6 Jun 2011

Run Shahrukh, Run!

An excerpt from my novel, COUGH SYRUP SURREALISM (2013), Fingerprint! Publishing 

We could be soulmates. Meaning, we weren’t, yet. Meaning, there was a chance that we were soul mates, but she really wasn’t sure. This was disturbing news. And things have been going so well lately. Sure we’d had the proverbial ups and downs, but the last couple of weeks had been especially kind, with lots of private time, and intimate conversations that lasted late into the night and all the way till early morning, and eating stuff off each other’s bodies. “We could?” I asked. I waited impatiently for her to turn around and rephrase. On screen, Preity Zinta continued a monologue on the intricacies of the indigenous Bollywood love triangle. “Of course we could,” she said, and squeezed my arm, her eyes still on the screen. Wherefore art thou Optimistic Charlie?

The moment he was diagnosed with some kind of heart disease, I knew Shahrukh Khan would die a painfully slow, clichĂ©-ridden, glisterine-powered, brave-smile-and-funny-comment-in-response-to-mommy’s-tears death, and hand over the love of his life to his best friend. But the damn movie still kept you on tenterhooks: will she still love him? will he really die? kal ho na hoo? I remembered reading a review in Outlook magazine that noted that Shahrukh Khan shone throughout the movie with stellar brightness, and that much was admittedly true. There may have been a lot of things wrong with his films, but there were two things Shahrukh Khan did admirably well – (1) appeal to the woman in you, and (2) run.

Watching his films was like doing one of those get-in-touch-with-your-feminine-side exercises in Cosmo; SRK was King and Queen of Indian kitsch. He could pull off the most feminine things with almost-boyish charm, and you almost didn’t notice, and when you did, it didn’t matter, not so much.  Which other Indian man was going to shoot an ad sitting in a bathtub surrounded by rose petals and bubbles? As for the running, I’d never seen anybody run better; he had this patented, slow-mo run – shoulders slanted, a briefcase or a bag in one hand, hair flying in the wind (there was always a wind), open overcoat, eyebrows doing their thing, all in all sexy, very sexy. I had watched him do the run in at least five films over the last few days- multiple times, mind – but this was his best one yet. I had to physically restrain myself from jumping up and cheering as he took off with his ticker on its last legs -heart ailing, body flailing- across heavy traffic and through crowds of indifferent New Yorkers  to see his love one last time. Not plausible necessarily, but certainly vital, vital because it was an SRK movie, and run was what SRK did best, run was what we were all there to see. So with the jhankar beats in crescendo, and the under-dog gut-wrenchingly close to victory - run Shahrukh, RUN! - straightened hair and manicured hands and plucked eyebrows all over the screen, I choked back a tear. All these drugs are FUCKING me up!

It wasn’t just the movie, I knew. Or the coke. I wanted what they had in the movie – I wanted a lover chasing after me, death chasing after her. Whether we admit it or not, it’s what we all want – we want a Shahrukh Khan romance where the girl’s dad and his cronies beat you up mercilessly for loving her, but she loves you anyway, despite your ineptness at being a manly man and standing up to them. Shahrukh Khan is not just a matinee idol; he’s an urban, metrosexual aspiration. This is NOT constructive. This is not cool! I had to pull myself together. I tried to put in practice a piece of Buddhist philosophy I picked up from a Chuck Norris movie many years ago. Become the master of your self. Focus on the part of your body that hurts, accept it and find solace in the good health of the rest. A question of mind over matter. Easy-peasy. We lit up a couple of cigarettes and headed home on foot.

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