25 years of SRK: Is Shah Rukh trying to go the Aamir Khan way?

What does the superstar have to do to keep up with Aamir Khan and Salman Khan? We take a look at some of his recent film choices.

Shah Rukh Khan in Raees

Sonal Pandya

Shah Rukh Khan completes 25 years in the Hindi film industry this June. Since he burst on to the scene with Raj Kanwar’s Deewana (1992), he has had a steady stream of success with a hit film churned out with high frequency. His contemporaries, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan, who debuted before him are still going strong in 2017, with Aamir’s Dangal (2016) becoming one of the biggest hits of Indian cinema and Salman’s Sultan (2016) becoming a personal best at the box-office for him.

Raees review: Typical underworld entertainer with high dose of Shah Rukh Khan

Both Salman and Aamir have also been praised for the kind of roles they have been taking on. Salman veered off the superstar path for a bit to play a Hanuman devotee in Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) who helps a mute young Pakistani girl find her way back home across the border. For Abbas Ali Zafar’s Sultan, he played a washed out wrestling champion who wins back the love of his wife, Aarfa (Anushka Sharma), a wrestler in her own right.

Aamir's film choices are forever scrutinised since the last decade or so. In the last seven years, with five releases, Aamir has been working with directors he’s never worked with before. The only exception to this rule is Rajkumar Hirani, with whom he’d previously worked on 3 Idiots (2009). Each time, he manages to astonish with his dedication to a role and in Dangal, he played both a wrestler and a coach, helping his daughters bring light to a sport dominated by men.

If we look at Shah Rukh, for the past year, he has had an interesting mix of films added to his filmography with Fan (directed by Maneesh Sharma) and Dear Zindagi (directed by Gauri Shinde). In 2014 and 2015, he had gone back to directors (Farah Khan, Rohit Shetty) with whom he had delivered hits earlier. But he hadn’t broken the mould with those films.

Happy New Year (2014)

In Happy New Year (2014), he played Charlie, a street fighter who recruits a bunch of misfits to steal diamonds worth millions from the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai. Along the way, he hopes to avenge his father, falsely accused of stealing by the ruthless Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff).

Khan reunited with his Baazigar (1993) co-star, Kajol, for Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale (2015). Khan’s character Raj is a retired gangster in Goa, taking care of his younger brother when he finds his former love Meera (Kajol), the daughter of a rival gangster.

Dilwale (2015)

Even the SRK-Kajol pairing couldn’t save Dilwale after it went up against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani on 18 December. Dilwale may have made some money, but it wasn’t enough to qualify as an outright hit. Thankfully, Shah Rukh's 2016 releases showed why he first lauded when he entered the industry.

Fan found him playing a double role of Aryan Khanna and his obsessive fan Gaurav Chandna. The meta-esque film had him playing a superstar whose fans throng outside his spacious mansion, just like in real life. The character’s name was borrowed from his eldest son’s name. His portrayal of the unhinged Gaurav, found many harking back to his role as obsessive lover Rahul Mehra in Yash Chopra’s Darr (1993).

In Dear Zindagi, he was the wise, mature therapist Dr Jehangir (Jug) Khan who helps Alia Bhatt’s Kaira overcome a traumatic event from her past to help ease her relationship with friends and family in the future. For many, this age-appropriate persona drifted quite close to the real-life Shah Rukh — intelligent, self-deprecating and witty. Shah Rukh takes a back seat to Bhatt in the film directed by Gauri Shinde.

With Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi (2016)

What’s interesting is that in both these films Shah Rukh was working with directors he hadn’t worked with before. Stepping out of his comfort zone of directors like Karan Johar and Farah Khan, his future projects involve an unusual romantic film with Imtiaz Ali with Anushka Sharma and Aanand L Rai’s next in which he plays a dwarf.

In his latest film, Raees, he’s working with another director for the first time, Rahul Dholakia and his co-star, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, will be sharing the screen with him for the first time as well. Working with these newer filmmakers will challenge the superstar to produce the kind of acting that fans found in the earlier part of his career when he took on characters with negative shades and became the ultimate hero with Aditya Chopra’s first film.

Even today, he is remembered as Raj from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). Working with some newer filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj or even a Shakun Batra could help him infuse some additional energy into his films.

Turning 50 in 2015 may just have been the impetus that he needed to bump his career to another level. In an in-depth interview with journalist and critic Anupama Chopra, Khan said, “I would never do something just for the sake of highlighting the fact that ‘Look I took a chance’. At my stage, I don’t want to surprise you.”

But at the same time in the same interview, he also confessed, “I want to do five great films. I think I’ve not even done one.” He calls his previous iconic films “dated”. Which means King Khan surely has some tricks up his sleeves we haven’t seen yet.