The onetime Shah seems to be in the mood to abdicate.
Most people just buy a Ferrari. Shah Rukh Khan is now 45, and according to Western cliché, this is the right time for him to pick up a scarlet supercar and buy his lovely wife a bottle of peroxide. Yet Khan has always bucked tradition and gone about blazing his own trail, and so it is that he tackles even his mid-life crisis with both the zeal and the body of a younger man.
The result, however, is the same as felt by those witnessing the typical paunchy gent with convertible-mauled hair and the blonde on his arm: absolute embarrassment.
His hair dyed to an inky tackiness, Khan now stands before us on a nightly basis and demeans himself in a way his archenemies never could. He’s crass, humourless, hyper-energetic and just plain unnecessary, and — while any or all of those adjectives could perhaps be considered par for the course in gameshow-host country — Khan plumbs unfathomably low depths as he descends into hardcore vulgarity.
It is distasteful to list the obscenities doled out by this new, nightmarish SRK on a nightly basis — and not once will I recommend even a half-minute’s viewing of the programme so you can find out yourself — but the man is mouthing lines that would make Rakhi Sawant wince and Shakti Kapoor think twice. It isn’t innuendo if there’s only one possible meaning, and watching Khan make groin-puns and obsess over gigantic balls is simply shameful. Do not allow your children to watch this.
Beyond being bereft of excuse, this bawdy behaviour is simply inexplicable. Why, Shah Rukh, why? Disheartened loyalists will point to the alleged Rs 2.5 crores he’s making per episode, but while that may well be reason enough to prostrate himself on the show, it doesn’t explain away the tone, the locker-room language and the sleaze Khan pours over it all.
When Akshay Kumar dons a chef’s hat or Priyanka Chopra scissors her shorts to the size of a belt, they still have last call on what they say and how they say it. They are the Talent, and they can and do dictate the direction the show takes. If you think Khan is being forced to say what he is, you have another think coming. More alarmingly, in fact, he seems to actually be enjoying himself, showing off an obscene alter ego we were never aware of.
Lasciviousness aside, his presence seems completely extraneous to the production. Contestants fall off slides and trampolines in Argentina, while he commentates in a Mumbai studio. It is somewhat like what Jaaved Jaffery did with the ingeniously dubbed Japanese smash hit Takeshi’s Castle, except Khan is much worse at it. His once rapier-sharp wit couldn’t cut open an envelope now, and he revels in accent stereotypes and crude gags. Why the biggest movie star in the world is needed to do this show is anybody’s guess.
And yet he persists. Abhishek Bachchan was his guest a few nights ago, and as he insisted on the younger actor doing a pelvic thrust just like he himself does every time he takes the show’s name — Zor Ka Jhatka — it seemed like even Bachchan was having trouble not feeling sorry for Khan. For we have all seen him soar, and it hurts to watch him scuttle.
Sunday night, as the preposterous Filmfare Award telecast came to a merciful end, Khan and Madhuri Dixit were the finale. They were perfect together, and as Khan held Dixit tight, the camera leapt close into his face, as if drawn there inexorably. His eyes aflame with an animal intensity, his lips pre-pucker tight, his nose aquiver with passion: all you need to do is smoulder, Mr Khan, because nobody does it better.
And if you really must act out, buy that Ferrari.
First published Mumbai Mirror, February 9, 2011