A new riddle for Shahrukh Khan
Having backed a film by a non-mainstream director like Amol Palekar, is superstar Shahrukh Khan ready to contribute his mite to the cause of unconventional Hindi cinema? It is not often that a big-time crowd-puller joins forces with a steadfast purveyor of offbeat fare.
Shahrukh Khan’s track record as a producer of non-formulaic fare isn’t particularly encouraging. In 2001, King Khan’s financial – and probably creative – intervention had reduced Asoka, helmed by one of India’s finest cinematographer-directors, Santosh Sivan, to pop history for the MTV generation.
Last week’s thriller Kaal, too, bears the stamp of a star-producer bent upon achieving box-office success, even at the cost of diluting a defiantly non-mainstream script.
Co-produced by Karan Johar and Shahrukh, the film even opens with an item number performed by the megastar. It is probably the best thing about the film but, given the low-grade feel of the overall effort, that isn’t saying much.
Kaal veers off the ordained track because it is an offbeat, low budget film with super-sized ambitions. No wonder it falls between two stools.
With the Asoka and Kaal experiences still fresh in our minds, can we be faulted if we have serious concerns about the final shape of Palekar’s upcoming Paheli, which stars Shahrukh and Rani Mukherjee? Or will this update of a 1973 Mani Kaul film, Duvidha, mark a clean break from the past for Bollywood’s biggest box-office draw?
Shahrukh is, of course, not the only Mumbai star to have donned the mantle of film producer? The Mumbai film industry has had a long, often glorious, history of actors choosing to bankroll films. The successful cases of the likes of Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand are too well known to require repetition, but more recent adventures of this nature haven’t exactly been crowned with glory.
The sole exception has been the slow-and-steady Aamir Khan. His only home production to date, Lagaan, released four years ago, remains a benchmark that other Mumbai filmmakers can only aspire to attain.
Bollywood star of the 1970s, Shashi Kapoor, who made millions from run-of-the-mill Hindi films in his heyday, chose to plough all his spare funds into ‘meaningful’ films. He produced films like Girish Karnad’s Utsav, Shyam Benegal’s Junoon and Kalyug, Govind Nihalani’s Vijeta and Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane. Needless to say, one of the biggest stars of popular Hindi cinema isn’t exactly flush with cash today.
Many contemporary Bollywood actors – Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff and Sunil Shetty, to name only a few – have had choppy rides through the unpredictable waves of the production-distribution-exhibition business. Even Ajay Devgan, who has made a pleasant habit of essaying offbeat roles on the silver screen, burnt his fingers with Raju Chacha.
Shahrukh, too, had started his stint as a producer on a false note with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. It bombed at the box office. So did Asoka. It was only with his third production, Chalte Chalte, directed by long-time associate Aziz Mirza, that he tasted commercial success.
He followed it up with an even bigger hit, Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na. It gave the masses what they wanted in giant shovels. Now with Kaal not quite measuring up to popular expectations, will Shahrukh be tempted to dumb down Paheli a tad to make it acceptable to the masses?
It would be rather sad if that were to happen. With Paheli, Shahrukh Khan is in with a chance of making a breakthrough as a producer. He will do well, not only for himself but for the Mumbai film industry as a whole, to grab the opportunity with both hands. The conundrum will unravel soon enough.
Courtesy: Wide Angle