A remake suggestion for The Man Who Looked Good As King
I watched Michel Hazanivicius’s The Artist twice last weekend, and while immediately, irrevocably besotted by that beautifully crafted love letter to cinema — and the obvious frontrunner at all this year’s award ceremonies — I wasn’t entirely content with the leading man. Stellar as Jean Dujardin was in the role of a silent movie icon made redundant by talking pictures, I merely posit that Shah Rukh Khan would have done it better.
Check your blasphemed faces in at the door, I’m dead serious while hereby suggesting that most loathed and abused of cinematic pitches, a remake. Not merely because of my mad conviction in Khan’s ability to own the role, but because I believe The Artist, the most universally appealing picture in decades, should be watched by as many people as possible. And if it takes a frame-by-frame remake to feed it to more pairs of eyes, well then so be it.
The Artist is an exquisite film about a Hollywood star’s sudden fall from grace caused purely by technological evolution, and also a film made special by its inspired, brilliant decision to use that very prehistoric silent format to tell its story. It is a black and white masterwork that very occasionally — and with great grace — changes cinematic idioms, and always does so to highlight the timelessness and romance of the movies. It is also a romance, and while touching and sentimental, emerges as headily joyful as films get. (Go on Karan, buy those rights.)
Why Shah Rukh Khan, though? Primarily because of his obvious predilection as a performer, that to self-consciously preen on camera as he sucks in everything and everyone around him, like an overconfidently charismatic black hole. And then there is the way he often asserts this rival-swallowing screen presence by “mugging it up for the cameras,” as The Artist‘s heroine puts it. The film needs a man capable of overcheeky eyebrow-arching and theatrical pouting, a man with a demonstratively muscular sneer and a cheshire smile, a man at home with hysterical adulation and one who genuinely believes in his entitlement to a perpetual spotlight. It needs a man who will forever be bigger than any superhero movie he may try to make.
And yet it needs a man who can switch ‘it’ off — as soon as the cameras stop rolling. A man who can guffaw at how droll it all is, a man clever enough to laugh off both his follies and his fantastical success, and a man able to sell us all a romance simply by spreading his arms just wide enough.
We know the obvious Shah Rukh — in those hits we’ve all quoted from, sometimes ironically, sometimes despite ourselves — and we’ve seen the subtler Khan — perhaps not often enough on screen — and The Artist would be the right vehicle to let him fly unfettered, as the larger than life icon, as well as showcase the nuances he plays better than any other of our leading men: longing, intelligence, wistfulness, smugness, obsession, narcissism, heartbreak.
And when it comes to taking a bow and soaking up the applause, nobody does it better.
First published Mumbai Mirror, February 1, 2012