Shah Rukh Khan and the emperor's new clothes
Never a die-hard fan, but I have always admired this charming fellow from Delhi. My favourite Shah Rukh Khan moment was his introductory scene in ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ where he plays rugby in the rain. I guess every SRK fan fell for him in that movie. Maybe, the credit goes more to Aditya Chopra than to SRK himself.
However, the rise of this generation's king of romance was rooted in the negative roles he did in 'Baazigar' and then 'Darr' in 1993. He had starred in a few movies previously, but was always overshadowed by other actors like Sunny Deol and Aamir Khan. The boy-next-door from Delhi took a risk few would even dare to so early in their career. And he thrived.
Chopra took him and went on to make the cult classic 'DDLJ', making Shah Rukh a poster boy. He became what Hugh Grant is to Hollywood. Whether it is 'Dil To Pagal Hai', 'Yes Boss' or 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai', his character of 'Rahul' has been so oft repeated that it got irksome for many.
People who don't like the 'Badshah' of Bollywood have always stated how all his films have the same formula since 1995. He has always been the larger-than-life rom-com king of Indian cinema.
Now, things have changed. Shah Rukh, the hero of the urban teen, is approaching his 50s. He also has to contend with the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan (who has established himself as a brand unto himself) and Ranveer Singh.
Unfortunately, instead of attempting to take on more challenges in life, he is sticking more and more to formula films. This is a mistake that many a great actors made when their careers were on the brink of fading, including Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna and Rishi Kapoor in the 80s and the 90s. Stars who thought they were infallible were suddenly gone, replaced by the likes of Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Govinda.
Brand SRK sells, no doubt. But that is no excuse for someone who is capable of 'Swades' and 'Chak De' to mould himself into somewhat similar to Salman Khan. One moronic film follows another, each more forgettable than the last. He knows his name alone draws crowds, so the mantra seems to be – why waste money on scriptwriters?
While all these movies are bound to make waves at the Box Office – with the atmosphere of marketing ruling over content – they are like the fireworks one sees at Diwali – there’s a loud bang and zero recall value. They spin money without caring about the ‘art’ side of cinema.
Grant's refusal to make different movies is rooted in his reluctance to be a celebrity (as he has openly stated many times), but Shah Rukh likes to do well. He thrives on being the star, he likes the limelight.
In a recent interview, he said he was afraid that he will wake up one day without work – it is amazing for a man who has achieved so much to strive so hard for so much more. It isn't as if SRK is only after money, otherwise he would have never agreed to do Amol Palekar's adorable fable 'Paheli'. It certainly wasn't your typical masala flick.
SRK says he doesn't make films for critics. Not many do. Everyone wants to make films for the audience. Some assume that their audience is intelligent and capable of thought. Some assume the audience is stupid and would pay for anything that is sold with a superstar’s face attached to it.
Unfortunately, more and more filmmakers fall in the second category.
I sincerely hope that someday, Shah Rukh would indeed take notice of his critics who maintain that he is capable of so much more. His fans hailed him when he did 'Baazigar', and also in the larger-than-life yet challenging 'My Name is Khan' (even though personally it was a little too idealistic for me). They surely expect more from him than hammy and repetitive tripe that is 'Happy New Year'. Fans will lose interest sooner than later.
He may be flaunting his 10-pack abs and getting all the love now, but the wrinkles on his face are starting to show. Even die-hard fans will move on to other people -- there are new kids on the block ready to topple him from his ‘throne’.
It is almost as though movie makers have conned SRK into believing that he can do larger-than-life versions of himself, however unoriginal they may be. He has been a superstar for more than two decades, and soon he may find that someone has called his bluff. He owes something to the people who have loved him and adored him for 20 years.
The only problem that I don't understand is whether he is the emperor being swindled or has he laid himself threadbare intentionally.
It is time to reinvent Mr Khan. You may not be interested in what they have to say, but experts notice changes in trend before others – it is their job. And it is bound to catch up with you, sooner than you think is possible.