Author Shrayana Bhattacharya On Shah Rukh Khan: SRK Is A Female Icon But Not A Feminist Icon


Shrayana Bhattacharya’s debut as a author was one for the data, her e-book ‘Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh’ broke all data however greater than that resonated with ladies throughout the nation who’re making an attempt to carry on to somebody who isn’t just an actor or a public determine however somebody who has many occasions acted a beacon of sunshine within the lives of those ladies. 

There is an simple allure that Shah Rukh has in him, a allure that also lights up any room that he walks into, any display that he’s proven on. The e-book which simply accomplished a 12 months of its publication shouldn’t be an autobiography of the phenomenon that’s SRK however is a saga of a number of Indian ladies who’re his followers. 

Excerpts from the interview-

When and the way did you assume that you can use Shah Rukh as a parameter to analyse the lives of Indian ladies?

Shreeja, if any person had stated to me 15 years in the past as a result of this e-book is predicated on 15 years of analysis, that I might write a narrative about ladies within the Indian financial system via the lens of SHA Rohan, I’d roll my eyes and say get out of right here. That’s unattainable. But seems that’s exactly what I did. What occurred was in 2006, I used to be in my early 20s, I used to be despatched to a low-income neighbourhood in Ahmedabad known as Bapu Nagar the place we had been doing surveys on ladies who had been, , the a part of the precariat making incense sticks or however these and garment employees at dwelling, incomes a couple of quarter of minimal wage, and my job was to take a really typical economist questionnaire and ask folks about their wages working situations.

This was researched as half of a big consortium of advocacy for ladies within the casual financial system led by ‘Seva’. And after I confirmed up, all these ladies seemed extremely bored after I began asking them these questions as a result of they instructed me they’d met ladies like me with kohl of their eyes and sporting khadi kurtas, and I realised I wanted to do one thing totally different.

So in analysis, they educate you to make use of icebreakers, proper, so I began asking all these ladies who their favorite actor was, and lo and behold, in all places I went, for these analysis tasks on ladies in our precariat, from, , the slums of Ahmedabad to the forests of Jharkhand, to the villages of with their predations you see within the e-book, in all places I met these ladies, very like me, who had been completely pretty Shah Rukh Khan and I realised as soon as I began to ask these ladies about why they appreciated Mr. Khan, or how they watched Him or how they interacted together with his iconography, abruptly, these had been actually highly effective tales in regards to the financial system, as a result of all these ladies began telling me about how they didn’t have sufficient time.

So as we all know, ladies are time-poor in India, I describe the time poverty of girls, they don’t have sufficient time for leisure or enjoyable. They didn’t have impartial earnings, or buying energy to only watch their favorite actor. And I realised this as I made a decision to only proceed following a subset of those ladies for greater than a decade. And that really was a really stunning approach for ladies to speak about males’s cash markets, and marriage, with out it being this very conventional stuffy social science method. And so the e-book is what it’s. It’s very a lot a e-book of economics, as I believe you talked about, however Mr. Khan is my analysis technique.

It’s been so a few years since SRK stepped into the limelight. What do you assume actually labored for him?

Oh, I can inform you that just about everybody I’ve interviewed and I’ve interviewed so a lot of his followers. I imply, those featured within the e-book, but in addition simply followers who present up exterior Mannat. I used to go yearly for the massive birthday celebration. I described this on the finish of the e-book as a result of I used to be interested by , who’s standing exterior, and why are they standing exterior. And there are literally very stunning, compelling tales as a result of lots of the folks standing there aren’t notably nicely off. You know, it prices cash to be there. And but they love this actor a lot. And I can inform you, all of them are obsessive about the concept of what’s coming in 2023 and I’m tremendous excited. I’ve been watching trailers.

I imply, as for what works for him, I believe there’s a lot that’s been stated about his icon, I really feel actually, and I say this within the e-book, he’s the most effective one that tells the story about his icon. I imply, he’s simply one among our most, , articulate celebrities. I believe it simply modified the way in which superstar tradition labored in India. But one of many issues that actually I decide up within the e-book is that, notably for ladies, given such a deeply patriarchal society, so many ladies who continually really feel second-guessed about their ambitions about how liked they’re, ladies are continually instructed that it’s worthwhile to behave in a sure solution to a patriarchal line, proper?

