If I were to ask you who’s the biggest superstar, the most popular actor on the planet, what would be your first guess? Brad Pitt, probably? Tom Cruise, maybe? Leonadro Di Caprio? Will Smith? None of them. You may not know his name, but his face would probably seem strangely familiar. The biggest star in the world with a sweeping number 3.2 billion fans and the richest among the top actors (his net worth being more than $600 million), as stated by BCC, California times and many others, is Shah Rukh Khan, aka Baadshah of Bollywood.
One of my favourite actors ever, the Indian superstar born on 2 November 1965 has just turned 52 and, what can I say, he still rocks! Khan is often labelled by the Media as “Brand SRK” due to his various brand endorsement and entrepreneurship ventures, the long list including Pepsi, Nokia, Hyundai, Dish TV, D’decor, LUX and TAG Heuer. What else? Since 2008 he also owns, in partnership with the Indian actress Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta, the team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) cricket team and a few years ago he hosted two popular Indian TV shows, “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”, and “Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain?”, the Indian version of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”. SRK is a real jack of all trades and, as the description on his Facebook page tells us, he considers himself an “Actor, Model, Producer, TV Host, Father, Son, Husband, Brother, Mentor”. One could not deny that he’s proved great in all of the roles, on and off screen.
Khan studied acting under celebrated Theatre Director Barry John at Delhi’s Theatre Action Group (TAG). His career begun in television in the late 1980s, quickly capturing the attention of movie producers. Shortly after that, in 1992, he made his Bollywood debut with “Deewana”. Since then, he has been part of numerous commercially successful movies and has earned critical acclaim for many of his on screen performances. The list would go on and on and there’s no point in summarizing Khan’s entire way to stardom, so I’ll just focus on the most important fact from his both, professional and personal life, giving you at least a glimpse of the magnitude of his career and pay homage to his tremendous legacy.
Back in the 90s, before he became an ultimate romantic hero, Shah Rukh was recognised for portraying villainous roles, which gained him critical acclaimed and incited the curiosity of the Indian audience. The interesting fact is that, apart from having absolutely no connections in the film industry, the inconspicuous Muslim boy from New Delhi started his career already married to Gauri Khan, which was often frowned upon, as the producers did not believe it’d be possible for a “taken” guy to conquer the hearts of female fans and prevented them from hiring Khan in leading roles, as a typical Bollywood hero (needless to say, he was long considered too ugly for a male lead!). However, 1995 witnessed a breakthrough in his career, when the late Yash Chopra decided to hire SRK in his son’s directorial debut, the romance “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” to play a young Non-resident Indian (NRI) who falls in love with Kajol’s character during a trip across Europe. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, lauded by both critics and the public, became the highest grossing production in India and abroad and was declared an “all time blockbuster”. It’s also the longest-running film in the history of Indian cinema (still showing at the Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai!) and played a crucial role in establishing Khan as an ultimate “romantic hero”.
Shahrukh’s pre-millennial career faced both, ups and downs, with some more or less successful movies, but also numerous box office flops. Among the most known titles from that time I’d say “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” and “Dil Se” (I still don’t get it why the Indian audience didn’t like it…) are the ones worth seeing. In the 2000s he’d already established a firm ground in the Indian film industry and was perceived by the media as a “natural” Amitabh Bachchan’s competitor, even though SRK had always expressed his deep respect and admiration for Big B’s work, considering Mr Bachchan his role-model. The supposed rivalry between the actors was nonetheless seen on screen, expressed in a form of ideological struggles between the two men, first in Aditya Chopra’s “Mohabbatein (2000)”, then in Karan Johar’s family drama “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)”, in which Khan co-starred Bachchan as an authoritarian figure. It was“Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham“ that reached a vast audience abroad, remaining the top-grossing Indian production of all time, and opened SRK the doors to the world-wide career. Until then, Shah Rukh Khan’s star started to shine brightest, making him the man we know today, one of the Three Great Khans of Bollywood (along with Aamir Khan and Salman Khan), with numerous awards for unforgettable performances and the unmatchable fan base composed of admirers from all over the globe, whose love for the actor often borders on the verge of fanaticism.
The greatest proof of his immeasurable stardom can be observed each year on November 2, when Khan’s fans gather outside of his Mumbai bungalow Mannat to celebrate their beloved idol’s birthday (see this article, for instance). A similar scene was even featured in one of his most recent movies, a thriller titled “Fan”, in which the actor excels at a double role of a superstar and his obsessive follower, confirming Shahrukh’s healthy distance to his God-like status and career, which he takes with a great deal of humility and auto-irony, yet still aware of his worth and power. There are many episodes from his personal life that have been seen on-screen, the most recognized example of all being hands down the 2010 movie “My Name is Khan”, in which the actor (himself a Muslim) plays an Indian Muslim man with Asperger’s syndrome, who takes a challenge to speak to the President, and embarks on a cross-country journey. The core themes of the movie revolve around the omnipresent hostility towards Muslims that emerged after the 9/11 terrorists attacks and was inspired by the unfortunate incident of the Bollywood star’s detainment on US airport for the sole reason of bearing a common Muslim name. If you ask me, and many would agree,“My Name is Khan”, remains one of the greatest SRK’s performances until date and is not to be missed, especially if you “hate Bollywood” as a rule!
