How SRK became India’s biggest superstar despite being a Muslim

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As we celebrate 30 years in Bollywood, there aren’t enough words of admiration to explain King Khan’s impact

CARACHI:

It’s a Sunday afternoon in 2003. You open your jewelry box, take out your CD and put it in the DVD player. After skipping the title sequence, you finally see the one man who rules your heart, reigning over the throne of Bollywood in all his glory, self-deprecating humor and sharp wit, the one and only “Bollywood ka Baadshah”, Shah Rukh Khan.

As the film begins, your eyes are fixed on the screen, too thrilled to look away for even a second. Here’s your hero with his fun, cheeky humor ready to take on the world with a heavy dose of positivity.

Fatherly instincts: Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan revealed he was very protective of his daughter during an appearance on Koffee with Karan. PHOTO: FILE

As the story develops, he falls in love, wooing the girl of his dreams with his charms but mostly with the kind of respect and effort you don’t see very often in real life. An idol for men and a beacon of hope for women, Shah Rukh has won a place in the hearts of an estimated 3.5 billion people.

love for his country

However, being a Muslim in India, Shah Rukh has had to deal with his fair share of Islamophobia despite being loved by so many. He constantly had to prove his patriotism for his country and in the TV show Aap Ki Adalat he said: “Sometimes I feel very sad, I even want to cry, let them tell me that I belong to this country, I am a patriot. I’m a patriot, rather we all are. We don’t have to compete with others to say we are patriots.”

Shah Rukh is filming for Imtiaz Ali's next film.  PHOTO: AFP

Shah Rukh is filming for Imtiaz Ali’s next film. PHOTO: AFP He went on to explain the constant reassurance he has to provide regarding his patriotism: “Sometimes I am very sad when I am supposed to explain every time how good a patriot I am. I will tell all young people to be tolerant, be happy, work hard and move this nation forward. Small and petty matters should not harm the interest of our nation. We should just move forward with positivity because we live in the greatest country in the world. We are one of the safest and most beautiful nations in the world. We must not lock ourselves into small obscurantist problems. He ended by confirming: “I want to say for the last time, I will not repeat it again, that there is no greater patriot than me in this country”.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.  PHOTO: MASALA.COM

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. PHOTO: MASALA.COM

It may be his religion that has made people question his devotion to his country, but although he has proven himself many times over, he still faces an Islamophobic backlash which is used as an excuse for knock him down. When asked during his CNN interview if he thinks his performances serve to bridge the gap between Muslims and Hindus, he said, “I don’t think being a Muslim has ever been a criteria for me to become a star or not to be a star. It was never a prerequisite or an anti-thing. I’d like to believe that it would devalue my work in my own eyes if I thought I did well because I’m a Muslim or that it would be equally wrong that I didn’t do it because I’m a Muslim.

He continues, “I never really thought I was bridging the gap between Muslim understandings, but I think I represent a young and educated India. And when I say Indian, it could be Muslim Christian Sikh or Hindu. I am very proud to be alive in this phase of India.”

Islamophobia

The Hindu extremist organization claims the Bollywood megastar should have returned after being arrested by US immigration.

The Hindu extremist organization claims the Bollywood megastar should have returned after being arrested by US immigration. Unlike other celebrities, controversies with Shah Rukh have usually been more of an attack on his character than a mistake on his part. One such recent attack took place during Lata Mangeshkar’s funeral which Shah Rukh attended to pay his respects. After offering the singer a dua, Shah Rukh breathed on her, a gesture performed by most Muslims as a devout practice.

Social media users were quick to point fingers, saying the actor spat on the late singer’s body and received immense backlash until fans came to his support. This was just one of many cases where people tried to “cancel” him because of his religion. Previously, Shah Rukh was also detained for two hours at the United States airport for terrorism screening. Now that was quite a debacle given that Shah Rukh had arrived on a private jet with his wife and daughter, but despite being a household name he spent two hours in police custody undergoing a process of selection. Fans began protesting the act as an act of Islamophobia because the actor was a Muslim named “Khan” and although he arrived on a private jet, his identity was still in question.

However, one of the biggest life-altering attacks of Islamophobia was perpetrated very recently by the arrest of his son, Aryan Khan. Aryan was arrested and charged with drug use during a drug bust on a cruise. Although no evidence of drugs was found on Aryan, he was kept behind bars. The NCB also objected to his bail request on the grounds that his WhatsApp chats were evident of drug use and possibly even selling. He was kept in jail for three weeks and NCB only recently removed his name from the indictment. Several celebrities and fans have claimed that the protracted affair was carried out to defame the Muslim actor.

Indian actor and politician belonging to the Lok Sabha party, Shatrughan Sinha, said: “Shah Rukh is definitely the reason why the boy is being targeted. There are other names like Munmun Dhamecha and Arbaaz Merchant but no one talks about them. This time they have Aryan Khan to play with because he is the son of Shah Rukh and they have a chance to settle their scores with the actor.

Shah Rukh has a reputation for being a very supportive co-star.  PHOTO: FILE

Shah Rukh has a reputation for being a very supportive co-star. PHOTO: FILE Maybe it was his religion or just the fact that they now had the chance to take down the one and only Shah Rukh who has been unbeatable for the past three decades. But, even through it all, Shah Rukh’s fans have always supported him, with thousands of them gathering outside Mannat to show their solidarity with the man who touched a million hearts. .

As we celebrate 30 years in Bollywood, there aren’t enough words of admiration to explain King Khan’s impact and spellbinding performances. It is enough for people to marry around the shared appreciation of his existence or for thousands of people to gather in front of his abode of grandeur, Mannat, chanting his name for hours on end.

Superstars like Shah Rukh are a rare breed. He’s someone who has managed to maintain his legacy for decades, unlike many others who have come and gone in moments of temporary stardom. You may wonder, what makes this man so memorable? The answer to that, coming from a hardcore fan, is that he is entirely and unashamedly himself.

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