Readers Write In #81: A Fantastic Journey, a Fascinating New Road Ahead: #27GoldenYearsOfSRK

Posted on June 28, 2019

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(by Aman Basha)

June 25, 1992. A young man jumped onto Indian screens in a bike, crooning about wanting someone who would love him. The movie was Deewana. Although it was the star showcase of the beautiful and tragic Divya Bharti, attention quickly fell on that fellow driving the bike. Very few debutantes know how to properly perform to the camera and he more than capably did. That was 27 years ago and he, of course, was Shah Rukh Khan.

Dear Shah Rukh Khan,

Congratulations on completing 27 Years!! It has been a fantastic journey for you so far to experience and for us to see, however the most fascinating part of this journey is where it will go next. Your beginning was sensational; within that time, you were the only actor among various others, old and new, to consistently try different and new roles, acting in movies as far and wide as Karan Arjun and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. Playing all these roles, you presented a new facet of the Hindi film hero that set you apart from all those around: vulnerability.

The heroes of our movies, even the romantics like Rajesh Khanna, were always more masculine than vulnerable. However, it was you who embraced your vulnerability, your feminine side showing it open and unabashed, most touchingly as Sunil in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. Your vulnerability was not only feminine; it was also complimented by intensity, those famous quivering lips and stammer with which you said, “I love k-k-kiran” in Darr. Your antiheroes were only one side, those performances as characters with dreams and ambitions in movies by slightly offbeat directors like Kundan Shah and Saeed Mirza captured the spirit of post liberalization India, looking at new horizons and dreams. Your ambition of wanting to be known as the best seemed to reflect in these dreamers you played, the character in Yes Boss who only wanted to bring down the stars and moon (which you literally did in Zero).

It was undoubtedly DDLJ that catapulted you to superstardom, but that movie too was about a new India, an India that wanted to keep tradition but embrace modernity too, that wanted to go to the snow tipped Swiss Alps but still wanted to retain links with its khets. These contradictions reflected in the character of Raj too, but your sheer charm quotient and legendary chemistry with your co-star made it work. It transformed you into the biggest brand of onscreen love we had ever seen. Your love was different too; it had vulnerability and femininity, coupled with intensity, charisma and an animal magnetism that always left you wondering if you’d serenade the girl on top of Swiss hills or throw her off buildings.

The next years saw the growth of brand “Raj/Rahul”, as you played iterations of your lover in countless movies successfully. Along with this came the emergence of brand Shah Rukh Khan, Baadshah of Bollywood and India’s Global Superstar. These years saw many interesting efforts and movies like Dil Se (one of the greatest dark romances, IMHO), the beautiful fairytale Paheli, the idealistic Swades and Asoka, however it was only Chak De that found both critical acclaim and commercial success, but it was eclipsed by the box office juggernaut of Om Shanti Om. Slowly but surely, the star seemed to swallowing up the actor as movies came out that seemed less like good films and more commercial projects targeted at winning single screens, that had become devotees of your contemporary, Salman Khan. Even your star show reels, the best of which was Kal Ho Naa Ho showed both the star and the actor. However, these films seemed to showcase only the star, referencing his films and making jokes out of his iconic moments. Yet these films were successful commercially and finally, a terrible travesty called Dilwale happened.

The film ruined the iconic pair of DDLJ and seemed to have made people stop buying the star brand of SRK. The bells were ringing and you quickly jumped in to try reinvention. However, these films soon turned into a tug of war between the star and the actor. JHMS was an uneasy and bad mix of the Shah Rukh Khan and Imtiaz Ali romance. Raees was burdened by the romantic angle it had. And the brave unconventional choices that satiated both star and actor like Fan and Zero simply flopped.

All these failures at reinvention and earlier bad choices seemed to have made many to write you off. But to an unabashed admirer of your work, the type who writes tributes (which letter definitely is), the ambitious and edgy actor is still kicking somewhere, (for how else could the widely varying characters of Aryan and Gaurav be pulled off simultaneously), the star charisma is still shining (for who could imbue the part in Dear Zindagi as effortlessly as you did), those dimples still sparkle(how else did that Mere Naam Tu sequence in Zero work) and Raees showed how wolf whistle worthy you are in kohl and slow motion walk. Hindi cinema has been transformed by you and it still has much to get from you. Not me, nor anyone knows what to do, it’s a road you must take alone. For all those who question my belief in you, I have this to say: “Shah Rukh Khan ko naa bolne se paap lagta hai”.