I share a very special bonding with Aanand Rai. It didn’t start with Tanu Weds Manu where Anand's success story starts. Most filmi friendships begin at the signpost of success. I’ve known and believed in Aanand from the time he directed his first film a small thriller called Strangers. Before I got to know Aanand, I knew his elder brother Rajiv Rai, who is a very talented director. Rajiv changed the course of Indian television with his long-running serial Raahen. But he could never make that transition from the big to small screen.
Funny, how success smiles on some and spurns others. So we have Ayushmann as the star Khurrana while his equally talented brother Aparshakti is what is known as a ‘character actor’.
But we are straying. This is about Aanand and our special bonding. Success has come to him in no time at all. Having directed and produced some remarkable films he has now embarked on a journey about three misfits played by three of the biggest stars of Bollywood. It is unimaginable to see Shah Rukh Khan drop his vanity and knock off at least two feet from his height. What would his fans say? Would they love him less because there is less of him to love? And what would Anushka Sharma’s fans say about her being confined to a wheelchair? The bewitching Katrina Kaif who has never been allowed to go beyond her physicality is cast as an alcoholic actress.
These are messed up lives, which no filmmaker would want to touch unless he is lit by the fire of an all-consuming passion. Aanand and Shah Rukh have discovered two such wandering spirits in one another. Shah Rukh is at a stage in his career when he has nothing left to prove. And he wants to prove that he has nothing left to prove.
And why must dare only be the domain of Aamir Khan? I think somewhere Shah Rukh has taken up the challenge of dropping the alleged vanity of a star to the ground. I have a feeling Shah Rukh’s Babuaa will rank as his career’s best performance, not because he is out to prove how daring he can be, not because he wants to win a National award (he might, though, I can tell you that) but because the view from Ground Zero is exhilarating, provided you can see the wide open sky from between the bustling bodies of a tall but aimless humanity.
In Maneesh Sharma’s Fan Shah Rukh played his own fan. In Zero he will stop admiring himself completely. Because life is too short. And not in the way it was always meant to be.