Academic journal article Framework

Star Gazing Via Documentary

Academic journal article Framework

Star Gazing Via Documentary

Article excerpt

This essay represents a preliminary attempt to explore a productive relationship between stardom (studies) and documentary (studies). To this effect, I analyze the first and second part ofthe documentary film The Inner/OuterWorld of Shah Rukh Khan1 (UK/IN, 2005) made by London based television producer, documentary filmmaker, and author Nasreen Munni Kabir and her longtime associate, the British cinematographer, Peter Chappell. The first part, The Inner World, was produced by Kabir's London-based film production house, "Hyphen Films," for BBC's Channel 4. The second part, The Outer World, did not find financial backing with Channel 4 and was produced by Shah Rukh Khan's (henceforth, SRK) Bombay-based media house "Red Chillies Entertainment." Acquiring the DVD rights to both the films, "Eros International" decided to package and market them together.

To film The Inner World, Kabir and Chappell, along with sound recordist Cherag Cama, followed SRK every single day, for three weeks, in Bombay and Delhi during October and November 2003. The 50-minute film explores SRK in an array of private and public spaces: physiotherapy sessions, Diwali celebrations, a visit to his parents' grave, a meeting with Prince Charles, and his birthday celebrations on the sets of Main Hoon Na/Trust Me, I am Here (Farah Khan, IN, 2004). To film The Outer World, the filmmakers followed SRK on his twenty-seven country tour "Temptations 20 04," for five weeks, across twelve major cities in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada during August, September, and October 2004. While The Inner World maintains the traditional coding of "domestic" space as "private" and "professional" space as "public," The Outer World shifts the impetus to explore SRK within an onstageoffstage framework such that the film actively codes "onstage" as "public" and "offstage" as "private."

The Inner/Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan as Companion Pieces

In this section, I explore the formal, stylistic, and thematic connections between the two films, through an analysis of specific documentary devices and an examination of the visuals, music, and editing, focusing on the intriguing contradiction between expository and observational modes. I try to assess how the rhetorical devices of documentary presentation, in particular the voice-over and the interview, mediate the star and produce him as a kind of document to which we have "unprecedented access." I also introduce here the theme of the star body that is elaborated upon, more conclusively, in the following section.

In spite of the distinct production histories and differing mise-en-scenes, The Inner/Outer World function well as companion pieces. The films do not attempt to provide a survey of SRK's significant film and television career nor an analysis of his status as a contemporary public icon. The films only record his stardom as it unfolds in the present moment, preferring a fly-on-the-wall documentary approach. At a Press Conference organized by Eros in Bombay, to launch the DVD, Kabir emphasizes: "I think that actually Shah Rukh is too young to do that kind of sit-down look at the films, analyze your life for over 50 years . . . because it's in the middle of a career . . . but this was a rare opportunity of actually filming the thinking and the psychology of a star as it is happening. And that was a very interesting thing for me in terms of a documentary subject. Here you are in the middle of this adoring storm, and who are you, how do you cope with people ? . . . How do you balance all these worlds and how do you stay sane ? . . . It seemed most appropriate to take this form of following him and letting things happen."2

The first exception to the observational mode of "following . . . and letting things happen" comes through the use of the voice-over exposition. A baritone, British, male voice-over narration, by an unseen Jonathan Kydd, opens both films. The Inner World is introduced in the following words: "Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt: who is the biggest movie star on the planet? …

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