Over the last decade Shah Rukh Khan has done his best to be the next Big B in the honeycomb called Bollywood. He isn’t the first to try to emulate the man. Even Rajnikant has yearned for and failed to achieve this dream. So what makes Amitabh tick?
The stories that live longest with us are the stories of the David defeating the Goliath. From the Odyssey, to the Ramayan and Mahabharat, the oldest and most successful stories pit a common man against a force infinitely stronger than him. Then when everything seems lost and the hero is lying defeated in the mud, the audience wills him on. Then seemingly on nothing but the collective will of his audience the hero rises. Not only does he rise, but he seems more than the sum of the parts. He can perform superhuman feats. Through all this the audience cheers him on.
From Zanjeer to Agneepath, Amitabh built on this persona of a common man taking on a system that was greater than him. And when all seemed lost, he rose and defeated the system with nothing more than the collective will of his audience. They wanted him to win. More importantly, they wanted the system to lose. Salim-Javed tapped into this and wrote story after story where they pitted Vijay against the biggest villains they could find – corrupt politicians, underworld dons, and strict fathers of beautiful girls.
To put the icing on the cake, his life mirrored this persona. As legend goes, All India Radio refused him a newsreaders position because his voice wasn’t good. THAT VOICE? WASN’T GOOD? The audience listens to Amitabh roll of one more monologue in the way only he can, and wonders how could anyone say that voice isn’t good? It seemed only right, that the AIR reject went on to become a phenomenon. Then came the near bankruptcy at the end of a career spent being India’s number 1 star. How could that happen? How could Amitabh Bachchan be broke? But like Vijay, he returned. Through hosting Kaun Banega Crorepati and doing movies like Mohabattein, the King of Bollywood was back. He reeled of hit after hit and once again showed us that the common man could win against all odds.
To his credit, Shah Rukh Khan had the credentials. He came into our homes through the television. India loved the imp in Fauji and the lonely boy trying to save a circus. His move to Bollywood continued the fairy tale. But then somewhere along the way he lost the script. He seems to have forgotten that India roots for the underdog. But he treated the country to movie after movie where he was smart and cool from scene 1, leaving his audience empty.
He is not the first person to make this mistake. Rajnikant, another star with the capability and salability to become the next Big B, fell short too. The reason, his fans wouldn’t allow him to be beaten on screen. In effect, they killed their hero who needed to be larger than life from the first frame rather than grow to that size through the movie. There was no where for the story to go.
Mohanlal faces the same problem in Kerala.
Today’s generation are so preoccupied by their image that they will not fall to the floor for a single scene in the movie. Thereby not giving the story a chance. But the few times they do, the movie is a huge hit. A good example being Wanted. A silly action film that went on to make as much money as Three Idiots.
All the audience is asking for is a good yarn.