In her latest book ‘New Kings of the World: The Rise and Rise of Eastern Pop Culture‘, Fatima Bhutto talks about the rise of Asian pop culture and Shahrukh Khan’s role as a global icon as a challenge to Western soft power.
Fatima Bhutto discussed the role of the Indian icon in turning Bollywood into a global phenomenon.
The Songs of Blood and Sword author described what Shahrukh Khan’s father’s house looks like now.
“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 an apt description of the house of Shah Rukh Khan’s father. It’s the exact same place where the Bollywood superstar was born.”
She talks about wandering around in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar where the Bollywood star’s father once lived. She was in awe of how the hero’s face was plastered all over various forms of advertisements and film posters, even decades after his father had left the neighborhood post-partition.
“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,”
Fatima’s Views on SRK
The book is basically a look at the icon’s rise from Fatima Bhutto’s eyes. Speaking to that old man in Shah Wali Qatal, she reveals that this man has seen Bollywood’s King Khan twice in his youth.
“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.”
In most of her narration, Fatima Bhutto focuses on King Khan. She didn’t leave out details about his father.
“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.”
According to Fatima Bhutto, the fact is that SRK has emerged as an ‘icon of a vast cultural movement emerging from the Global South.’ In fact, it couldn’t be out of place to say that he challenges the United States’ monopoly on soft power. Maybe it’s just that as audiences are forcing Hollywood to be more inclusive, we get to see these Asian icons that were previously sidelined.
Fatima Bhutto pushes her ‘eastern region of the world as opposed to the western power‘, not just for the South Asian region but also for the Middle East and Far-East region. She even believes that K-pop is emerging as a global phenomenon.