As Shah Rukh Khan diversifies, what becomes of the actor?
Shah Rukh Khan, today, is a successful businessman with an impressive filmography wanting to explore newer opportunities in sports, television and now social work. What about his acting then? SRK still does movies but we see the superstar in film after mindless film, never the brave, intuitive actor. Winning the Crystal Award is great, but we miss the actor we grew up loving.
When they started out, Shah Rukh was arguably the most impressive of the three Khans, challenging stereotypes and shining in roles other leads wouldn't dare touch. As Salman and Aamir busied themselves with becoming heroes, Shah Rukh played with the dark and turned it gold. Between 1993-1994, he did Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam, showing India the havoc that unrequited and obsessive love can wreak.
Then came DDLJ and the spurned lover became the most desirable heartthrob overnight. Never before in Indian cinema had such a drastic role reversal been smoother or more widely accepted. Raj, with his boorish charm and sincere heart, asked Indian women to come, fall in love. And they did, without reserve. It's been 23 years but an entire generation is still as bewitched.
In his 25-year-long career, SRK has arguably played all kinds of lovers there can be. The idealist: DDLJ, Dil To Pagal Hai The obsessive: Darr, Anjaam The all-giving: Veer Zaara, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Mohobatein, Pardes The arrogant/entitled: Devdas The disillusioned: Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna The insecure: Chalte Chalte, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam Despite the limited scope, each of these characters stand out.
Though Shah Rukh's romantic films catapulted him to success, they are not his finest work. In fact, he's at his effortless best when not romancing on screen. Take Swades or Chak De! India or Dear Zindagi, for instance. They are worthy examples of his enduring brilliance. SRK must also be lauded for daring to experiment with films such as Maya Memsahab, Paheli and Asoka.
Displaying his acting range and emotional depth, Shah Rukh has played more than one (and often conflicting) characters in several of his films including Duplicate, Paheli, Don, English Babu Desi Mem, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Ra.One, Om Shaanti Om and most recently Fan.
However, something somewhere went horribly wrong after the release of My Name is Khan in 2010. His stardom grew but the actor in him kept diminishing with every film. All through the last decade, Shah Rukh seemed lost, distracted as if from trying too hard. With the lone exception of Gauri Shinde's Dear Zindagi, each of his movies have been indulgent, regressive and disappointing.
Shah Rukh, of course, knows that he can make good money while making good films. He's also woke enough to realize that his stories ring hollow and are misplaced in the current climate. He has the resources, the power, the talent and an influential medium to live the change he often talks about in his Yale, Harvard and TED talks. What is stopping him?
The writer grew up watching SRK films. However, it's been a while since she last did a countdown to any of his releases or pre-booked the first show on opening day. She feels guilty about abandoning her childhood fave. If only she didn't have to.