10 reasons to love SRK:
(I could easily make it a 100 though! :-))
- Because his is a rags to riches story that has inspired thousands of aspiring actors.
- Because he can play any role and continues to stun the public with his versatility. Needless to say, he played a huge role in bringing Indian cinema to the world stage.
- Because he’s truly a family man. Shahrukh has been married to Gauri Khan for 26 years without any serious rumoured link-ups between him and other actresses (let’s draw a veil over the media-hyped supposed affair with Priyanka Chopra…) and he cannot stop gushing about his love to their three beautiful children, Suhana, Aryan and the 4-year-old AbRam. Pretty cute, isn’t it?
- Because he’s a superhuman with flaws. He’s believed to work 17 hours a day, powered by 100 cigarettes and 30 cups of black coffee, and confesses that he rarely sleeps more than 4 hours, forgets to eat, doesn’t drink water. And he still has a six pack (sighs). While it does give you an impression that SRK might be some kind of a demi-god, such a workaholism definitely requires a boost, even if his energy levels seem inexhaustible. And he simply has to have some vices. Period.
- Because he reads. A lot. The actor confessed to be a hopeless bookworm who apparently does not go anywhere without Kindle and devours a book a day (which brings us to the question whether he maybe is a superhuman, after all…). He’s also pals with Paulo Coelho, but hey, let’s not be overly judgemental, de gustibus non disputandum est… Truth be told, I’m so biased towards Mr Khan that I’d rather accept the fact that Coelho might be a hidden literary genius that accuse SRK of bad literary taste.
- Because he’s exceptionally intelligent (and I’m sure he owes it in large part to reading!) and a great speaker. And delightfully witty. And oozes confidence, a bit of arrogance perfectly mixed with humbleness. Such an irresistible charisma comes once in a lifetime. Plus, add a killer sense of humor and we have, on top of all the above, a brilliant speaker (may the TED talk below serve as an example)
- Because he has tremendous respect for women. Moreover, he claims: “My success is all down to the women I’ve worked with”. Need I say more?
- Because he has a heart of gold. Khan is known for keeping a low profile and secrecy on his social commitments and humanitarian work for which he have received many award including UNICEF. When asked to appear in one of his friends’ movies, he does it willingly and for free – too bad that the final result is often a cinematic disaster, which the audience should be paid for watching, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, anyway.
- Because he may not be conventionally handsome, but even in his 50s he manages a physique to die for!
- Because his eyes speak volumes and his gaze, albeit intimidating, will easily make you fall in love. Oh, and I almost forgot about his signature pose! The one which many have tried to imitate and failed miserably 😉
“Thoughts on humanity, fame and love” – Shah Rukh Khan’s TED talk.
If you’re up to familiarize yourself with King Khan’s filmography, there are already quite a lot of titles available on Netflix, since his production company RedChillies Entertainment signed an agreement with the most popular media streaming platform. As of now, the vast database contains mostly the newest productions, but you’ll also find there some of the SRK’s movies dating back to the 90s and the 2000s.
My personal list of the best movies starring SRK:
- Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
- Dil Se (1998)
- Devdas (2002)
- Veer-Zaara (2004)
- Swades (2004)
- Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)
- Don (2006) and Don 2 (2011)
- Chak De! India (2007)
- My Name is Khan (2010)
- Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)
- Dear Zindagi (2016)
- Raees (2017)
TOP SRK’s performances (IMHO):
- My Name is Khan (2010)
- Swades (2004)
- Chak De! India (2007),
- Fan (2016)
- Darr (1993),
- Baazigar (1993)
- Raees (2017)
- Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
- Om Shanti Om (2007)
- Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)
- Asoka The Great (2001)
… and probably more. I only wish he stopped accepting the roles of 20/30-something loverboys at his age and challenged himself a bit more, I want the mature SRK co-starring actresses that could not pass as his daughters. Also, “bad” Shah Rukh is the best Shah Rukh, so, villains, pretty please!
The post about an Indian movie star wouldn’t be complete without some music, right?
(this one you might have heard in “Sense 8”)
(and this one is a perfect song for a Friday night, isn’t it?)
All hail the King! May your star continue to shine forever, lighting up our lives with the whole array of emotions we experience watching you on screen.