I am not trying to start a Khan war either - this one is for the Twitter trolls and the several nameless -faceless beings on social media who start "mera Khan tere Khan se bada kaise..." debates quicker than you can say "Rahul loves Simran."
As a teenager, it was Salman Khan's droopy eyes and Aamir Khan's lopsided grin that made me go weak in the knees. Shah Rukh, the outsider, a Khan without a filmy 'Khan-daan,' was busy knocking off or stalking the heroines and was in his own words "never the pin up guy," with his unconventional looks and mop of hair. (Also Read: Happy Birthday Shah Rukh Khan: 10 Killer Lines From His Films)
The SRK story started out small. In an age yet unshaken by cable television and set top boxes, there was just one channel on TV to watch - good old Doordarshan, providing us our day's entertainment apart from Krishi Darshan, the animated Ek Titli and news.
Fauji, the story of a batch of Army recruits, introduced us to a group of young men, and the one who stood out was Captain Abhimanyu Rai - no Tom Cruise, but his boyish charm as the maverick in the academy endeared him to many. I was a fan of the serial but not of him, not least because a few of my hysterical class mates gushed over him in a manner that one was too scared to say a word about their precious Captain Abhimanyu - what if they clawed your eyes out?
A few years later, he too, like all the other hopefuls, packed his bags and moved to Mumbai for a career in the movies. As he sang Aisi Deewangi to Divya Bharti, uncomfortable with the aerobics which passed off as choreography and dressed in that all-blue number, "kya yeh hero bansakta hai?" was the thought that came to mind. But, let me say, Delhi was proud - humare shehar ka ladka hai, after all. (Also Read: Shah Rukh Khan is 50: Our 10 Favourite SRK Roles)
Then came a handful of films - Chamatkar, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman - the songs hummable, scripted with the earnestness that marked out several films of the time. And the third Khan seemed to grow on you, though he was still some distance from approaching the popularity of Aamir and Salman, who were "the dils and dewars" of every household.
And then this 'Dilliwalah Khan' did the unthinkable - from romancing the girl, he decided to kill her. Hero se anti-hero, now who does that? Apparently the same man who had also married his girlfriend before his career began and proudly brought her to Mumbai instead of keeping her discreetly under wraps until stardom was acquired, as Aamir had with his wife Reena. What a lack of heropanti strategy. 'Bas! There goes his female fan club,' was the damning dismissal of many.
With Baazigar and Darr, SRK sent chills down our spines. Two decades later, the actor shed light on how everyone from Anil Kapoor to Yash Johar warned him from doing these films. Even director Yash Chopra was peeved that this struggling actor actually had the gall to ask him for a film narration for Darr, but signed him since no other hero wanted to play the psychotic Rahul.
But being bad served him well as he scooped the award for best villain. No, I didn't like Baazigar much and yes, I enjoyed Darr - the songs more than the screenplay. Who doesn't remember Tu Hai Meri Kiran or Tu Mere Saamne? But the same year, he endeared himself as the charming but pathetic musician in Kundan Shah's Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, yet again playing the loser who doesn't get the girl - but SRK's Sunil struck a chord. As he sang 'Anna Mere Pyaar Ko Na Tum Jhootha' on the streets of Goa or 'Sach Yeh Kahani Hai Sun Lo Meri Jaan,' somewhere he found his way into my heart. (Also Read: On Shah Rukh's Birthday, Meet His Sabse Bada Fan Gaurav)
But he didn't stay there for too long, returning on a murderous spree with Anjaam and the very average Trimurti. Salman, on the other hand, was happily smiling all the way to the bank with Hum Aapke Hain Koun and the two collaborated in the reincarnation thriller Karan Arjun but then again the focus seemed to be muscular Salman's shirtless self.
Not for too long, though, because only too soon Shah Rukh Khan invited you to fall in love all over again and with it, take a trip around London and Europe accompanied by a Bollywood soundtrack. The movie was Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. I am not getting into what the movie did us, what it did for SRK was make him into a bonafide superstar. As Raj, he was brash, loud and well, utterly romantic. As he muttered 'palat,' how many of us blushed in the dark theatre? Or the Karwa Chauth scene (in those days, there were few rants against the festival) for as he takes on Kuljeet and impresses Bauji who finally gives in.
As Shah Rukh fanned the flames of fame starring in one hit after the other, becoming Yash Raj and Dharma's blue-eyed boy, he also did some very forgettable films too, like Guddu.
Raju indeed had become a gentleman - no, he was the King Khan, a towering persona in Bollywood's gilded hall of fame. With it, criticism.
If he said he was the best, he was labelled arrogant. If he chose to dance at weddings, he was accused of was cheapening his position. He shrugged it off as "just performance and entertainment" and if his hunger for awards was termed greedy, he had this retort: "if you like me raise your hands , if you don't raise your standards."
So, as some loved to hate him and hates to love him, he became the poster boy, not just for living the Bollywood dream but for making it through his own conviction and determination. Interviewing him meant waiting for him endlessly - Badshaah Khan is NEVER ON TIME (he admits himself that time management remains beyond him). As you huffed and puffed, three hours later he would arrive, give you a hug and kiss the top of your head and all was forgotten. He wasn't one who would give you politically correct answers or mock you if you asked him an uncomfortable question. He charmed you - from Coppola to cricket, Fellini to football, from Right Said Fred to Rumi, he could discuss it all in the same breath. Whether you were a seasoned film critic or a junior reporter, he treated you as an equal.
Reminiscing about his days in Delhi when he sat in the NDTV studios, he would tell tales about his stopovers at the Moolchand Paranthewala, ask for endless cups of coffee and kuch dilli ka khaana, be it chhola bhatura or chaat. On one occasion, he was more than happy to try a desi nuska for his niggling cold - I suggested he have betel leaf and honey - reminding me a few months later with a grin, "Tell your driver, it didn't work, yaar."
"You know, kids these days with the access to the net have lost the power to imagine," he said. "Remember our time? When you were told about Hansel and Gretel's home, you wondered kaisa hoga but these days they Google and give you 45 images."
The thing that struck me and many about him was yeh kuch apne jaisa hai, he seemed relatable. The biggest movie star, a global icon, the richest film star at one point of time - he still seemed to be the Delhi boy who one day dreamt big and lived to tell the tale.
The first time I interviewed him at length, I told him that the only film of his I liked was Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, and he seemed to agree with me saying, "If I went back in time, I would show my mother this film. But sadly no one gives me movies like these."
A man who often court controversy, be it spats with colleagues or with certain factions, he remained self-assured. Each time pundits announced that his reign was over, he answered saying he'd rather win people than battles.
In his own words, "Like the song Sledge Hammer, that's what I want to be - your sledge hammer. Ask me to dance and I will, ask me to fly and I will, ask me to do cart wheels and I will. The only power I want is to entertain you all."
Happy birthday SRK. King Khan you certainly are and forever will be.
(Puja Talwar is Editor, Entertainment for NDTV 24x7)
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