Friday, August 31, 2007

King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan

King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema

By Anupama Chopra
222 pages

When you are the biggest super star in a country of some billion people that makes you by default one of the biggest stars in the world and Shahrukh Khan is most certainly that on every level. He has ruled Bollywood for over a decade and his enormous charm, high visibility and acerbic wit have created a bigger than life personality that goes well beyond his screen persona. This biography from Anupama Chopra is a terrific read as she unveils various layers of his life and details his steps to stardom. It often reads like a Bollywood movie in which the hero overcomes all the obstacles in his path to become successful and to win the girl of his heart. To a large degree this describes Shahrukh’s life as he grew up a lower middle class Muslim with no connections to the film industry and brazenly inched his way towards stardom and married his Hindi girlfriend against the wishes of her family.

What I found most fascinating in the book were the pages devoted to his life pre-stardom. His family came from Peshawar (now part of Pakistan) and his father and uncles were involved in the Independence movement in the 1940’s but were part of a Muslim group that did not want the Muslims to break off from India. When events became perilous the uncles sent Shahrukh’s father Meer to New Delhi to study and to keep him out of harm’s way. After Partition the family was put on a blacklist in Pakistan because of their political sentiments and Meer was not allowed to return to Pakistan to visit family for decades. Meer graduated from university but never made much of his life on a professional level. He married Fatima in 1959 and in 1965 Shahrukh was born. Shahrukh grew up on the cusp of poverty – his father always barely keeping their heads above water and his mother pitching in. Early on he became a Bollywood fan and in particular like so many others at the time worshipped Amitabh Bachchan.

His father died when Shahrukh was a teenager and he was devastated by it. He began joining school theatrical productions – acting in plays like Annie Get Your Gun and The Wiz. He quickly became known for his dramatic and flamboyant acting style. In 1984 he met Gauri Chibba, four years younger than himself and a Hindi from a good family. They dated secretly for years because her family would never approve of this relationship from both a religious and a class perspective. After graduating from school Shahrukh was able to get some work in TV and had some success with a series called Fauji in which he played an army academy cadet. The show aired in 1989. His TV career continued and he moved to Mumbai to foster it. His mother Fatima who had encouraged him so much to pursue acting died in 1991 and never saw him become a star. He married his sweetheart that same year. And began his film career.

Around the events in Shahrukh’s life, the author places it all in context to what is happening in both the film industry as well as in the country. The one criticism that could be leveled at the book is that it goes very easy on Shahrukh and is generally very uncritical of him. That may not be too surprising since the author is a friend of his as well as an insider in the industry and did not likely want to get on his bad side. She does allude a few times to his darker side – his fiery temper, his enormous ego, rumors of his homosexuality and his ability to hold a grudge for a long long time. One story of him harassing a reporter is priceless. Still, Shahrukh is clearly a hero in her eyes and that is the way he is portrayed in the book – a man who through sheer determination, a sense of fate and great confidence rose from humble origins in Delhi to conquer Bollywood and it is quite a tale.

Pictures from the Book – SRK’s grandfather, father, mother and sister

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back to Posting a bit

It’s been a while since I last posted but there is a better excuse than usual. Along with a friend I took off for Southern China for eight days and then in Hong Kong for three days. This was my first real sojourn into China and was just a small exploratory trip to get a sense of how easy it was to get around the country. Very easy as it turns out. As is my usual style I had no plan and no reservations – just a back of the seat visit – get there and see what happens. So we spent eight days roaming around various small cities in China – finding out how to get from one place to another, looking for cheap accommodations to sleep in and cheaper restaurants to eat in. It was a great time – the Chinese people were extraordinarily friendly and polite and though we rarely came across anyone who spoke English we always managed to communicate with them. It is definitely a place I will need to get back to many times.

Then there is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is always great and ready to greet you with an insolent stare. Walking around is always the best part of Hong Kong to me – working your way through the crowds of teeming people and the hot sweaty humidity. On nearly every street corner and in all the MTA stations, familiar faces peer down at you and urge you to consume something. Karen Mok is everywhere telling us to simply shop Hong Kong. The Twins look up from a quick bite at McDonalds. Aaron Kwok shows us he has been working hard on his abs. Here is a sampling of some of these ads – one, two.

Another stop for me is always the photo shop that I have spoken of before. I had promised Eliza that I would pick up more of Tony and that I did as well as of many others – but even after perusing through his pictures for some four hours I barely made a dent. Just so people don’t think I am exaggerating about this store, here are some photos of it. Btw – my friend YTSL interviewed the gentleman who owns the store and it will appear in BC Magazine very soon. YTSL also was kind enough to take me to eat in the restaurant from In the Mood for Love. She ate steak as did Maggie and Tony – I went for the beef curry.

And then there are of course movies. There was not much playing from Hong Kong at the time, but two of them were fairly prestigious ones. One was a disappointment – Blood Brothers – but the other Flash Point was a complete action blast – best thing from Donnie ever. I will write a bit more about them within the next day or two, but Flash Point is not only great fun it is a cure for dizziness I discovered. I occasionally suffer from these periods of disequilibrium when I think the fluids in my ears shift and this one had lasted for a few weeks and often had me sometimes holding on to street posts to steady myself. But I haven’t had a dizzy spell since I saw the film. It’s a miracle! Saint Donny.
I also made my usual visit to the Kubrick Bookstore and picked up a few new books on HK film. I was surprised to see 2 new ones from Stephen Teo who wrote one of the more scholarly histories of HK film a few years back. One was a book on King Hu's A Touch of Zen and the other on the action films of Johnny To - both of which I am really looking forward to - but most exciting of all is a book I picked up in another bookstore - a biography of Shilpa Shetty! Why the world needs a biography of this B Bollywood actress who made it big on the UK reality show Big Brother I don't know but I can't wait to read it!

