(Shrayanya Bhattacharya is the author of Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh. The column first appeared in the print edition of Times of India on October 24, 2021)
- Recent events have unleashed endless commentary on the remarkable icon of Shah Rukh Khan. Between hot-takes, nostalgic tweets and high-minded op-eds, every Indian seems to have a story to tell about the actor. If you read these posts and pieces closely, you will realise the writer is not really writing about Khan. None of us know him. Through nearly three decades of scenes, songs and media interactions, he has become shorthand for an idea of India many of us are trying to rescue or hold on to. This is the power of Khan; he tells our stories. Since Khan is usually represented as a hero for NRIs and elite urbane Indians, in my book, I spent 15 years mapping the journeys of fangirls from India’s low-income precariat and the new middle class – tribal domestic workers to in-flight attendants. Nearly all these women were the first in their conservative families to take up jobs outside the home. In seeking livelihood of their own, these women are part of a meagre minority in a country with one of the lowest female employment rates in the world. What does Shah Rukh mean to them?