The six-pack abs of Shah Rukh Khan

"Om Shanti Om" is Bollywood's latest stab at global box office glory. Take a seat, Tom Cruise.

Topics: Globalization, How the World Works,

When one finds oneself pondering the question of whether the six-pack abs flaunted by Bollywood movie superstar Shah Ruhk Khan are a pathetic attempt by a 42-year-old man to hang onto the illusion of youth, or a satiric gesture meant to mock contemporary Bollywood tropes in a film that Khan both produced and stars in, only one conclusion can be entertained: The globalization of pop culture is complete.

Shah Ruhk Khan’s abs are the talk of the subcontinental blogosphere, and with good reason. Not only are they spectacular in a kind of Frankenstein-meets-24-Hour-Fitness mash-up way but his new movie, “Om Shanti Om,” a retro-Bollywood homage/reincarnation-themed song-and-dance thriller, is a bona fide international blockbuster. Early indications are that it has a shot at being the biggest grossing Bollywood movie in the United States ever, which would make Khan’s rippling muscles a high-tide marker for Indian pop cultural world domination. Bollywood fan sites are chortling over the relative foreign box office performance of Khan compared to Tom Cruise. Coming just a few weeks after Sony announced a big co-production deal with two major Bollywood players, the implications are clear: We will be seeing more of this.

Is it a good movie? I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve read some thoughtful reviews that suggest it is flawed in ways that I wouldn’t even begin to understand, given my lack of context for appreciating a film that is in large part a self-referential commentary on Bollywood movies of yore.

But how could one not be seduced by a film that one critic says “tries to seduce you … by pandering to all that’s base in Bollywood.” As director Farah Khan is reputed to have said during the filming of a scene, angered by a camera person who had cut Shah Ruhk Khan’s crotch out of a frame: “We are not shooting a Bengali art film here, get it (the crotch) back.” (Thanks to Sepia Mutiny for that tidbit.)

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Base is where it’s at. And making jokes about the stodginess of Bengali art films? Priceless.

But what’s a post about Bollywood without a rollicking dance number? Feast your eyes and ears on “Dard-e-Disco,” featuring the man, his abs, and whole lot of pelvic thrusting.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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