Friday, August 17, 2007

You know you are in Thailand

when two films at the multiplex center on transvestites and this isn't even including Hairspray which is also showing here. As far as I know Thailand is the only film industry around that has a genre around this subject and every year there seems to be a number of these that surface and do reasonably well at the box office. I am not quite sure the reason why though there is a rather large and very visable population of transvestites/transexuals all over Bangkok. The two films are Kungfu Tootsie and The Odd Couple. The latter stars Mok Jokmok as a transvestite helping out a Japanese cop find a serial killer. It has to be extremely politically incorrect and funny I would bet. Unfortunately, I got wacked by the flu almost as soon as I touched ground here and have spent much of the last week dosing myself with various medications and getting loads of sleep.

In the meantime, here are some pages of old Thai film posters. The book I scanned them from was all in Thai so I am not even sure what years they are from but I would guess the 60's and 70's due to the style. Like the Japanese and Korean film posters from that time they are hand drawn and full of detail.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Quick Note

Like a goose going north, my migratory DNA is calling me back to Asia. I will be off tomorrow and I expect to be met by a brass band when I land. I will be hitting the usual suspects - Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau but am also planning to be in Korea for the Pusan Film Festival in October. Come on by and we can have a drink. Other than that, not a thing planned out except some good meals. With strong wings prevailing I hope to be back in NYC by the end of November. But in the meantime, I will be seeing a few new films and some old ones and blogging on them. My Esther Williams DVD collection is packed and I know that will excite many of you! Asia beckons like a seductive siren.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back by Popular Demand!

I am doing little but puttering around to get ready for my next sojourn to Asia - looking for spare change behind my cushions and trying to decide which DVDs to take along. So nothing new to report and unfortunately my assistant has been playing computer games all day long rather than taking dictation for my next blog entry. It is hard to get good help, but I think I have someone very capable lined up.

But who cares because Kaiju Shakedown is back on line! My Subway Cinema colleague Grady Hendrix couldn't say no to the global and growing demand to bring his blog back. It is in a different location than before so change your bookmarks. It is now associated with Variety Asia and can be found here. Good to have him back.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Queen of Japanese Movie

I came across this photo book in a Japanese bookstore here in NYC and immediately plunked down $40 to get it. Though it appears to only be distributed through Japanese retailers and for a Japanese audience, it happily has some of the text in both Japanese and English. It also has a CD with some of the instrumentals of the films that it covers.

At the onset of the 1970's Japanese film began going through an interesting and exploratory discovery of strong sexual themes and graphic imagery - what is termed the "pinku" films. Some of the exploitation aspects of these films also seeped over into the more traditional film genres such as the samurai and yakuza films. Into this quickly changing environment a new genre of sorts sprung up - the youthful female gang film that wove together a lethal concoction of hip violence, pop music, sexual situations, in your face attitudes, mod fashions and some of the lovelier Japanese actresses in the business. The success of this genre only lasted a few years but in that time they produced some memorable films and images.

This book covers some of the more famous ones with a series of posters and lobby cards on each. And for many of the films they provide the cast and crew in English as well as a short summary of the film (not always easy to understand admittedly). The book is 156 pages in length and crammed with photos. And if you know me at all, you know I have to share some of them with you! A number of the photos in the book have female nudity as this was a big selling point of the films - and I debated whether to include any of these and finally thought it best not to. But here are a bunch of the less sexual ones.

The films covered are:

The Stray Cat Rock series produced by Nikkatsu

Girls Junior High School series produced by Nikkatsu

Bad Girl Mako produced by Nikkatsu

The Girl Boss series produced by Toei

The Terrifying Girl's High School series produced by Toei

Sex and Fury produced by Toei

Female Yakuza Tale produced by Toei

Criminal Women Killing Melody produced by Toei

Zero Woman Red Handcuffs produced by Toei

Some of these films are available through U.S. distribution though I have heard rumors that one of the main distributors of these in the States is going out of buisness.

The ISBN number is 4-401-75110-8

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Yes - more pictures

I am honestly just not in the mood to watch films of any kind and definitely not in the mood to write reviews - so the picture onslaught continues for a while longer. Today the big guns - both figuratively and literally!

Stephen Chow where art though?

Just when I think I have run out of Brigitte Lin pictures a few more pop up!

Chow Yun Fat when he ruled the world.

Talking about big guns - Diana Pang Dan

And bigger guns - Amy Yip

and a few more of the Yipster but these come with a warning of a sexual nature. A friend either lent or gave me a pictorial book of Sex and Zen - I am not sure which - perhaps his wife asked him to get rid of it but in either case I thank him. Though these pictures are less explicit than many scenes that took place in the film as Amy was the master (or is that the mistress?) of never quite revealing her points, I don't want anyone trying some of these scenes at home and hurting a groin muscle. Picts.