Kaveree Bamzai’s book ‘The Three Khans: And the Emergence of New India’ juxtaposes the careers of the three actors with the socio-political shift in the country
Art often responds to social and political dimensions, and in a country short of role models, film stars often play a double role. If Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor reflected Nehruvian socialism in their films, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan emerged as the poster boys of Rajiv Gandhi’s tryst with globalisation. And there has always been a Dev Anand and Salman Khan who have simply relied on mass appeal.
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In her latest book, The Three Khans: And the Emergence of New India (Westland), senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai has juxtaposed the careers of the three Khans, Aamir, Shah Rukh, and Salman, with the most tumultuous times in the history of the republic. It is a tough task but Bamzai has woven a crisp and compelling narrative that keeps you intrigued.
Mythical auraHaving spent time with her subjects as part of her professional career, Bamzai is in a position to reflect on the mythical aura of the troika and separate the men from their cultivated image. She doesn’t seek to find clear answers. Instead, she gives us a sense of the socio-political churn — when ‘Saathi haath badhana’ gave way to ‘Dil maange more’, when secularism became a bad word and communalism was sold as nationalism — and how the three Khans have navigated the terrain.
The book has come out at a time when stardom as a term is facing an existential crisis, with OTT platforms relying more on content than charisma. Interestingly, the three emerged on the scene when new technology was about to choke cinema in India.
Aamir and Juhi in Qayamat se qayamat tak
In the late 80s, when popular Hindi cinema was sinking under the VCR wave, the Khans pulled family audiences back to theatres with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Maine Pyar Kiya, and Deewana. In the era of Hukumat and Tezaab, Aamir Khan announced the arrival of the cute hero. When he sang, ‘Papa kehte hain bada naam karega,’ he sang to a new demographic, which could not identify with the ageing Dharmendra or the raucous Anil Kapoor. For a change, as Bamzai says, the hero was holding the guitar and the heroine made an entry riding a horse. It is Juhi Chawla who checks out Aamir rather than the other way round.