Well, this has been a fascinating journey! I’m kind of tempted to do another series on, like, Shahrukh action films or something. (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here)
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
Finally a good balance between the darkness and the light. Or is it? Anushka inspires both in him, somehow. The light sweet Suri, but the darkness of him thinking he has to become Raj for her.
In the end, the lesson is that honesty and trust will win out. Raj, he was never really real, and Anushka was never really real with him, not letting him know she was married, pretending to herself that she was still a free and happy girl. It was boring Suri who knew the real Anushka, and it was the real Suri that she had the real connection with.
He only has a small role in this, but it is a role he had to play. The man who is wise and powerful, but still a slave to love. Only, a knowing slave to love this time. He knows he is hurting himself, but knows he is strong enough to accept the hurt.
And the one he wants, the one who is hurting him, is stronger than him. He doesn’t want someone to rescue, he wants someone who can rescue him, who can make him happy, who can be wise and strong and important just like he can. There needs to be an actor here who has the strength and maturity combined with controlled weakness, which is perfect for a Mature Shahrukh.
This wasn’t supposed to be a romance. Don 1 wasn’t a romance, not really. Shahrukh was drawn to Priyanka, but that’s all it was, a mild curiosity. But it was Shahrukh Khan, after all, the chemistry ended up over-whelming everything else.
And Don 2 is about giving in to that chemistry. Shahrukh may have an elaborate plan, but it keeps getting confused by his feelings. And his feelings keep getting confused by his plans. It’s also a new version of the heroine who is a match for the hero. But it’s not a heroine who is a match for the hero, not really. That’s why he doesn’t stay with her. He likes her, but he wants something more, someone who won’t be conflicted about her feelings, someone who makes the choice to give in fully.
Now, this is a very interesting romance! In this one, for the first time in a long time, the heroine is the stronger one. Deepika sets the plot in motion, leads Shahrukh through it, and he does everything for her. Until the very very end, when he finally grows to meet her.
And Shahrukh is playing a new version of his loser weakling. His Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa hero if he never really grew up, if he just stayed the same shy tricky inexperienced person until he was 40. It’s a very different kind of hero, especially for a romance. We can’t see why anyone, let alone gorgeous intelligent confident Deepika, would be interested in him. Until, just like Deepika, we suddenly see his hidden depths. Before, he was always confident with a brokenness hidden inside. This time, the broken is outside, and the goodness is hidden.
This is a Shahrukh Khan romance without Shahrukh. Well, without him present for most of the film. But he is what sets the tone. The man who isn’t afraid to be weak, isn’t afraid to need a woman, that is all Shahrukh. The anger, the bitterness, the love that drives you to madness, that is all him too.
But the mature Shahrukh, the mature Shahrukh is beyond that. He has gained wisdom through all his failed romances, the sorrows that are lined in his face. And so he can pass his wisdom on to the next generation.
Another Shahrukh Khan romance without Shahrukh. He is there to guide our heroine through her own love stories. A romance Sherpa, as it were. Which is the most believable version of him today. We can no longer believe the Shahrukh who has never known love, the innocent whose heart is woken by the heroine. Instead, we believe him as someone who has grown past his broken parts, learned about love, and know is ready to pass on that knowledge.
And we also need a heroine who can match him. Which this film does not provide, not really. Alia does not have his maturity, his wisdom, his experience. She is a child while he is an adult. Any romance between them would be ultimately unsatisfying.
And finally, the culmination! Well, so far. Shahrukh’s broken young man who has grown broken, warped over the missing bits. Who meets his match, someone with her own broken bits, who is strong enough to face down his bitterness and lashing out.
This is the same romance he has been making all along, but striped down, with all the comedy and family and distractions removed. A broken weak man who tries to hide his weakness until the woman reveals it. And, after she shows it to him, she also shows him a strength he didn’t know he had.
Anushka is the same heroine he has had all along too. More innocent than he, but also more unhappy. She needs someone broken who is willing to break through society to pull her out to happiness. Like the widow Divya, forced to remarry. Or the bomber Manisha, shown that love exists. Or unsatisfied Rani, shown that she can be desirable and desiring. The best Shahrukh Khan romances have always been this.