Dear Shahrukh Khan,
First of all, congratulations!
You have made a movie (Ra.One), which boasts of bad acting, bad script, bad direction, offensive and not-so-funny one-liners, a hare-brained video game and mediocre music which has still managed to fill your coffers quite handsomely.
While the domestic box office collections may not match those of 3 Idiots and Dabangg, thanks to the money earned from dubbed versions, overseas market and all the other umpteen "rights" that Bollywood movies are blessed with nowadays, and no matter what the trade pundits say, you will call Ra.One a blockbuster in the comfort of your bedroom.
While many of your movies split audiences evenly, never has there been such a backlash against one of your movies on social networking sites and the comments section of all articles. While SRK fans are still in good numbers, Ra.One fans look to be in a minority.
You have made hundreds of crores of Rupees on the back of thousands and thousands of unsatisfied viewers.
Then how did all the moolah come in? First there's your very presence and brand name. Then there's Kareena Kapoor's oomph and some spectacular special effect scenes (by Bollywood standards at least). Finally there's that good ole fashioned Bollywood hype. That's about it.
What you are doing is a dangerous thing: You are selling your brand name to the hilt. While in the short run you will make a lot of money, you won't be left with much in the end.
Amitabh Bachchan has already been there and done that. Now you look to be doing the same.
Let me explain. In 1984 at the very top of his game, Amitabh chucked his core competency and jumped into politics. He burnt his fingers badly there and made a comeback with Shahenshah, a mediocre movie which became a big hit solely on the basis of hype.
Amitabh managed a few more hits on the basis of some more hype and past glory and started fading away. But instead of migrating into a more senior role the way Dilip Kumar had done successfully in the 1980s, Amitabh continued to play the angry young man. To make matters worse, he launched a company based on his name, a further sign that he wanted to milk his brand.
When he squeezed his brand name dry like a lemon, he was left with absolutely nothing in the end. Even his association with the Miss World beauty pageant was a disaster. When Mrityudata was released in 1997, one top news magazine wrote his obituary as a cover story. By the end of the 1990s, it all seemed over.
It was only some humility and the abandoning of hype that led to Amitabh's Second Coming. He aged overnight to don a classy salt and pepper beard and agreed to fit into the small idiot box which we call TV. The rest is history.
Amitabh carried the offbeat Baghban on his shoulders in 2003 which also had Khakee. Later he dazzled in Bunty Aur Babli and even shed his precious beard for the brilliance of Paa.
"Stick to your core competency," is such a cliche but is also so true.
You also seem to be embarking on a similar path now.
The 2007 film Om Shanti Om was nothing but a selling of the SRK brand name. It played an SRK type character and in the song Deewangi Deewangi you got almost all of Bollywood to cheer you in both reel and real life.
Then you did some funny things. You did an item song in Krazzy 4 and a guest appearance in Bhoothnath. You then managed to get away in a double role in which a wife doesn't even recognize her own husband in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
You repeated the OSO formula in Billu and fell flat on your face. What Dulha Mil Gaya was about, one is yet to figure out. That's not what superstars do!
My Name is Khan seemed to be a movie tailored for award functions and it succeeded spectacularly there. But, no blockbuster!
But Ra.One really took the cake. The sheer hype, marketing blitz and mediocrity of it all! I think this will be the last time you'll be able to sell such a mediocre product solely with tonnes of hype.
In fact the last time you delivered a sterling acting performance along with a genuine blockbuster was Chak De! India. And that was way back in 2007! Universal acclaim has eluded you for five long years.
Don 2 looks to give you a temporary reprieve. Farhan Akhtar has directed three decent movies and the trailer looks good. So you have assured yourself of a good opening.
But what will you do after that? You can't keep selling your personal brand in reel life after the debacle of Billu. You can't rely on excessive hype alone. You have played that trump card with Ra.One. And please don't try something like Dulha Mil Gaya!
Salman Khan has always stuck to his core competency. Aamir Khan has always innovated. They haven't changed a bit but only built on their strengths.
That's why 3 Idiots and Dabangg are the two biggest blockbusters of the day.
But what you are attempting to do is anybody's guess!
Dear SRK, I don't know where you've been for the last five years, but please come back!
An SRK fan for 20-odd years
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