Pakistan’s acclaimed writer Fatima Bhutto brings to light a perception about Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in a way, not recognised before, in her latest book New Kings of the World: The Rise and Rise of Eastern Pop Culture.
The book narrates the 37-year-old writer’s wanderings at Peshawar’s Qissa Khawani bazaar, where the widely-hailed hero exists in forms of advertisements and film posters decades after his father, left the neighbourhood after the parturition.
“An elderly man with a snowy white beard steps out of his shop when he sees me. He knows why I am here: He knows why everyone walks down the dark tunnel to Shah Wali Qatal,” writes Bhutto.
“‘You know, he even came to my shop once,’ the old man boasts as he beckons me to follow him. ‘Even though he was born in India, he’s been here twice as a young man.’,” she continues.
“At the very end, in the corner, is a freshly painted mud-brown-and-white house. The door is bolted shut and a lady’s name is neatly painted on a wooden plaque. This is the home in which the father of Shah Rukh Khan, the world’s most famous film actor, was born,” she writes.
Speaking about the father of ‘King Khan’, Bhutto says: “In a different time, Khan’s Peshawar born father was an anti-colonial activist, courting arrest under Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 Quit India Movement against British imperialists and demonstrating alongside the Congress Party and Khudai Khidmatgar, the non-violent Pashtun movement led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, otherwise known as “Frontier Gandhi.”
Treading further, the writer terms Khan as an ‘icon of a vast cultural movement emerging from the Global South’, and one of the biggest challenges of the United States monopoly of soft power.