Who are you?
For the last twenty five years, I have kept asking myself this question. Who is this person who is able to effortlessly make my mother smile? She doesn’t know Hindi but she knows you. She doesn’t understand the lyrics but she sings your songs. What is this irresistible charm of yours which has captured the hearts of so many others like her?
As a kid, I just knew you as the ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ actor. I envied your hairstyle then and I still do. Countless visits to the salon did no good to my hair though. I have been lucky to be part of the generation which not only grew up watching your songs on National television, but slowly graduated to watching them trend on YouTube,Facebook and other media. Thereby giving us the illusion that you are more accessible now than you were a decade back.
Tracing your journey across the years is in a way like trying to trace our growth and evolution as individuals. Through you, we’ve been able to understand ourselves better, but we are still unable to decipher the paradox that you are.
Common Man or Superstar? Actor or Star? Hero or Villain? Jehangir Khan or Kabir Khan?
Your journey to stardom has been the topic of discussion in countless articles,interviews and books. However to me, the lyrics of two songs perfectly summarize them. The common man in Yes Boss singing ‘Bas itna sa khwab hai’ and the Baadshah in ‘Baadshah’ singing ‘ Main Baadshahon ka Baadshah’. One talks about a dream, while the other talks about the perks of ‘owning the entire world’ after achieving that dream.
Right so. So as we sit glued to the screens, we wonder. You have transgressed from a common man to a superstar. We have however only moved from Cathode ray-televisions to LCD-televisions. What has remained consistent is the content that we watch. Your movies.
Seen from outside, your life is synchronous with our ambitions of a lavish lifestyle of power, fame and love. Yet when we watch your interviews, your references to family, kids, upbringing, struggles and success seem to be as grounded and as real as our lives. This puts us in the quandary of deciding on what we need to aspire for and if your true success has been in becoming a global icon or still being a family man after all this stardom.
Box office hits. Critically acclaimed movies. Plenty of both in your closet. Not that we are complaining, because as an actor you would probably be approaching both the categories with the same dedication. Just that as audience, when asked about which movie of yours we like, we are unable to zero in on movie and say this was his best! For every movie of yours has touched us in one or the other way.
The vulnerability of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, the surrealism of Don, the hard hitting reality of Swades, the mystical virtual world of Ra.One, the mustache in Paheli, the beard in Chak De,the sophistication in Dil Se, the buffoonery in Happy New Year, well…the list is endless. One minute you are making love to the heroine, the next minute you are throwing her off the building.
I believe as a fan, your movies are also a bundle of contradictions and dichotomous like the very person that you are.One minute you talk about being the greatest actor in the world. The next moment you talk about waiting for your best act to come. You are always surrounded by people yet there is this unmistakable air of loneliness surrounding you. You capture many of our own inherent fears and insecurities perfectly. Maybe this why your stardom has been unrivaled and palatable for the last twenty five years. For you are relatable.
In many ways, I think your act in ‘Dear Zindagi’ reflects the kind of person you really are in life. It was an act which taught a lot of us to get in touch with our imperfections as individuals and still be happy about life.Kudos to Gauri Shinde for this master stroke in casting you as a therapist in this absolute gem of a movie. Anyone who has seen you over the last twenty five years would readily admit that you aren’t perfect. But those infinitesimal imperfections in your personality reinforce our belief that you do not need to be perfect to be great or to be loved. Which gives us hope and panache.
I know that ten years from now, my questions on who you are and why you do what you do would still remain unanswered. Maybe it is meant to be that way. All that I know is, irrespective of how many years pass, my mother is still going to smile watching you on screen the same way she does now.
I would be at peace maybe then in abandoning my quest for your identity. For a half-open door is always more enticing than an open door. These small peeks into your personality every now and then would satiate me and keep me thinking of plausible explanations for understanding the phenomenon that you are.
Let the mystery deepen. For in trying to find you, we might end up finding ourselves….