The unlikely rise to fame of one of India’s biggest movie stars, contextualized by the evolution of the Bollywood film industry.
After digesting Chopra’s (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, 2003, etc.) book, few readers will be in doubt that Shah Rukh Khan chose the correct line of work. Khan’s life story is full of all the drama, tragedy and seemingly insurmountable hurdles that populate his movies, and Chopra infuses the pivotal moments of his life with an edge-of-your-seat tension worthy of the best Bollywood blockbusters. Khan began as a disciple of perhaps the most famous of all Bollywood stars, the ruggedly good-looking Amitabh Bachchan. But compared to Bachchan, Khan was a reckless, disheveled rogue whose career choices and lifestyle marked him as a rank outsider. As Chopra chronicles Khan’s improbable rise—first in television, then in film and finally as a jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur—she occasionally dips into wider developments in Indian culture. The Americanization of India is given ample coverage, and Chopra writes at length on how marketing, and branding (one chapter is titled “Brand SRK”), took a stranglehold on both Bollywood and society as a whole. She also looks at how the mob put increasing pressure on Indian businesses through extortion rackets and murder in the late 1990s, eventually infecting Bollywood through the presence of notorious mobster Abu Salem, who practically forced Khan into hiding. This signified the beginning of a bleak period for the actor, as it coincided with various failings in his businesses and in his on-screen career—and the events provide a real cinematic twist, allowing Chopra to muse on her fallen hero’s dark days, which are, of course, tempered by an inevitably triumphant comeback with the movie Devdas. Chopra offers a solid entry-level introduction to both Bollywood and one of its biggest stars. The only flaw is the lack of detailed interview material with its primary subject, but this is nicely counterbalanced by the author’s musings on wider developments in Bollywood.
A neat encapsulation of an amazing career.