May 4, 2022
Shah Rukh Khan can’t leave his front door without being swarmed by adoring fans, but even before he was a global celebrity, he stood out in a crowd.
It’s been 30 years since Khan’s big-screen debut — his Filmfare Award-winning role in Raj Kanwar’s Deewana — after which he built a nearly unparalleled Bollywood career. However, the foundation of this very career was the 1989 Doordarshan television serial Fauji (“Soldier”), whose 13 episodes finally started streaming last year on Amazon Prime Video and Eros Now.
Two things are of immediate note upon revisiting the series. The first is that it’s nearly unwatchable — the original tapes are poorly preserved and it’s a mess on nearly every artistic level. The second notable element is Khan himself, and the palpable charisma he brings to lead character Abhimanyu Rai, a wise-cracking army cadet with something to prove. It’s difficult to recommend Fauji as a piece of entertainment, even at a mere 23 minutes per episode, but the series makes for a fascinating artistic curio, one that hints at the superstar that would dominate Indian — and global — entertainment for the decades to come.