I am a loyal fan, so when Kolkata Knight Riders was conceived as an idea I was extremely happy because two of my most favourite Indian joined forces. Dada and SRK. Shahrukh Khan was the quintessential lover boy, yes, but he was also the unusual Indian actor. The unusual Bollywood actor. He wasn’t the ideal statuesque built but he had the intensity. He was what tickled the fancies of a thinking soul. He looked approachable, intimidating, genuine, and mysterious all at the same time. After all there had to be a reason why a string of anti-hero roles stemmed his position in mainstream cinema. Whether it was of the avengeing Ajay in Baazigar or the obsessed Rahul in Darr or the straight up murderous Vijjay in Anjaam – his persuasion and passion was stuff of magnum opuses. And flanked between Deewana and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge these movies showed the spectrum of his art.
However, it was neither the vengeful Khan nor the lover boy Khan who caught my eye. It was the earnest executive of Raju Bangaya Gentleman and the hopeful romantic in Maya Memsaab who made me a believer. He was a soft actor, with a quiet demeanour that didn’t shout from the rooftops unless asking off of him. His chocolate boy features, and wavy hair ruffled showcased the vulnerability of a man on the verge of being the biggest sensation Indian cinema was to witness yet keeping his humble background in check. This tiptoeing reached zenith towards his next few performances – Rahul in Yes Boss, Arjun in Pardes. I still remember swooning at the very beginning of Yeh Dil Deewana, as Khan drives a convertible through a Nevada highway pushing back his hair and mulling over a heartbreak. I swooned similarly as he tried his might to woo Juhi Chawla with a coat that seemed to have a billion hidden pockets. There was not a character he couldn’t portray, and not a character that didn’t have us melting at the sheer power of his craft.
This then turned to my all-time favourite Indian movie. Dil Se. There have been times when I have wanted to wax poetic about this movie to an extent of giving it its own article. The movie was so unusual as a Bollywood movie even though it employed all the tact of being one. You had song and dance, but you had A.R. Rahman’s haunting soundtrack, you had a love story but it was of no superficiality and all depth, and you had a story line that put to shame even the most perfect narratives. But above all you had Shahrukh Khan. A journalist with All India Radio on a visit to insurgency riddled North East, dancing on train tops while route, falling in love with an insurgent, getting engaged to bubbly girl, and dying with the love of his life in a dual ploy to save the country and his love. Dil Se may have tanked at the box office, but cinegoers were terrifically happy because of the bold nuances this movie showed. Dil Se was the ideal movie for Shahrukh Khan; he could be the king of romance but he could also be the poetic intellectual.
Speaking of poetic intellectual, his portrayal of Mohan Bhargava in Swades was exactly the right interlude between all the overdoses of the Rajs and Rahuls. Dressed in plaid shirts, rugged jeans, and trekking shoes, Khan not only took a journey of self-introspection but also a journey of redefining his career with a jump into the unknown. Swades was technically on-point, but it was the emotional access he presented his fans with that was such a gift! One that was only matched in Chak!De India. Playing a beleaguered Hockey player who does a 360 only through conviction and perseverance. Shahrukh Khan wobbling a slight, with tears in his eyes at the beginning of Maula Mere Lele Meri Jaan, was a sight to behold. For an actor to be that raw on screen, that vulnerable, especially one of that stature! Wow!
Shahrukh Khan made me fall in love with all the times he didn’t make an effort with the romance. He just simply acted. A craft he loved so very much, a craft he is amazing at.