Thursday, June 23, 2016


After seeing a dozen or so Shah Rukh Khan's movies, I was really hooked and decided to search for more of his earlier movies as well as check out new releases.  This post is not in chronological order.

An early big breakthrough came with Kajol in "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (1995).  This time he played an NRI (Non Resident Indian)  based in London looking for a wild trip with his friends to Switzerland.  Kajol played a relatively innocent girl with a very strict father using persuasion to go with some girl friends to Switzerland.  Of course they meet, go through a few misunderstandings and feel they are meant for each other.  Her father does not approve and takes her off to India for an arranged marriage, but our hero pursues.  Anupam Kher played a supportive father.  Aditya Chopra directed  This is considered one of the most romantic movies of all time and is now the longest running film in the world, engendering a lot of references in other movies.  Shot in England, Switzerland and India.  Bollywood was fond of foreign scenes and this movie helped boost Swiss tourism.

Before that breakthrough Shah Rukh Khan made a decision that could have killed his career.  For 1993 he decided to take on a negative role, in fact in three movies--"Darr," "Baaziger" and "Anjaam" where he was not only mean, but psychotic.  He earned acting awards and became a hit with the public.

While going back to watch some of his earlier movies I discovered Juhi Chawla who often was his leading lady, apparently the first time only after her approval.   She became another favorite.  "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani" "Rajo Ban Gaya Gentleman" "Yes Boss" (her mother died in an accident while she was filming) "Duplicate" "One 2 Ka 4" where the two were usually the highlight of the movie.  Juhi became Shah Rukh's business partner for both a production house, Red Hot Chilies and a cricket team.  She also got involved with producing.  Her career illustrates that the aging male actors are more often matched to a younger actress--I followed some of Juhi's other movies some of which were very interesting and enjoyable "3 Deewarin" directed by Nagesh Kukunoor; "My Brother Nikhil" about HIV,  "I Am" which also covered some controversial topics for which she was an associate producer), "Gulaab Gang" in a negative role; "Swami," "Paheli in a supporting role; "Boothnath" as Shah Rukh's wife, but his role was only a cameo;   I got excited when she was listed with a major Hollywood film, "One-hundred Foot Journey," but she was killed off near the beginning.  She had been Miss India in 1984,

"Pardes" (1997) filmed in Las Vegas and British Columbia.  Another angle on the NRI.  A rich man in America  wants his son to have a real Indian wife.  Shah Rukh plays the adoptive son who tries to mediate the marriage, but his efforts result in a lot of chaos as the son is very spoiled and the adopted brother is very conflicted.  One complaint from this film (and many other Bollywood efforts) is the fighting--the action seems real enough, but they add in extra sound that makes it less realistic.  Of course Shah Rukh Khan's virtues result in a happy ending.

"Mohabbatein"(2000) against Amitabh Bachchan whose daughter played by his real future daughter in law Aishawarya Rai had committed suicide.  Shah Rukh, not known to the father of his lover applied and got a job.  For the most part he counsels some young students to make the most of their lives.  He runs up against Amitabh who is very conservative and resentful.  Aishawarya appears onlyas a ghost.  Directed by Aditya Chopra

"Chalte Chalte" (2007)  was a different kind of romance.  Shah Rukh Khan playing a truck owner/driver meets sophisticated Rani Mukerji and after a fairly short romance gets married.  Class conflicts are fairly normal, but they carry on with verbal fighting through to the end of the movie.  You could say the bickering made it more realistic.  Filmed in Greece.

"Hey Ram" (2000) was directed and written by Kamal Hassan who also played the lead who married Rani Mukerji.  Shah Rukh had a relatively small role.  This movie climaxes with the assassination of Gandhi.

"Dil Se" (1998) was directed by Mani Ratnam and was considered a major success on several fronts including Shah Rukh's acting.  He played a man infatuated with a woman, Manisha Kairola who is bent on a suicide bombing mission.  At one point Shah Rukh's character has a marriage of convenience which happens with Preity Zinta in her debut movie.  The music by A. R. Rahman was considered very good with one song, "Chaiyyan Chaiyyan" being used in a Hollywood movie by Spike Lee, "The Inside Man."  The choreography by Farah Khan was considered exceptional including a sequence on a moving train.