Be a very good girl, then you’ll be liked, proper it’s worthwhile to it’s worthwhile to soar via all these social hoops to earn love, as I described within the e-book, , males earn cash, and girls love that type of the division of labour in our society. And so after they see this actor who’s whose icon is nothing however love, , the vast open arms, it’s truly a unusually deep psychological reduction for lots of girls, we’re coping with loads of constraints, , of their entry to public house, feeling unsafe, this type of surveillance on ladies’s our bodies.

So I believe the love within the iconography that he represents, that actually appears to hook up with ladies who really feel very unloved and insecure of their on a regular basis lives. And I described this within the e-book that as actual life disappoints, , his icon simply grows bigger and bigger.

So I believe that’s one thing that’s actually essential. And the opposite factor is, he very a lot represents a narrative in regards to the financial system and social mobility. And if you see this within the e-book, so lots of the ladies and men will say to me, that, , he made it with out community wealth, proper, in an business that’s thought-about to be a really insider membership business. And he very a lot represents the story of India’s financial growth, proper? He’s a primary post-liberalisation celebrity.

In the 15 years of your analysis work, you’ve come throughout individuals who don’t actually admire him that a lot so what are their opinions like and what are their complaints?

So firstly, I’ve little or no persistence for individuals who don’t like him very a lot. So I’m tremendously biased, as I’m very clear about it. But I’ll inform you what, and also you see this in, , the chapters are many of those type of low-income ladies and middle-class ladies and even, actually, the elite higher caste ladies within the e-book, which is that wherever there’s a Shah Rukh fan, usually there’s a father, brother mom, who’s feeling a bit uncomfortable about why this younger woman is so obsessive about this actor. And I believe a part of it’s many males I interacted with would say, , he actually does deviate from a really stoic masculine trope, proper? He has a really totally different masculinity than what existed up to now and I believe he actually broke the mould.

Anupama Chopra, the great movie critic, , who was interviewed in my e-book stated to me, it’s the primary time we’ve ever seen an actor, increase a helicopter and but, , minimize greens within the kitchen. And I believe it’s a really totally different masculinity, which some ladies I imply, loads of ladies appear to seek out deeply interesting.

And but there are some males, particularly, I discover who is maybe socialised in believing on this approach. And then you may have the same old, , the extra westernised elites who will say, nicely, it’s a foolish Bollywood movie. And , one of many hopes I’ve Shreeja is that, I believe, even for individuals who dismiss Hindi cinema and in style tradition, I believe you realise what a powerful function it performs as language as launch proper as enjoyable and pleasure within the lives of individuals whose lives are so harsh, day-after-day, and I hope that individuals who even dismiss Mr. Khan’s icon for being sloppy and excessively romantic and no matter, , no matter realm they need to type of come from, they learn the e-book they usually realise that really, it’s enjoying an important emotional operate for lots of girls on the market.

Over repeatedly, you’ve spoken about how Shah Rukh has actually ruined the romantic emotions {that a} girl has, ought to have, and the way he redefined masculinity. So can we speak a bit of about that?

Yeah. I imply, , there was an exquisite story. It was within the information, I believe, just a few years in the past a couple of younger girl who stated that Shahrukh had romantically ruined her as a result of she felt like she at all times wished a sure form of very Yash Raj movies, , a Karan Johar movie proposal. And what’s fascinating about that, although, is ultimately she proposed to her boyfriend.

