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.)



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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