"My Name is Khan" (2010) represented an acting challenge for Shah Rukh. In it he plays a man with Aspberger's syndrome.  He is a Muslim who surprisingly marries a non Muslim, Kajol and after an unfortunate incident needs to prove he is not a terrorist.  He travels across the United States and has many interesting adventures.  Some memorable music from Shankar Ehsaan Loy.

"Ra-One" (2011) was a science fiction action film intended by Shah Rukh to demonstrate Bollywood technological skills and in fact did win awards for special effects.  He plays a dual role, a mild mannered engineer and a dynamic video character.  Most noted for an infectious dance song, "Chamak Chalo" performed by American rapper Akon and written by Vishal-Shekhar.  Also starred Kareena Kapoor.

He broke his vow not to lip lock (kiss on the mouth) with Katrina Kaif in the last film directed by Yash Chopra and written by Aditya Chopra  "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" (2012).  He plays a man abandoned by a woman who loves him, due to a religious vow and then Shah Rukh becomes a bomb disposal expert.  Also starred Anushka Sharma as an annoying reporter.  Music by A R Rahman. Filmed in Kashmir and London.

"Chennai Express" (2013) saw him reunited with Deepika Padukone in an action romance comedy.  At the time it was the highest grossing Bollywood film to date.

"Dilwale" (2015) with Kajol was really a commercial effort and a disappointment.  Filmed in Dubai (where Shah Rukh owns property)

In"Fan" (2016) he had a dual role with the aid of CGI and prosthetics where he plays the mature star and an obsessive young fan.  A well done movie.  It shows how a movie star (like Shah Rukh himself) can become arrogant and detached from his fans.  It also illustrates how obsessive a fan can become.  Filmed in England, India and Croatia.

Next film is "Raes" and he plays a bad guy.  Animated version of "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" to come out as "Kuchie Kuchie Hota Hai" 

The three stars atop Bollywood are all Muslim:  Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, but all in their late 40's and mostly romancing much younger women.

In real life he was born and raised in New Delhi and did very well in school including sports.  He fancied a Hindu girl, but found her parents didn't like the idea of inter-religious dating.  Eventually he won them over.  Shah Rukh and Gauri, now have three children with the youngest being born through a surrogate.  Gauri is often a producer with his films.  His son has done some minor appearances in movies and dubbed for a Disney animated film.

One of his strongest interests is in a cricket club he owns, Kolkata Knight Riders who compete at a high level.

On stage he is considered spontaneously humorous and has been asked to host game and award shows.  He has hosted many dinner/parties for other celebrities.  Recently Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple and then cast and crew of an Iranian-Indian film, "Salaam Mumbai."

Concern for making it in the English speaking world--speaks some English in most of his movies.  He has also advocated for improving technical production values.  He smokes in many of his movies (not in" Fan") and is supposedly trying to cut down.

His following is massive--over Asia, Europe, Africa and North America and it is not all from the Indian diaspora.  At his best Shah Rukh Khan is why I love Bollywood, although I have grown to appreciate many other actors and films.  I will be looking for more of his old films and anticipate new ones.

If you missed Part 1 click here:


In North America Shah Rukh Khan may not garner much attention, but in the rest of the world he is top of the movie world.  Not only is India the most prolific movie producing nation, they have made inroads in many foreign countries.  He can draw a massive crowd in most countries including United States and Canada.

I have enjoyed more of his movies to a greater degree than any other actor anywhere.  Shah Rukh Khan is above all charming and masculine  His acting ability seems mixed, but he has won his share of awards.  He has also been in his share of duds and has taken time to make commercially acceptable movies.  Having attracted a wide following he gets offered a lot of very good scripts supported by very talented crews.

My sister Rebecca liked "Devdas" (2004) so much she bought me a copy.  Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and also starring Aishawarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit.  A story of a man stopped from marrying his love by his wealthy father.  He self-destructs.  My sister knows me pretty well and this whetted my appetite.