I imply, that is, , the story is, I believe on the market for anybody to see. And she adopted the function of Shahrukh and she or he serenaded her companion and suggest marriage to him or no matter else. And so it’s attention-grabbing that I believe whereas loads of these younger ladies have seen him and he’s actually modified the way in which the trope of the male hero, proper, what he appears to be like like and the way he behaves. What’s fascinating is I at all times say this within the e-book, so many of those ladies, they don’t need to marry Shahrukh. They need to be him. They need his confidence, his financial gumption. They need to have the ability to love as unabashedly as his characters do. Right. And I believe that’s a that’s very attention-grabbing as I noticed that via the e-book, however the different motive, I believe, , he appears to have actually impacted everybody’s romantic expectations, not less than the elite the ladies and middle-class ladies I converse to, I do assume ladies from the precariat engaged as a result of iconography very in another way, however for the elite and middle-class ladies, I believe it’s very a lot the truth that this was a person in his movies, who was continually listening to ladies.

So I might continually hear from ladies that, , have you ever seen how he talks to the mom and the girlfriend as a approach, , and there’s a approach these characters have interaction with ladies’s emotions. They acknowledge ladies’s emotions, they have interaction with their wants. The incontrovertible fact that , I measured, for instance, it’s there within the e-book, how a lot ladies converse in his movies relative to ladies talking in different huge hits of Hindi cinema with different actors.

And unsurprisingly, statistically talking, as nicely, ladies simply converse way more. So his movies have extra space for ladies’s phrases, and their emotions and I believe as a consequence, so many younger ladies noticed that imagery and thought I ought to I deserve that, proper? Like, I deserve a person who will take my wants and my have to relaxation my want to specific myself way more critically. And I believe that’s, ,  it’s type of elevated a sure form of expectation.

And I believe that’s actually had an impression on what ladies count on on this type of, , legendary ideally suited man. But I do need to say that I believe within the e-book if there’s one factor I need the reader to understand is all these ladies, it’s not like we now have some foolish crush on a star. I believe they’re all searching for males who will have interaction and reciprocate home labour, and emotional labour and help ladies’s ambitions. And I believe they see that in him.

Since we’re at it, I actually should ask you, when did your tryst with Shahrukh actually start? How far do you go?

I’m a really typical city Indian fan, which is I believe, , I describe myself as , I’m born within the early Nineteen Eighties. We had been the primary era of girls who claimed Mr. Khan as a result of he was our celebrity he got here onto the scene after I was a teen and, and I watched him in ‘Baazigar’, which in all probability is the worst type of his to start out with, as a result of , he’s actively harming ladies and stalking them. And there’s all types of, , horrible gender behaviour happening, which one has to type of acknowledge? And and I believe this connects again to your earlier query about what some folks say after they don’t like him, I believe many individuals clearly discuss a number of the gender scripts in his in his movies. And I do encourage folks to only learn the e-book to see how totally different ladies type of see these scripts considerably in another way. It’s attention-grabbing. So I at all times say he’s a feminine icon, however not a feminist icon exactly due to this, proper? So watching these movies, or very younger age might not have been the most effective concept. But I believe it was round then. But I need to confess reader, and I believe it is a very once more, that is the place I’m very typical.

So many English talking followers would inform me, they love him due to his interviews, and I’m no totally different. You know, he was one of many first superstars who got here onto the scene and was so accessible to us via so many interviews. And once more, it goes again to financial reform, as a result of he got here on at a time when abruptly satellite tv for pc televisions due to adjustments in regulation simply began to proliferate, proper? Channels like yours. And, and what, what that meant was that I might come again dwelling and change on the TV, they usually wouldn’t be essentially displaying a tune of yours, however an interview of his, and he felt very intimate to us, as a result of he would discuss his financial struggles, his private struggles, his personal anxieties he simply opened up and he has such an exquisite facility with interacting with the media, proper. And so to me, truly, I truly do assume that the tryst with him actually, I believe my fandom very a lot began not solely with the movies, however will all these interactions that one noticed, proper, like outdated interviews. So there’s that. But I believe from the 15 years of analysis, my fandom for him has been burnished in a approach due to the way in which I’ve seen different ladies who’ve very totally different from me, don’t come from my privilege come from very totally different backgrounds, seeing the way in which they work together with him. And do you see him proper and what he means to them? I believe I believe my love for him and I appreciation for him has simply grown a lot, way more, simply via the method of the analysis as nicely.

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