Aryan Khanna is the biggest superstar. Gaurav is a school-going boy. They’ve never met each other but share a connection, a bond. Every time Aryan Khanna does a film, Gaurav watches it in a cinema hall and pins up the ticket on the soft board in his room. Every time Aryan Khanna fights a villain or serenades a woman, Gaurav wants to be him. Only, Gaurav need not try so hard for he is him. They are both Shah Rukh Khan.
Today, SRK turns 50. To mark the occasion, he released through twitter the teaser of his next film, Fan. In it, we see him play a character – one of the two in the film where he has a double role – that is, well, 25 years old – this boy, Gaurav, half his age, the film’s protagonist, the proverbial fan.
The response from his audience is, as expected, overwhelming. It took them a mere few seconds to fall for the myth. Of course, suspension of disbelief is a large part of the promise a viewer makes when tuning into a film – or its promotional material – but there is no denying this time SRK has a fairly good make-up artiste working with him.
However, looking back at the star’s journey in Bollywood, which is ironically as old as his character from Fan, one feels one has seen very little of SRK, it seems like one long stretch of multiple romances where all that’s changed is the way the actor looks – older.
Much like SRK, his contemporaries and frenemies Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, have all spent a considerable part of their early career portraying romantic heroes. If Aamir did Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Love Love Love, Salman established himself in Maine Pyaar Kiya and Baaghi. And although Salman’s loyal fan base only seems to have expanded over years as he turned into ‘Bhai’, he has had to reinvent himself every now and then. From the cute-sy, lean, comic lover, Salman first became the beefed-up hero who was occasionally comical. At the turn of the century, after being bogged down by his off-screen image as an enfant terrible, he started to embrace it. An evolution of that gave him the near-superhero avatar he currently wears with pride. With Aamir, the journey has been more a leap, from an actor to a conscientious star, who will do no wrong, well, not knowingly. Since Lagaan, which was his big comeback, Aamir’s been the Good Boy of Bollywood.
However, interestingly, SRK began his career as the anti-hero. He made bad look cool when he stalked his lady love in Darr and unbashedly used women to get close to the man he seeks revenge from in Baazigar. This image was overhauled when Yash Chopra who also produced Darr, cast him as Raj in his son Aditya Chopra’s directorial debut, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.
Not much has changed since. Pardes, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Dil Se.., Mohabbatein, Devdas, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Ra.One and more recently, Chennai Express. His filmography, barring an occasional Chak De! India, Swades and My Name Is Khan, rarely allows one to view him in a different avatar. To his fans, he is the same, a romantic hero, who will fight the villains in fury, act like a buffoon at times yet serenade the girl with the same passion as he did 20 years ago in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.
His arms spread wide and a look of longing in his eyes, the trademark pose has stayed with his fans for two decades. Not every time that he strikes the pose does the heroine come running into his arms. Yet, it’s become an act without which an SRK film is deemed incomplete.