"Kal Ho Na Ho" (2003) is the movie that expanded my fascination with Bollywood to an obsession.  Filming was started in Toronto, but the crew left for New York when the SARS scare happened, however you can spot some interesting local scenes.  I checked this out of the local library and was told it was "very sad."  It certainly was that, but in the beginning it seemed very juvenile like perhaps a stereotypical Bollywood movie.  That was just a big setup to make you feel guilty.  The main actors and most of the supporting cast were very good; Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan and Jaya Bhanali.  The music was also great from Shankar Ehsaan Loy.  If you really like good movies you will be reaching for a kleenex.  After this I looked for movies with Shah Rukh Khan.
"Swades" ( 2004) is my favourite.  He plays a NRI (Non Resident Indian).  He represents the successful Indian gone to the United States space program.  He misses his nanny and decides to go back to India in order to bring her to his American home.  Once there he encounters a lot of people who are envious and he offers to help them get to the States, however the romance in the story is a local teacher who won't move.  Eventually with his science and engineering skill he solves a common problem by providing electric power.  He is torn between doing something globally and scientifically significant in the United States or helping elevate the Indian people.  Directed and partly written by Ashutosh Gowariker with music by A. R. Rahman.  With many third world countries the non resident is a delicate issue with most understanding moving to opportunities while other capable people stick around.  Shot in the United States as well as India.  This was considered an artistic success, but not commercially.

"Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" (1998) saw Shah Rukh playing a father for the first time.  Kajol starts out as a tomboy friend who disappears when she realizes the more sophisticated Rani Mukerji attracts Shah Rukh.  As his wife, Rani dies.  Shah Rukh raises a young daughter with the help of his mother.  The daughter reads a letter from her mother telling her that her husband, the girl's father should seek out his old friend.  Lots of hokey moments, but a very stirring romance.  First time saw Salman Khan, in a cameo.  Directed by Karan Johar.  Some catchy melodies by the brother team Suleiman-Salim.  This movie started the appeal of Rani Mukerji and you can read more about her here:

"Khabie Kushi Khabie Gham" (2001) represented a clash with Amitabh Bachchan (who is very good as stern fathers amongst many other types).  Kajol plays the chosen one against the father's wishes (who wished for Rani Mukerji).  Scenes go from India to England and Wales and include a few shots from the pyramids for effect.  Directed and written by Karan Johar as a well produced family drama.

"Khabie Alvida Naa Kehna" (2006) is quite the soap opera.  Shah Rukh is married to Preity Zinta, but soon wants Rani Mukerji who is married to Abischek Bachchan.  A lot of shifting around and lot of anguish, but some really good music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy.  Directed and written by Karan Johar.  Set in the U.S., filmed in Philadelphia and Jersey City.

"Paheli" (2005) with Rani Mukerji again not commercially successful, but its fairy tale story was very slickly done with the pairing of the stars very satisfying.  Another of many movies supported by Anupam Kher and you can read more of him here;

"Veer Zaara" (2004)  with Preity Zinta.  This time she is the Pakistani Muslim and he the Indian Hindu in a doomed romance.  He is thrown in jail for decades until rescued in time to reunite in old age.  Rani Mukerji plays a sharp lawyer that gets him released for a late in life happy ending.  Anupam Kher plays the mean prosecutor.  Directed by Yash Chopra.

In "Chakdei India" (2003) he coaches a girls field hockey team--as a  disgraced former international player.  His sin was not scoring at a critical point in a championship game against Pakistan.  Shah  Rukh is a Muslim and many of his roles portray him as one and in this movie he is thought to have betrayed India.  No romance, but a typical sports story very well done. Filmed in Australia as well as India.

"Don" (2006) was a revival of an old Bollywood film made famous with Amitabh Bachchan.  There were skeptics, but Shah Rukh played the dual role of the ordinary guy and the gangster very smoothly.  Priyanka Chopra played on the team chasing Don.  My favourite musical team of Shankar Ehsaan Loy provided the music.  There is a teasing relationship between Don and Priyanka who portrayed a very smart cop chasing him down.  Very spectacular stunts over the two films.  Don was filmed in Malayasia with the climax at the Petronas Twin Towers.  "Don 2" (2011) was shot starting in Malaysia, but shifted to Germany.  Farhan Akhtar directed both movies and wrote the scripts.  For more on Farhan Akhtar:

"Om Shanti Om" (2007) launched Deepika Padukone.  Directed by Farah Khan who had originally been a choreographer very much favored by Shah Rukh.  He plays a dual role, first as a young man who gets involved in Bollywood, but is killed along with a woman he was infatuated with.  Thirty years later after re-birth he is again involved in Bollywood and slowly realizes the back story and seeks revenge.  Lots of complications.

