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Cannes Film Festival 2010

Khan Cannes and the Khans of Bollywood

Text by: Rosslyn Hyams
18 min

There’s one Khan from India coming to the Cannes Film Festival (hopefully). Several Indian film websites are convinced he'll show. Recently seen in the compilation New York, I Love You (Mira Nair’s short film), we’ve not managed to establish if Irfan Khan will actually be coming to the south of France, but we’re hoping.


Perhaps, some other Khans of Bollywood will also drop in.

Shahrukh Khan’s film, My Name is Khan, directed by Karan Johar, and touching on airport security and politics, comes to screens in France at the end of May, according to website

That film and 3 Idiots, a road-movie adapted from a novel starring Aamir Khan directed by Rajkumar Hirani were both record-breaking box office hits, at home and abroad.

Sadly we don’t have the space for close-ups of all the Khans in Bollywood today (there’s Salman and Saif Ali too). Sharukh and Aamir are more often in the eye of the media, and they are two of the biggest earners in the country, not least of all with their film production companies. So where does that Khan effect come from?

Interview: Nasreen Munni Kabir

It's partly from being the "it" stars of their generation, says Nasreen Munni Kabir, an Indian film specialist and director (Bollywood: the Indian Cinema Story, 2001), but also partly because they make the most of their popularity.

“Every generation has one or two. It's not possible to have 10 top stars in the power list. They are loved by millions of people and … they don't work in many films …And so if you have these two big, big names in cinema only doing one film a year, of course it's a big hit. If they were to do three or four films in a year things might change.”

They also happen to be rather talented businessmen. Both Aamir and Shahrukh have been listed in the most recent biggest fortunes lists.

Their fans may not see them acting in films every week, but every day, and several times a day you see them on hoardings in the street and on television. They are omnipresent.

“They are incredibly successful in selling ads and they are more present in ads than in the movies now…These are people who are also making millions and millions of dollars through ads… Instead of getting someone else to make the ads they will produce the ads,” says Kabir.

Selvaggia Velo, is the director of the annual Indian film festival River to River in Florence whose festival is specialised in non-Bollywood-style films from India admits to dancing to the soundtracks from films in which Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan star. During her regular trips to India she comments on the way they brilliantly advertise themselves.

“They are good actors but they are fantastic at marketing themselves. Shahrukh is devoted and a hard worker, and you can see the result on the screen," she says.

"And Aamir Kahn is also fantastic at marketing. I was in India when Ghajini was released, all the boys were having their hair cut like Ghajini. They are not only actors, they are money-machines, marketing people. Which is fine.”

Bio: Sharukh Khan

Actor, producer, born in Delhi, 1965. Has one sister, and is married with two children.

Khan began acting in television serials in the late 1980s. His first big-screen appearance was in a 1992 film called Deewana directed by Raj Kanwar. Seven times, the Indian Film Fare awards have given him the best actor prize. This Khan has achieved acclaim for his early and latterly serious roles, as well as for his panache in portraying the funny, romantic hero. Of course he knows how to dance. Check his role in the 6th remake of the classic love story, Devdas alongside Aishwarya Rai (directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002), or Dil to Pagal Hai with Madhuri Dixit and Karina Kapoor (directed by Yash Chopra, 1997). Devastatingly serious, but still in love, Dil Se (directed by Mani Ratnam, 1998) with Manisha Koirala. Aside from acting, Shahrukh Khan has presented television programmes and is a highly successful businessman. His achievements are reflected in his nickname – King Khan (say it out loud).


Bio: Amir Khan

Indian actor, director, producer, born in Mumbai, 1965

Aamir Khan is Shahrukh’s elder by several months only, and a former tennis champion. He’s married to Reena (it was an issue because he’s from a Muslim family and she from a Hindu family and they eloped). While his first appearance was as a child actor in the 1970s, he hit the dizzy heights of overnight stardom in 1988 with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, directed by Mansur Khan, and written by Aamir’s uncle Nasir Hussain. Aamir’s recent hits packed with a political message against a background of love and timely bouts of song and dance are Lagaan (2001), Mangal Panday (2005), Fanaa (2006) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Nasreen Munni Kabir, the Indian film specialist and director, says of Aamir and Shahrukh: “They respect each other but I don't think they are thick as thieves. They are extremely different personalities. Even Sharukh in my documentary commented that ‘Amir thinks too much and I feel too much'.”

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