x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

All hail King Khan

Shah Rukh Khan is coming to Abu Dhabi. It's huge!

The Khan is coming. To Abu Dhabi. Every time I think of it, I experience a silent but thrilling giggle. We are more used to associating Dubai with Bollywood glamour. Amitabh Bachchan was here for the Dubai International Film Festival and will likely visit for the premiere of his latest film, Teen Patti. It is a string of premieres of Bollywood films that bring the film stars to Dubai's shores, but that's Dubai.

Shah Rukh Khan will arrive in the capital for the premiere of his latest film, My Name Is Khan. If you are unaware of who he is, stop now and imagine if George Clooney or Brad Pitt were flying in for the world premiere of their film in Abu Dhabi. It's something like that. But given the size of the population of the expatriates from the subcontinent and their level of obsession with everything Bolly, well, you get the idea. It's huge!

Khan dabbled in theatre during his university days before moving on to a successful career in television. I briefly remember watching him play a commando in a series called Fauji. But I've stuck with him since he played the son of a circus owner in a very successful and unconventional television show from 1988 called Circus. By 1991, he had his first taste of success in Bollywood. He broke the mould in 1993 when he played the anti-hero in the films Darr and Baazigar. With that he defined a moment in Bollywood history (similar to what Bachchan did in the 1970s by playing the angry young man and putting an end to the squeaky clean image of the leading man).

Which is to say, SRK (he is also called King Khan and the Badshah of Bollywood) has a fan base that spans decades. I am sure that mothers have a hard time convincing their children to abandon dreams of going from a penniless artist (which he once was) to a successful actor. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons are his fans. Although he sits atop an empire that includes investments in production and distribution houses and co-ownership of a cricket team, people can still empathise with him. I believe it's called charisma. Or je ne sais quoi. Whatever it is it, rumours abound that he is as genuine as they come. All the trappings of a legitimate star.