"Rab ne Bana Di" (2008) launched another big star, Anushka Sharma.  At first Shah Rukh plays a bookish type of character who as a deathbed favour marries a girl much younger and active.  We all know Shah Rukh is very dynamic and soon he is masquerading as a dance partner for his wife who doesn't recognize him.  Eventually she is conflicted between her husband and this dynamic dancer.  He proves his love in his bookish avatar in a funny wrestling match.  Anushka emerged as a star in her own light.  For more on Anushka:

At this point I realize I have gone overboard on one actor, but in fact there is more I want to say, but will defer to another post.

Click here for Part 2:

Monday, June 13, 2016


It seems every day there are examples of hate presented in the news.  Most recently we have the Orlando gay bar massacre.  Debates have picked up with emphasis on terrorism, gun control and also hate crimes. The real problem comes down to human nature and there are no easy ways of dealing with it.

It is human nature to identify with a group, starting with a small one (nuclear family) and then expanding.  We have not yet expanded to all humans in our group identity, but we have come a long way painfully.

Back in university when I was a little more idealistic I chose sociology as my major and was attracted to a course in Prejudice and Discrimination.  Professor Hadwen had a strong influence on my thinking, not only by the content of his presentations, but also the method.  The first time I encountered the idea of role playing where he would get students to act out a wide variety of views as one way of understanding an opposing view.  One concept I learned was that prejudice starts with pride.  We take pride in belonging to our group which leads us to thinking those outside our group are inferior in some way and not totally trustworthy.

For a term project worth at least 50% of our mark he asked us to write about one of our own prejudices.  I thought I was prejudice free, but looking for something unique set on "older people."  At the time I had two Grandmothers who were very special to me as I had spent a big part of  my life living with them. Now, I can easily be described as an older person and have to examine my prejudice against younger people.   I could see a societal prejudice, but deep inside I could see I had it as well.  The research and study opened my eyes.

In another of Dr Hadwen's classes a bureaucratic screwup had an effect on me.   I had written an essay I was very proud of and felt confident should get a good mark, but back home after exams my final grades were mailed and I saw a very bad mark.  I decided to switch majors, but next fall when I got the essay back the mark on it was very good.  Dr Hadwen apologized and gave me one of my favourite compliments, "You have a sociological mind."  Another semester I switched back.

But still found I was not as prejudice free as I liked to project.

My wife's best friend's parents owned a company that employed an openly gay person.  Even after many years of knowing this (and many other changes) I had never met him.  However my wife and her friend had developed a friendship that eventually resulted in an invitation to an open party and I was included.  I felt a bit uncomfortable, but agreed. I noticed that none of the other husbands in our group attended, but in the end I am glad I agreed.  First I was pleased that in most ways they were not that different.  I saw that gays could mix with non gays.  They came from a wide variety of backgrounds.  I wouldn't have known they were gay if I had met them in different circumstances.

Jared Diamond in his travels as an ornithologist spent a lot of time in Borneo working amongst a variety of what we would call primitive people.  At one point he acknowledged that their intelligence level is truly equal to ours, but he observed a few significant differences.  One was that they were distrustful of strangers and were very careful in their presence.  Jared contrasted this with how in big cities we walk by hundreds of strangers without very much concern.  Obviously this almost blind trust is one reason our civilization has advanced in so many ways.  He found that primitive people were superior at mediating differences with a preference to restoring relationships over property (or revenge).  Read more here;

As a liberal minded person I looked down upon the simple minded conservatives.  "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt made me realize I still have prejudices.  He explained that evolution favoured individuals who fit into groups.  Religion was important, not just for content, but also as a set of commonalities for all members.  The idea of fairness means different things:  to liberals it signifies an equal chance for everyone, but for conservatives it means rewards should go to those who do the work.  He feels a balance is needed between liberals, conservatives and libertarians.  Read more:

At a Human Library encounter I met a well known author who reminded me of a previous racial prejudice.  Working with young children and their families as the main part of my newspaper circulation job I encountered a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.  For the most part I looked at that aspect as a discovery of interesting details that had a positive impact on my life.   However I had a number of less positive experiences with one particular group of people and will admit that when encountering other members of that group I did pre-judge.   I was shocked later to learn a good friend from university was of that same group, as I had thought he came from a different background.  The author who had a similar background chastised me (gently).

