Indian Decade

Blockbuster PR

The biggest deal about Shah Rukh Khan’s new movie is that it isn’t very good.

I love to watch big movie releases on opening weekend–it helps insulate me from word-of-mouth reviews and lets me make up my own mind. In India, though, over the last year or so even watching first day first shows doesn’t allow you that luxury.

Bollywood (the Hindi film industry) has become a huge beast with an immense appetite for chomping down money. Movies are getting more and more expensive, so to make sure they deliver at the box office, production houses have taken to a frenzied, carpet-bombing marketing strategy. Hundreds of TV news channels desperate for content help further their cause. Even before the film hits the big screen, you’ve heard the star cast talk about their role, the music, the story, the director, the meaning, the plot, the sub-plot of the movie–again and again. Often, in the darkness of the theatre, I’m either struck with a sense of déjà vu or shocked at the blatant exaggeration of non-existent virtues.

This happened to me yesterday when I went to watch 2010’s most keenly awaited release, superstar director Karan Johar’s ‘My Name Is Khan’ starring the biggest actor in India, Shah Rukh Khan. But, that’s not the only reason the movie made headlines recently. Whether it would get a peaceful release in India had become a national guessing game after the right-wing Shiv Sena, a regional political party based in Mumbai, launched a campaign against it. The Shiv Sainiks alleged Shah Rukh Khan had been anti-India in his comments while talking about Pakistani cricketers.

Shah Rukh Khan definitely isn’t guilty of that, but I’m afraid he needs to be in the dock for bad acting, and for being part of a movie that’s this loosely tied together, simplistically narrated and downright silly. His freedom of speech has been validated by ‘bumper’ openings. Now, if only we could endorse his choice of movie…