Chak De India – the “non-message”

I was quite inspired after watching the movie ‘Chak De India‘. A lot of us believed that the movie would inspire a sea-change in how Indian sports audience and the government, related to hockey, our (official) national sport; a lot us believed it would change the recent losing spree of the Indian hockey team; we believed that the movie would inspire relief, from the cricket-frenzy that has always had a strangle-hold on the average Indian mind, and allow some breathing space for other sports, and hopefully some advertisers and some decent prize money for these other ignored sports, specifically hockey.

I was truly inspired by Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘meaningful’ performance, after years (other than, an out-of-the-blue Swades!).

This was followed-up by an unexpected victory of the Indian hockey team at the Asia Cup event in India. Chak De India was making its impact on the Indian psyche and sport – this was the popular sentiment in the media and among the general public.

And then…

Then this happened!

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Shah Rukh Khan was all over the Indian cricket players, hugging, and shaking hands, and almost taking centre-stage, with the players, during their post-victory celebrations.

This after dialogues like ‘hamari hockey mein chhake nahin hote‘ (he was taking a jibe at cricketers). To my mind , the message of the movie Chak De India, was lost, this very moment; dissolved once again in the (rare big-event) cricket victories of a hero-hungry people.

Over the next few days, we saw the players of the winning hockey team go on a hunger strike, irked by the step-motherly treatment meted out to them compared to the bonanza of million dollar surprise post-match surprise prize, land-allocation by government, job offers by nationalised corporations, to the winning cricket team.

Shahrukh Khan once again, in my opinion, proved his shallowness.

Why do I say so? I must be biased!

Yes, I must admit that I have a bias against Sharukh Khan (and for Aamir; the brand of Aamir Khan’s cinema is truly inspiring and meaningful to me). Allow me to explain why.

The kind of impact actors like Shahrukh Khan and his counterparts in Bollywood, can make on the psyche of people of this country through cinema is immense. Add to that the huge fan-following of Hindi movies from Indonesia to Algeria, and you have a perfect opportunity to play the role of some sort of a mentor, a coach, a guide, and a messenger, if you like.

The purpose of cinema, once again in my opinion, must be larger than simply the ‘entertainment factor’. It must be a larger purpose, to communicate a message, some meaning, some inspiration; or maybe simply entertain, relax and humour the audience. Unfortunately, Shahrukh Khan’s movies in the recent years have been nothing more than shallow and hollow romanticism (such romanticism – myth of romantic love – according to a leading psychiatrist, Scott M. Peck, is one of the leading causes of mental-ill health for people around the world, as he argues in his book – ‘The Road Less Travelled‘).

Also, movie stars, tend to be related to like their characters they depict. This is true, not only for India, but around the world. We all know the deep impression Amitabh Bachhan’s extremely down-to-earth, very human and emotional, sacrificing, role in the movie Sholay, has left on the minds of people from Afganistan to Middle East, apart from India. While travelling abroad, it is common to come across people from Iran or Algeria, who start singing ‘Yeh Dosti‘ when you tell them you are from India.

This to my mind is the purpose of cinema.

Shahrukh Khan running out to hug the Indian players immediately after their victory, and these images being flashed all over the television media endlessly, especially after a movie like Chak De India (where more than once he jibes at cricketers) is to my mind, once again reminiscent of a leadership and moral crisis our country faces, a certain loss of message of the movie Chak De India, and overall, a step-backward in the efforts towards revival of Indian hockey.

3 responses

  1. Sorry for the late reply Rahul. I appreciate your concern. But Shahrukh Khan is an out and out commercial actor and has made it very clear that he is there in the film world to make money. He has no qualms about promoting alcohol & cigarettes also. Perhpas it is wrong to expect too much of a social responsibility from him.

    I think the root problem is – celebreties often ignore the fact that they are morally responsible to the very public that has made them a celebrity. They do not realize the tremendous influence they have on the mindset of individuals and the society, and end up acting in such contradictory ways.

  2. Why can’t you appreciate the fabulous entertainment Shahrukh Khan provides on and off screen. The primary responsibility of a movie is to entertain. For the three hours, an indian cine-goer wants to forget all his worldly woes and escape into a dream world. It is not shallow. It is what he seeks. And Shahrukh Khan has invariably delivered. Yes, he may not be an actor par excellence like Aamir Khan but you must appreicate his contribution in bringing cheer and joy in people’s lives.

    I cannot believe that him being on the cricket field is an example of his shallow nature. Just because he acted in a movie that supports hockey does not mean he become the brand ambassador for the sport. I think its very SHALLOW of YOU to think of him in this light. The problem with hockey is hugely disconnected from the movie. The problem is with infrastructure, administration and coaching. And unless you solve these, no Chak De or Shahrukh Khan can save the game. So don’t derive your own interpretations of leadership and moral crisis in our country.

  3. Anuj,

    Thanks very much for taking time to put down your thoughts.

    When I watched Spiderman (Part-I), the key take-home message of the movie was “Power brings greater responsibility “. Unfortunately, the leadership of today – from politicians to movie stars – do not understand this simple and profound concept.

    We are all human beings and get impacted what see our role models and heroes do in our lives. If we see “artificiality”, our children will precipitate the same “artificiality”. Movies impact our subconscious mind, and this has been proven over again, in research.

    Actors, whether you believe it or no, have a huge responsibility in this sense.

    The movies of the from start of cinema in India right upto the 80s, have had huge social messages built in. This has been the primary reason for the unprecedented love and adoration for movies like “Sholay” and actors like “Amitabh” and “Dharmendra”, who had become idols of justice and friendship, from India to Algeria, across religions, ethnicity, cultures and languages.

    Thanks,
    Rahul

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