Another prejudice I shared with others unconsciously was against what might be considered lazy people or pleasure seekers.  I saw work, or at least activity as the point of life.  I never actually read "In praise of Idleness" by Bertrand Russell but just the title and a few references deepened my appreciation that there is more to life than work and those who are able to enjoy life are closer to the ideal than those who indulge in activity that they don't necessarily enjoy.

How many of you have had a prejudice changed by getting to know another person?  How many of us can identify our prejudices?

Individuals around the globe are gradually becoming aware that we live among billions, of people most of whom speak different languages, have different beliefs and customs.  But we also have much in common:  fear, greed, love, hate.  Our deepest concerns are very similar:  getting a job, getting a mate, surviving, protecting our children.  The inter-net has opened up new pathways of understanding (as well as misunderstanding)

The earth is like one big island and we are gradually becoming aware of our inter connectedness.  Working as a global team we can solve problems that are exacerbated with our individual selfish efforts.

History is full of examples of minorities, despite discrimination making significant contributions that made life better for the rest of us.  Minorities are really just a sub group, an additional identity of the one big family we all belong to.

Just another example.  Saudi Arabia recently executed 47 "terrorists" and amongst them was a Shi'ite cleric who advocated peaceful protest.  My perception is that Saudi Arabia is one of the least tolerant nations in the world.   Perhaps my judgment based on decisions of elite group has prejudiced me against all Saudi Arabians.

Democracy works as rule by the majority and if done fairly it is expected that those who did not vote that way would at least accept and respect the view of the majority.  We are actually often advanced by the views of the minority who saw or understood something the rest of us didn't.  So along with majority rule, democracy requires minority rights.

The law can really only stay a little ahead of customs.  You can make women, blacks, Muslims, homosexuals and transgenders equal in law, but it is much more difficult to find total acceptance.

Cultural exchanges are a great idea, but they are expensive for the large masses of population.  Education also seems expensive to some, but in reality is a great investment.  Content is very important, but subject to debate.  We should encourage more input from more groups.  Integrated classrooms have proved to make a difference.  Recently I read a comment regarding the television series "Roots" which in an" entertaining" way made whites better understand what blacks had to endure.

We need to be aware of our commonalities.  We share a planet that is facing a variety of crises.  We have not yet escaped the possibility of nuclear annihilation.  Pollution is poisoning life everywhere.   Automation could be an opportunity for everyone or an instrument for extreme inequality.  Climate change is happening despite obstructionist denials and will determine our survival.

If we could all agree that would be nice, but way too big a step and perhaps a bit boring.  Can we learn to tolerate the differences we have or do we prefer to fight over them?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The American IQ Test

Awhile back someone suggested that while the Americans are getting ready for an election, the rest of the world looks at it as an IQ test.  In past elections our attitude has been let them fight amongst themselves.  Donald Trump has exploded on the scene and is attracting an insane amount of attention and the possibility of him becoming the president of the U.S. is frightening.

There is nothing new in this rant, but it is maddening to just sit by while a nearby neighbor is acting crazy.  We all know that the craziness potentially affects everyone.   I feel lucky to be a Canadian and although I am an older white male, Donald Trump does not speak for me.

There is a lot of unhappiness in the U. S.   It is very natural to want to blame unhappy conditions on somebody.  Too many think it must be the "other".  In some cases it is immigrants and in other cases it is dishonest politicians.  A few realize that the 1% has disproportionate power and are using it to maintain their spot in the pecking order with little regard to those less fortunate.

There probably will always be cycles of prosperity and decline.  Sometimes the really bad times can lead to a really violent revolution.  We humans take a lot for granted.  We feel if things are going up they will always go up and we tend to coast.  We would all benefit from a wider perspective.  There have been a lot of disappointments over the last decade, but there is a global participation in this sad story.  Many other nations endure higher unemployment, wage declines and even greater uncertainty.  Physically many parts of the world are suffering from climate change and some overlapping sections are in violent conflict.  Comparatively the United States is doing well, but Trump says their economy is a "disaster."

