FILM ARCHIVES

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

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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.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 9, 2010

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