Notable Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto, in her recently released book, New Kings of the World: The Rise and Rise of Eastern Pop Culture, discusses Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan in a different light.
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 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,” writes Bhutto.
She continues, “‘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’.”
Speaking about the father of the Zero star, Bhutto notes, “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.”Bollywood vilifies Pakistan yet continues to steal our songs: Mehwish Hayat
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.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times earlier, Bhutto also discussed the global south being inundated by Western culture but knowing that the West isn’t the centre of the world.
“We live in a multi-polar world. There are exciting cultural products coming out of India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Turkey and there always have been,” she said. “I’m tired of this idea that the rest of the world doesn’t exist and I wanted to investigate the frontiers that Asian powers are breaking through. I’m a great believer in the future of our continent and I wanted to investigate not just the fascinating possibilities of our cultural power but also the histories and politics of our products so far.”
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