Although Obama is not perfect he has helped put the United States in a better direction.  He has done this despite an unconscionable obstruction that should be apparent to anyone taking more than a cursory look.  It has been the Republicans, largely financed by the 1% who have resisted a stimulus, who deny the merits of the Affordable Care Act, who waste time on social concerns against the interests of the majority.

Donald Trump might be a nice reasonable person in private, but he chooses to present himself as a champion of the downtrodden with outrageous solutions to their problems.  His tv ratings must have been encouraging and it seems his ego projects those as understanding what needs to be done.

The next part of this blog is just recounting some of the many stupidities.  They will likely be outdated with other stupidities.

Going back to at least 2008 his insinuation that Obama was not legally entitled to be president is very insulting.  Nobody else has been asked to prove their citizenship, but Obama has actually delivered proof.  Many anti-Obama critics stoutly claim they are not racist, but to us outsiders the whole birther movement seems like proof.  Trump may be smart enough to know that many voters really resent a black man in charge.

Trump's presentation for the primary season was to call Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists without offering any proof.  His solution was to build a gigantic wall and make Mexico pay for it.  He knows many unemployed as well as natural bigots feel that these brown skinned people are unfair competition.  It is a lot more complicated than that.  But underneath it all they are humans, not much different than Americans and they have gotten the short end of the stick.

He went on to ban all Muslims from entering the country, admittedly on a temporary basis.  Later he said it was just a suggestion.  Fear is a great motivator that makes us all overlook justice.  America prides itself on its religious freedom, one part of which is that no one has to declare their religion in order to enter the country.  Yes, there is something (relatively tiny) to be scared about, but again it is a complicated topic.

His attitude towards climate change is ignorance, really selective ignorance.  He has a golf course in Scotland petitioning for some construction against climate change.  He has recently said that the climate change notion is a strategy of the Chinese to undermine Americans.  Campaigning in California he claimed their drought can be fixed in no time when he is in charge.

When someone criticizes him he is quick to hit back, usually with an insult.  Megyn Kelly, Hilary Clinton, Ted Cruz, David Cameron, Marco Rubio.  Typical bully with no substance.  To solve difficult problems he would need to work with a lot of people with a different perspective.  He is especially hard on women including their looks.

To give himself some macho credibility he boasts about how he would use torture to get information quicker.  He would also inflict harm to family members of terrorists.  He is not concerned about legal restrictions and declares this is a more effective way to deal with terrorists.  Many people disagree.  see

It was uncovered not too long ago that he looked forward to the anticipated recession as an opportunity to buy property cheap with no regard for those who suffered from their mortgages being more expensive than their house value.  As a president we would want him to lessen or least spread out any unnecessary suffering.  As a businessman it is natural to look for opportunities to increase profits, but as president his obligation is to everyone.

In the news recently (but been there for over a year) is the legal actions against Trump University. The facts that others have presented indicate that it was fraudulent and took advantage of desperate people.  It is very hard to comprehend how he can publicly mock one of the presiding judges as "Mexican" when in fact a natural born American and describe him as a hater.  Trump had requested the trial in California be put off until after the election and this judge complied. While Hilary is constantly being challenged by Republicans on phony scandals it would be valuable for the American voters to learn the truth about Trump University.

A recent twist was that a PGA tournament was pulled from one of his Florida golf courses to of all places Mexico.  We have been assured that this was not political.  Perhaps not directly, but organizers have admitted it was because they couldn't line up a sponsor.  Lots of businesses now realize a connection to Trump might prove toxic.  Trump managed to insult the move.

It seems no matter how long or devastating the list becomes there are still a lot of people who would vote for Mr. Trump.  My hope is that enough American voters are roused to stop this potential disaster before we all suffer.  It is not unacceptable that one person can present himself as Trump has, but it is frightening that large numbers of people would support him.  I have faith that there are many intelligent, responsible Americans, but I will feel more comfortable if they can pass this IQ test.  How about you?