The winning qustient : SRK or AMIR?
It has come full circle once again, like every year. On February 12, even as Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots was going into its 50th day, Shah Rukh Khan took over with My Name is Khan in what has been billed as the largest number of screens for a single Indian film the world over. And the business of Bollywood was poised to take a whole new turn.
Fact is, it is the first week collections that count nowadays. And after the first weekend at least—Friday, Saturday and Sunday—SRK inched quite ahead in the race. Which brings us to the question of which of the two Khans has more business sense. Both Idiots and Khan has received fantastic reviews, but reviews actually have ceased to affect box office collections for a long time. Way back, Shah Rukh’s Asoka and the Amol Palekar directed Paheli had received rave reviews. But that did not necessarily translate into financial success for Shah Rukh. Whereas Aamir’s last year release, Ghajini, despite failing to live up to the expectations of the reviewers swept the box offices leaving the Yash Raj produced Shah Rukh-starrer Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in the lurk.
But will Shah Rukh be able to keep the lead that he gained over Aamir this time around—that was the question trade pundits were mulling. And according to some like Taran Adarsh, it is not likely. By Monday, Feb 15, MNIK collections were already taking a beating, and SRK’s Red Chillies’ PR machinery went into an overdrive, quoting worldwide first weekend collections to prove a point over 3 Idiots-- actually describing the latter as MNIK’s ‘closest competitor’.
Hence, it won’t be out of place here to compare why exactly MNIK lost out to 3 Idiots.
Storyline: Despite the Chetan Bhagat controversy, 3 Idiots had a storyline that was not only endearing, but was able to instantly strike a chord among the youth of India. True, at times, there was oversimplification, but the narrative style of Rajkumar Hirani is so good, it guaranteed that viewers returned to the theatres. Not so for Karan Johar. The master of candy-floss was trying out something too serious, too out of bounds for him, and that he was treading into unknown waters was evident—his narrative became tense, turse, and finally confused—to the extent that in a maze of sub-plots, he lost control and after the interval, MNIK dragged. Dragging the narrative in an effort to give more volume is trademark Johar, and though it works in candyfloss with an overdose of melodrama, it can turn out to be a plot-losing formula for a serious subject like autism in the world of terrorism. Karan Johar’s homework wasn’t complete, and it showed that dividing time between South Mumbai and the rest of the world can make one oblivious of social realities. If Islamophobia is a truth in post-9/11 America, it is also a truth in post 26/11 and 13/2 India, and no amount of quotation from the Quran can turn it around.
Direction: There is a difference between basing one’s script on news reports, perceptions perpetrated by the media, and simplistic deductions and actually doing field work. 3 Idiots takes on the existing examination-based education system in India and calls for its revision—exactly what is at the moment being perpetrated by our central HR minister Mr Kapil Sibal. But 3 Idiots, not for once shows a single news clipping. In MNIK however, news footages form a very important part of the second half, when Johar tries to establish SRK’s Forrest Gump like avtaar. And it is evident that the phenomenon of Islamophobia in post 9/11 America is actually based on Guantanamo reports (SRK is taken into custody, thrown behind bars and tortured, in the heart of America) and reports of Asians being heckled in America (a Sikh reporter gives up wearing his turban and thinks twice before covering the story of a Khan at an American jail). Abhishek Joshi, one of the script writers of 3 Idiots had actually travelled the length and breadth of the country, staying at IIT and IIM hostels to find out the reality of student-life there. Karan Johar, it was evident was throughout the time, watching TV.
Yes, these are the two main reasons why MNIK lost the race. Because, if you take these away from the film, Shah Rukh has given his career’s best performance. We are used to Aamir breaking his image, his stardom. He will go to any extent to beef up for a Ghajini, and then, within a year, loose more than 40 kgs to be a college kid in 3 Idiots. He will employ a Vikram Gaekwad to stretch his face each day of the shoot, and then he will go on a unique promotional spree, going around India incognito and popping up at God-forsaken places. Because Aamir is a perfectionist. He follows his brain more than he does his heart when it comes to his films. And he does it in style.
But Shah Rukh isn’t that. He doesn’t like losing, but he never calculates his stances. That’s the reason why he goes forward and does a Asoka or a Paheli, because he believes in those movies. That’s why he reads up on autistism and aspergus syndrome, and gives more notes to his scriptwriters than they have ever gathered through their ‘research’ and practices being cross-eyed in front of his bathroom mirror to play Rizwan Khan. And then he comes and acts. And gathers enough strength, yet again after Chak De! India, to control stretching his hands wide, throwing his head up and echo-shouting ‘Mandira’ as Kajol proposes to him. You see, that is a huge challenge—the whole Shah Rukh-Kajol chemistry was based on this one scene in one KJo movie after another. Jokes apart, he breaks himself down, unglamorises himself, and acts his age. And he acts! After a long time, he doesn’t stammer, he doesn’t put his palm up, first and middle finger popping alittle above the others and slightly tilts his head to the right side in the most emotional scene. In short he is bereft of all mannerisms. He just acts the part of Rizwan.
Yes, Shah Rukh the actor wins over Aamir-the-great-actor-Khan. But MNIK loses to 3 Idiots. That’s because Raju Hirani is a far better director than K Jo.
That’s the reason why the reviews are good but the collections are dwindling with each passing day for MNIK. That’s the reason why, even the largest number of releases has just managed to scrape through the costs, though it could have been otherwise with a little more effort on the part of SRK’s best friend.
The days of the star, and the star alone, are finally over.