Gender, Globalization and Media in the Indian Diaspora
7. Gender, Performance, and Bollywood’s Commodity Culture
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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 University an interest in public affairs.”1 So, in keeping with this mission, the Chubb Fellow website information featured Shah Rukh Khan’s social and political activism, which usually does not receive much playtime 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 humanitarian work.” Piggy-backing on Chubb’s press releases, the Huffington 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 justice 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 Ambani or in the post-lecture discussion and dance clips. In fact, the discourse that day focused entirely on Shah Rukh Khan’s global stardom. This makes sense. After all, Shah...
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