Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh- What the actor means to Indian women!
In 2022 I picked like three books. I know, not a good number. But the last book that I picked in 2022, changed everything for me. Probably the best book I have read in a really long time, with so much enthusiasm. It is this book that I want to talk to you about today; Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh Khan- India’s lonely young women and their search for intimacy and independence.
Using Shah Rukh Khan to resonate with Indian women’s struggle to survive in a normal society? I knew I had to read it at any cost. Long back, when I was a kid and the Khans ruled the tinsel town, I remember my mother telling me casually; “Aamir Khan is not that great a guy you know! Woh toh apna Shah Rukh khan. Such a humble family guy.” She wasn’t a big fan of his, nor had she watched a lot of his films. But it stuck with me, why does she think so about him? Only later, as I grew up was I able to see what she meant.
I come from a generation that did not witness his rise, but rather saw him as the King Khan he is, right from the beginning. The way he responds to controversial statements, his wits, and his charms, has created a special admiration for the person he is. Many, including me, love him, adore him, and respect him. The huge crowd in front of his house on his birthday tells us a lot about his magnificent aura that transcends stardom. Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh by Shrayana Bhattacharya decodes this uncanny love we have for our beloved star and uses it to dig deep into the lives of millions of Indian women.
The book starts off with his rise from a 25-year-old middle-class boy to the star he is today. The author calls him “the middle-class dream” and I could not agree more. I think it started from there, him giving us hope that we too can do great things, and make the life we want. In the later chapters, the author talks about how he has inspired a lot of Indian women, comforted them in their worst, and made them fall in love. May it be the loveable rascal Raj from DDLJ or Dr.Jehangir Khan from Dear Zindagi, there’s a sense of vulnerability in the way he plays his characters. These women, who are from different backgrounds, fight societal pressures, claiming their self-respect and position by fighting in their own ways. These women are connected with their shared love for the king of romance. What makes their stories so relatable is the astute detail with which their problems and struggles have been told. The psychological discomfort that the casual benevolent sexism these Indian women are subjected to every day, without having any power over their achievements or even over their self-made me a little uncomfortable after a point. To be honest, I do identify myself as one of these women, and so would many who have read this book. The author puts on her economist’s hat to present us with data and analytics that support a lot of her claims on female labor statistics and unpaid taxes, giving the struggle more visibility.
The book quotes; ” Aamir teaches us, Salman protects women, and Shah Rukh sees us“. I guess that’s the best way possible to define how Indian women see Shah Rukh.
The author also decodes various SRK movies from the 90s to the early 2000s to understand their impact on our society and women in particular. She translates how many women found his movies liberating as we never had a vulnerable hero who spoke nicely to the women in his life before!
The book only reaffirmed my love for SRK, in fact, it heightened it. It also showed me how I should be picking up a book to read; something that really interests me so that I don’t have to impose reading on myself.