My Name Is Khan: Karan Johar's Excesses Outdone by Real-Life Drama

Can autism guarantee Bollywood's biggest star crossover success?

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My Name Is Khan
Directed by Karan Johar
Fox Searchlight
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If autism can reboot Claire Danes's career, can it guarantee Bollywood's biggest star crossover success? Shah Rukh Khan (known as the "King of Khan") plays Asperger's-afflicted Rizwan Khan, a Muslim who leaves Mumbai for San Francisco after his doting mother dies. There he will meet and marry single-mom Mandira (Kajol), a Hindu hairstylist. The World Trade Center collapses, an Islamophobic tragedy strikes the Khans, and Rizwan must crisscross the country, by bus and on foot, to deliver a message of tolerance to the President (first Bush II, then Barry)—but not before being incarcerated Gitmo-style and saving a Georgia town from Katrina-like conditions. Khan's disorder, clearly used to make our hero a pure-hearted naïf, comes dangerously close to being exploitative (which may explain the opening-credit disclaimer that flashed for two seconds about attempting to accurately depict Asperger's). And for a movie that preaches cultural understanding, it sometimes seems a little too comfortable perpetuating ethnic stereotypes. But now the excesses of Karan Johar's film are being outdone by the real-life drama surrounding My Name Is Khan's release in Mumbai, where a radical right-wing Hindu party has vowed to disrupt screenings, protesting Khan's recent remarks that Pakistani players should have been chosen for India's cricket teams.

 
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