Gender, Globalization and Media in the Indian Diaspora
Chapter 7 Gender, Performance, and Bollywood’s Commodity Culture
In April 2012, Bollywood’s pre-eminent celebrity, Shah Rukh Khan gave a public lecture at Yale University. He had been anointed as the Yale Chubb Fellow for that year and the lecture culminated the honor. The Chubb Fellow is designed, according to its website, “to foster among the undergraduates of Timothy Dwight College and Yale Uni- versity an interest in public affairs.”1 So, in keeping with this mission, the Chubb Fellow website information featured Shah Rukh Khan’s so- cial and political activism, which usually does not receive much play- time in all the billions of news bytes and bits about him. This fact was duly noted by the Yale website, which stated that “Khan is known for keeping a low profile and secrecy on his social commitments and hu- manitarian work.” Piggy-backing on Chubb’s press releases, the Huff- ington Post blog proclaimed him as the “incredible Indian actor- activist.”2 So one wonders if this re-coding of Shah Rukh Khan from being Bollywood’s most recognizable mega-star to a secret social jus- tice advocate was necessary in making him more respectable and relevant for the Chubb Fellowship. Curiously, this activist side of Khan appeared primarily on the Yale Chubb Fellowship website and did not feature at all in either the speech of introduction by Isha Am- bani or in the post-lecture discussion and dance clips. In fact, the dis- course that day focused entirely on Shah Rukh Khan’s global stardom. This makes sense. After all, Shah Rukh Khan is for many...
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