.
Although Bamzai also plays the clairvoyant as more contemporary, trends contradict each other. When the ruling dispensation injected several doses of jingoism into the mainstream cinema ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, about a year later, the coronavirus would somewhat level the playing field for overlooked talent. Overnight, the impenetrable fortresses of many industrial oligarchs, which are cinema halls, were transformed into abandoned structures. Whether it was Yash Raj Films’ possession of distributors or the Bachchan / Khan / Kapoor coterie member who had an easier path to stardom or the leeway to push a few more box offices than an “outsider” before being written off, the colorful garden of Bollywood always its dynastic caretakers.
But talent without genealogy really flourished in digital skies with shows like Mirzapur, Delhi crime, and Pataal Lok. These underdogs flourished further as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotsar and etc. had the upper hand with theaters that became potential COVID-19 hotbeds. Jaideep Ahlawat and Pankaj Tripathi, whose skill was only first noticed in recent times, always flew under the radar. Both Tripathi and Ahlawat did not even play another fiddle for Shah Rukh Khan in Dilwale (2015) and Raees (2017) resp.
The pandemic has seen the rise in talent that mostly flew under the radar, as have Pankaj Tripathi (left) and Jaideep Ahlawat (right).
Movies like Raees (2017) and Tubelight (2017) beat under their weight in terms of box office numbers. Yet they were the rare instances where Salman and Shah Rukh were more actors instead of stars larger than life. Today, a more discerning, egalitarian audience is doing its part to ensure that acting skills, plots and trumps bloodlines and dizzying self-projection. Bamzai simply assumes that Aamir is best positioned to hold his own with this new breed of film buff.
Of course, noisy nationalism, both inside and outside the cinema hall, also has its takers.
Therefore, today’s more virulent municipal climate has also brought the three Khans into the crosshairs between the forces that are. The latest salvo in this campaign against this triad is alleged drug use by SRK’s son, Aryan.
Whatever these different phenomena show for the Khan trio, it has been a big turn for the film industry’s modern Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. The prospect of a movie with the three seems like a stir dream, though The Three Khans: And the Emerging of New India is the closest we come to seeing them highlight side by side as protagonists.
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