I am finding this fascinating, looking at the slow progression of the Shahrukh Khan romance over the years. Not every romance, but almost all, the ones I find interesting to talk about. (part 1 here, part 2 here)
A fascinating film in many ways, but especially as a romance, a Shahrukh Khan romance. It’s all the madness and passion of his Darr hero, but with the confidence of his late 90s persona. He would be dangerous, except that all of the madness and power is concentrated on one person, and he is able to see through to what that one person really needs and wants.
In fact, this film is a throwback to even before Darr, to Deewana. When he forced his way into Divya’s life, just because he loved her and knew she was unhappy. He is at cross-purposes with the heroine but, in a larger sense, is working for her.
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani
Post Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Shahrukh’s identity has matured. No longer the struggling young man, he is now an adult. His identity in this film comes less from his family background (although that is still there) and more from his professional life, his ambitions, his career connections.
Like Zamaana-Deewana, the romance takes place against the background of a shared goal. They fight, but they both believe in the same thing and are working towards it. And, secondary to that, they suddenly fall in love.
A film that struggles when it loses the romance. Shahrukh attempts to play a massive historical figure, one with motivations and powers and ambitions And yet he really only comes alive when he is in love.
It’s not a fault of Shahrukh exactly, or the script, but rather the two combined. The point is supposed to be the romance, in a way, that his falling in love with Kareena changed him, and losing her changed him even more. But that is just the impetus for the change, not the total point. Only Shahrukh’s performance was so much stronger and more confident in the romance sections that those areas ended up over-shadowing the rest.
Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam
Another marriage romance. The reverse of Koyla, in which the “wife” forced the husband to acknowledge her, in this one Shahrukh is the spouse fully in love who is chasing his wife. And it’s also a lot darker.
Koyla was dark, there was violence and action and so on. But this is a different kind of darkness, a bitterness, the angry ugly side of love. This is Shahrukh’s Darr hero if he had gotten the girl, married her, and grown up a little. But the brokenness inside, the need for her, that is still there. This is not the traditional film husband who is wise and good and all knowing and all powerful. This is a weak scared husband who is at the mercy of his wife and desperately trying to hide it.
Kal Ho Na Ho
Coming after Devdas, Chalte Chalte, as well as HTHS, this is Shahrukh the lover who has finally overcome all his insecurities. He has let go of his desires, all his desires. He has accepted himself, his weaknesses and his strengths, and that has become his strength.
Back in Ram-Jaane days, he was willing to give up the girl to the better man because he thought the other man was better. The same urge that was twisted in Yes Boss until he overcame it. But now there is a new era. He knows who and what he is and exactly what he is worth. He is giving up the heroine because he is wiser than her and knows he is wiser than her. They are in love, but he knows that there are different kinds of love, and what they share is not enough for her, she is not strong enough to go through what is happening to him, with him.
The first true mature romance. A romance which doesn’t need to be spoken, because they are both adult people who know what is happening. There is no drama, there are no ultimatums. They are in love, but love is not everything.
This is Shahrukh from Kal Ho Na Ho with no tragedy overshadowing him, and with a partner who is at his same level. Two people with complicated lives and emotions, who are wise enough to be able to communicate all of that simply. He started out with heroines who were his equal, because his extreme youth matched theirs. And now he has come full circle, another heroine that is his equal, an equal in maturity and intelligence and confidence.
Kabhi Alveda Na Kehna
This is an attempt to fully explore that mature Shahrukh. The wild young man with the broken inside, all grown up to a bitter old man with a broken inside. Who finds a partner to match him, broken in her own way, and stronger for the break.
The anger, the bitterness, the scary intensity, it’s a sign of intimacy here. He reveals it fully only to Rani because he knows she can handle it somehow, can handle it in a way no one else in his life can. Can see the lightness inside. Just as he can see the darkness hidden by her calm light.
So, what is happening here? There’s an attempt to find a new balance, that sweetness and brokenness together but in a mature man. And this is where we begin to find the brilliant performances that are seriously disturbing. He is not holding back any more, or perhaps it is that his inner core is slowly being revealed. Every one of these films contains moments that are not just “naughty” but disturbing. Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, a reporter so dedicated to a story that he cares about nothing else. Kal Ho Na Ho, a dying man who plays puppeteer to his friends in order to create the ending he wants against their wishes.
Purely in terms of romance, the best two of this era are Swades and Kabhi Alveda Na Kehna. The films in which his heroine has a darkness and depth to her that matches his own. He doesn’t need a pure innocent girl to save him, he needs a strong woman to match him.