I just thought this would be an interesting experiment, to take a brief look at 28 different films in terms of the romance plots. and then try to come to some conclusions. I did the first 7 already, now let’s look at another 7.
Now, this is a fascinating SRK romance, because it’s not actually a romance. It’s supposed to be a separated brothers/revenge film. Traditionally a “separated brothers” film has the “good” brother and the “bad” brother. And if there is a “baby” brother, they get to be the comic relief, the light-hearted one. Yaadon Ki Baarat, Amar Akbar Anthony, that’s how they worked.
And so in this film we have “good” Jackie Shroff and “bad” Anil Kapoor. But Shahrukh isn’t exactly comic relief. He is that, but he is also the driving force of the plot, because he falls in love. He is passionately idealistically in love with his girlfriend. And not willing to compromise or wait or do anything sensible about it. Anil and Jackie are heroes from the past, from the whole history of “good” “bad” brother films with huge social statements and so on. But Shahrukh is from the new era, when it’s all about falling in love and defying your family.
English Babu Desi Mem
Shahrukh launched sharing the hero role with Rishi Kapoor, and now he is starring in a Rishi Kapoor film remake. Originally made as Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, mostly remembered now for being the source of the all time hit “Pucho Na Yaar Kya Hua?”
This is also one of the least successful romances Shahrukh has ever been in. He is trying to be someone he isn’t, not just playing a Rishi role, but playing an evil trickster. He and the heroine Sonali are antagonists, not working together. He sees her as a loose woman that he can seduce and weaken. She sees him as a foolish rich man. They are fighting over the same thing the right to raise their mutual nephew, but it isn’t until the very end of the film that they find their common ground.
Shahrukh started in a film in which a heroine was torn between two heroes, now he is the one torn between two heroines. The gender bending which was always part of his personality is now stronger than ever before, he has become the damsel in distress. The heroines, both of them, are the ones who take the lead in the romances while he merely follows along behind.
The happy ending comes when he is able to, not take the lead, but at least lead together. Become an equal and a partner with Pooja Bhatt instead of merely worshiping her from afar and not feeling worthy.
Shahrukh’s first real “marriage” romance. That is, where they fall in love post marriage, rather than fall in love and then get married. But an odd sort of marriage romance. Madhuri falls in love with his photo and considers herself married to him. He, after initial resistance, accepts this responsibility even if the rest of the world doesn’t see it.
It is also one of the first romances where the woman pursues him long before he pursues her. Multiple women, again. But while Chaahat had the sexually aggressive “bad” woman contrasted with the sweet and receptive “good” woman, in this case both women are equally aggressive in their own way. Shahrukh has now gone from the loser chasing the woman, the prize that the women are chasing.
One of the all time great Shahrukh Khan romances. He is a loser and a winner all at once. A loser who acts like a winner but doesn’t realize he really is one. In every way.
What makes this film wonderful is the ending. Where we learn that he had the girl all along. He just had to reach out and say something and she would be his. There is no need for big feats, impressive gestures, all of the angst and effort he went through. She wasn’t some prize, or some mystery to be unlocked. She was just a person, like him, who liked him from the start.
The second Shahrukh romance with Subhash Ghai. The first time, Ghai balanced the romance with other concerns. This time, the romance is the main message. And Shahrukh is the messenger.
Another weak man with a hidden strength. This time, it’s about the way traveling across the seas can change your status, your persona. Shahrukh in India is bossy and powerful. But in America, he becomes a servant, a nothing. And the romance is about him reconciling those two personalities, finding a woman who sees him for who he is, neither one nor the other exactly, gentler and kinder than that bossy persona, but stronger than a servant.
Dil To Pagal Hai
Very different kind of a romance here. Once again, Shahrukh has two women vying for him. But neither of them are “bad”. Both are good. And both truly love him for him, not for his sexiness or what he can do for them or anything like that.
And Shahrukh is a little different here too. Not a loser in anyway, successful and confident and powerful and happy. It is love that makes him a loser, that makes him weak suddenly. First his awareness of his best friend being in love with him, his guilt over that. And second his discovery that he himself has fallen in love.
That is what makes the audience love this character, the crazed cocky confidence combined with the fragile heart.
By this point, Shahrukh has been identified as a romantic hero. Ghai cast him in Trimurti because he could sell that role. DDLJ has already happened, everyone knows the winning combination is confidence combined with sweetness.
But the question is, how do you combine it? You don’t want too sweet (Chaahat) or too confident (English Babu Desi Mem). Most of all, you want a heroine who he cares about, who he respects. You want him to respect all women. In Koyla, even the “bad” woman got his respect. He faught for her and tried to help her and rejected her advances gently.
The best of these films are primarily about him and the heroine working together. Dil To Pagal Hai, Pardes, Koyla, even Yes Boss. He is honest with her and she is honest with him.