This is just a random idea because I am in the middle of unpacking my Shahrukh DVD box and putting them in chronological order on my shelf. It’s kind of fascinating to look at his career as a case study of how an actor’s career progresses.
Non-Usual Disclaimer: This list is from Wikipedia, not me, so blame not me them if something is wrong!
Deewana (1992): The first film that released, but not the first one he signed. Shahrukh plays the second lead, really the 3rd lead. More than anyone else, this is Divya Bhatia’s film. Rishi Kapoor, on the way down at the end of his career, was willing to play second to her. A similar role to his part in Chandni, the lover hero in the first half, and then returning at the end for a dramatic bit. Shahrukh’s role is fairly empty on the page, the perfect young lover. But he adds some surprisingly dark shades to it, real anger at his neglectful wealthy father, and kind of scary obsession in his love for Divya.
Chamatkar (1992): Super fun film, once again Shahrukh comes in second, this time to Naseeruddin Shah! Who is having the time of his life hamming it up as a ghostly gangster. Also being hammy, Shammi Kapoor! And even the heroine, Urmila Matondkar. Shahrukh as the “hero”, an innocent village boy, is the most boring character.
Raju Ban Gaya Gentlemen (1992): Finally Shahrukh is a lead! And he is opposite Juhi Chawla for the first time. He was shy with her, since she was already such a big star and he was a nobody. They have great chemistry together though, possibly their onscreen chemistry served as a kind of time machine showing what their offscreen chemistry would be like 20 years later. This is also kind of a good movie! No random ghost gangsters or mysteriously re-appearing husbands or 3 mothers. Just a straight-forward remake of Shree 420.
Maya Memsaab (1993): Shahrukh’s second year in the industry started a bit off-beat. A remake of Madame Bovary, in which he played the youngest and most innocent lover. Also, a sex scene! And, according to some dark corners of the internet, a nude scene (from the back, but still). It’s interesting in general how he was able to move between all these different kinds of films without any big “he’s an artsy actor now!” or “He’s only in big dumb comedies!” or any other kind of label. Maybe because there was less coverage of each little movie? Or because actors cranked out so many films all at once?
King Uncle (1993): And he is back to second lead! Well, 4th lead in this case. It’s a remake of Annie, with Jackie Shroff playing Daddy Warbucks, Anu Agarwal playing the secretary role, and Pooja Ruperal (Chutki from DDLJ!) playing Annie. And then there’s Shahrukh, in a completely invented role as Warbucks’ estranged younger brother. He gets a young love song with his girlfriend, and he gets to tell off his brother a few times, but then he disappears for the middle third of the film. But it is still a good film for his career, he got some good scenes, and he got to work with some good actors, and Rakesh Roshan directed and would work with him again in a larger role.
Baazigar (1993): Shahrukh’s second movie of 1993 kind of over-shadowed this one as time went on, but this really was his big break. It took all that darkness and layers and complexity that he managed to shove into his stupid juvenile lead characters and brought it out. Really let him show what he could do. This time, it was the heroines who had to share the spotlight, not the heroes. And, of course, this is the film that introduced SRKajol to the world. The ruled FilmFare that year, their hit “Kaali Kaali Aankhen” ruled the airwaves, and in one fell swoop, Shahrukh had leaped to the top of the younger actors list.
Darr (1993) Baazigar is what made people notice him, but Darr is what made the right people notice him. It’s also an all around better movie. Once again, Shahrukh is playing a psychotic anti-hero. Technically, he is less of the hero than he is in Baazigar, less screen time and so on. But the character and performance are so spactacular, it’s hard to remember anyone else in the film. You can see why Yash Chopra and Aditya made him the in house hero for Yash Raj, and why Sunny Deol was so mad about how his character was side-lined. And why Shahrukh was willing to focus on this film to the exclusion of all others, cutting his 1993 output down to two. Also, second film with Juhi! But he was still so shy with her that he didn’t know how to talk to her and ended up spending all his time with assistant director Aditya Chopra instead.
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994): A completely illogical follow-up to Darr and Baazigar. The sweetest character he has ever played, in the smallest simplest film. No big stars, no big studio, no big director, seemingly no career advantage. But his performance is one of those “so simple and that’s what makes it difficult” kind of roles, to play an anti-hero who is barely both “anti” and “hero”. To this day, it is a performance that critics, Shahrukh himself, and even Gauri Khan, consider his all time best.
Anjaam (1994): The forgotten anti-hero film! And his first time co-starring with Madhuri. It’s a completely odd plot, Shahrukh goes way too heavy on the “anti” and too light on the “hero”, it’s unpleasant to watch him. Madhuri is the real hero, but as the tragedies pile up, it’s hard to believe that she just keeps going. The songs are nice, but I recommend watching them and never seeing the film. However, it is interesting that these two major stars, including Shahrukh on his way up and Madhuri the same year as Hum Aapke Hain Koun, could make this really not very good and very odd film, and it ends up forgotten entirely. Once again, the industry was very different then.
Karan-Arjun (1995): This is the year it all happened. It’s always hard to tell the exact moment when someone leaps to solid stardom. DDLJ alone couldn’t have done it, just like Zanjeer alone or Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak or Maine Pyar Kiya couldn’t do it. You need that one big hit, but you also need a solid body of work to back it up. After slogging his way up through a series of minor hits and flops, 1993 showed SRK’s unique acting range, and 1994 showed his off-beat sensibility was alive and well. But 1995 showed that he had come of age, he was ready to take the lead in film after film. And it all started with Karan-Arjun, which was directed by his same director from the terrible King Uncle where he took a terrible role but reaped the benefit in a relationship, which co-starred his at-the-time good friend Salman Khan from around the industry, which featured his amazing chemistry with Kajol, and which let him play loverboy like in Raju Ban Gaya Gentlemen, and devoted son like in Baazigar. This is what happens when you make 10 films in 3 years, there is a massive amount of experience and connections and everything else to draw on that makes that 11th film all the richer.
Zamaana-Deewana: This is such a random entry, especially in the watershed 1995 year. I really like it, it’s got some amazing meta-commentary on film romances and filmi stylings. Only, if you miss that it is meta, you think it is just a bad movie. It does have some interesting collaborations that are unique in his filmography. His second film with Anupum Kher after Darr, but they barely had any scenes together, this is where the Anupum-SRK special kind of magic really came out. His only film with Raveena Tandon (they’ve got smoking sexual chemistry, it’s too bad they never worked together again). And, most important, this is the last film made by Ramesh Sippy, 20 years after he changed everything by making Sholay. I don’t know why he retired after this, could have just been tired of working, but based on the scathing way this film treats the 90s romance genre, I wonder if he was just disgusted with the way the industry was going.
Guddu (1995): The first time Shahrukh and Manisha Koirala worked together. If you took their two films and combined their quality, you would end up with one average film. If you have seen Dil Se, the amount of bad that Guddu is to drive down the average should be apparent. If you have seen Guddu, the amount of good that Dil Se is should also be apparent. What I am saying is, this movie is a negative 10 on the goodness scale, and Dil Se is a positive 10. This is a terrible terrible film. Although it does have one really catchy song! And, like Zamaana-Deewana, it is another film that looked back in film history, the writer Abrar Alvi was a frequent collaborator with Guru Dutt. Unfortunately, the director of this movie was not Guru Dutt, and so the sensitive script was turned into a gosh awful mess.