5 November 2007

CHAK DE INDIA - Bollywood High Concept Cinema Comes of Age?

Chak De India was released this summer as a Shak Rukh Khan and Yash Raj Vehicle that was met with moderately positive critical acclaim and went on to do good business at the domestic and international box office. Most Shah Rukh Khan film's tend to be an event and he is currently the most powerful and popular movie star in India. Beginning with the commercial success of the terrorist musical 'Dil Se', Shah Rukh Khan's box office pull in the foreign territories namely the UK and the US has been tremendously consistent, helping to accelerate the commercial appeal of Bollywood films across the globe. Shah Rukh Khan's films have remained to draw in wide audiences abroad and this is where his commercial strengths as a movie star lie. Directed by Shimit Amin, the director behind the powerful crime thriller, Ap Tak Chapaan, Chak De India brings together Shak Rukh Khan with the Jerry Bruckheimer of India, Aditya Chopra who continues to grow from strength to strength with Yash Raj Studios having cemented their reputation as the most recognisable Bollywood brand after the singularly expressive Amitabh Bachchan. Yash Raj have built somewhat of a reputation on being able to create high concept films that have a cross generation appeal and at the same time imitating much of the technical expertise developed by Hollywood cinema. Any recent Yash Raj film is a true indicator of the technical credibility of mainstream Bollywood cinema today. Though there films can be overtly sentimental and generic, Yash Raj have helped to push the technical boundaries of contemporary Bollywood cinema. Chak De India is a slick high concept vehicle for Shah Rukh Khan and is one of the first films to play with the celebrity, star and real life image of Shah Rukh Khan to great effect. The film itself is extremely generic and a typical feel good movie that seems to borrow quite heavily from recent Hollywood films like Coach Carter and Rocky. What is much more interesting is how Shah Rukh Khan plays an Indian Muslim Hockey Player who is misrepresented in the media as a traitor to his country because he failed to score the winning goal in the final of a Hockey match between Indian and Pakistan. Kabir Khan is a secular Muslim who loves his country but who has been increasingly isolated within his own community and within the eyes of the Indian nation for advocating a message of tolerance and understanding. It is fascinating to see how much of Kabir Khan's fictional character draws a great deal upon the real life qualities of Shah Rukh Khan, thus blurring the usual division that exists between the star and their real life persona. The absence of other stars and recognisable Bollywood elements means that this is a film that is carried entirely by the star presence of Shah Rukh Khan which he does with great assurance and charisma.


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