Yesterday I did “top characters“. This is a post that pairs with it, top performances. But is different, characters were wonderful people imagined by the script writer who Shahrukh was lucky to play. These are characters that Shahrukh elevated through his performance. (part of this post is the same as last year, but most of it is new)
14. Swades: I can see people disagreeing with my putting it so low. Heck, another day I might disagree with myself! But right now, looking at the rest of the list, eh. It’s certainly a very different performance from his usual one. All of the standard “Shahrukh Khan” tricks are gone. But, one the other hand, I don’t know if he really replaces it with that much else. It works for the film, and the character, because he is supposed to be so internal. But ultimately, it isn’t a performance that, on it’s own, really moves me.
13. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge I know it seems like it should be higher. But after doing my exhaustive scene by scene discussion, I realized it isn’t his best performance. It’s an amazing performance, don’t get me wrong, but he is not at his best yet. He is working too hard, and I can see him working a little, if I look close. Unlike later, where you can’t even see the effort.
(See? The slight effort, the slight overacting in some moments)
12. Om Shanti Om Someone (sorry, can’t remember who!) pointed out in the comments that this is really a triple role. Om Prakash, Om Kapoor, and Om Prakash as Om Kapoor. But we don’t see that. There is no effort here, it just flows naturally. Silly Om Prakash with his moments of depth and heart. Silly Om Kapoor with his superficial blind confidence. And then Om-Om, all that heart combined with all that confidence.
(Om Kapoor, reborn, as a more generous and happy person than before, delighted just to be here and be dancing)
11. Chalte Chalte This one I remember because it just happened yesterday! Procrastinatrix pointed out in the comments on the best characters post that I missed Shahrukh in Chalte Chalte. It is a great character, but it only really flies because of what Shahrukh brings to it. In lesser hands, this would be a terrible unsympathetic fellow. Resents his wife’s money, keeps her stuck in a boring middle-class life, throws her out when she tries to use her connections to help his business. But Shahrukh works with the hints that are there in the script (it’s a good script, they gave him stuff to work with) to make something more. He is a happy hard-driving confident guy, who has made it on his own. Not just in business, but in all parts of life, made his own friends and turned them into family, won over his own wife, and is proud of everything he has accomplished. And that justifiable pride is also his weakness, his identity is caught up in his achievements, when one of them is threatened (his business) it feels like all the rest are falling apart. And all of those details, that comes from Shahrukh’s performance. The little bit of happy confidence when talking about his business, the slow falling apart as he watches it go, the willingness to give up all false manly posturing and sob in his wife’s arms, combined with the scary anger that comes out when he feels like his last bit of pride is going.
(that little moment at the beginning when he keeps moving his head not to look at her, that’s so brilliant)
10. Saathiya: Shahrukh is barely in this movie, it’s really just a glorified Friendly Appearance. Which is kind of what makes it so tough. He has to show up in the last 15 minutes and immediately build a character and a relationship with the other characters, and have the audience 100% behind him. And he does it! He makes us believe that he is a high-ranking police officer, and loves his wife Tabu, and we should trust his judgement and decisions.
9. Chak De, India: Okay, I know I might be getting some pushback on putting this one so low. And it is an amazing performance. But part of it being amazing is that he has to step back and stomp down on himself a little so his character doesn’t over-shadow the girls who are the real stars. And so the audience is left in as much mystery as the characters onscreen as to what his true intentions and motivations are. So, yes, in the opening we see some crazy anger. And at the end, there is some amazing small muscle movements and posture that tells us how much he has been waiting for this happy ending. And along the way, there are the periodic speeches and reaction shots and so on during the games. But mostly he stands back and lets the story and the other characters shine.
(unlike Swades, this one absolutely moves me, just with the little moments in his eyes)
8. Koyla: Now this is a performance! Completely different from what he usually plays, with all kinds of emotions thrown in too. Anger and revenge and innocence and love and so on and so on and so on. Plus, no words! Shahrukh is so incredibly verbal, both offscreen with his interviews, but also onscreen, with his stage training in how to deliver a monologue. And he does this whole thing with no words! Not saying it is the best movie, or the best character, but the performance is super impressive!
(Such a cute song! Some of the best chemistry he has every had with Madhuri, and it’s all wordless)
7. Duplicate: Yes, I am putting Duplicate above Swades. Stupid stupid Duplicate. Because what Shahrukh does is AMAZING! It’s not acting, that’s where people get confused, it’s a spot-on 3 hour celebrity impersonation. He is doing Jerry Lewis in The Big Mouth, a movie with an almost completely different plot but the same hook. If you watch it like that, it’s genius!
(also, this song is endlessly amusing)
6. Baazigar: Oh my gosh, so brilliant! The performances, and the script, not the rest of the movie necessarily. Really, the script and the performance are all intertwined. I’m not saying it’s the deepest film in the world, but it is one of the cleverest and most surprising. And it only works because of how Shahrukh plays his well-nigh impossible role. Going from innocent to evil to tortured to furious and dragging the audience along with him. But, and this is the important part, all of his various characters still feel related to each other! It’s not like the innocent lover disappears when he turns evil, or the evil is completely hidden within the innocent lover.
(Such a strangely disturbing joyful song)
5. Don: Which brings me to this film! I’ve written before about how the first time I watched it, I remember getting all mad at Shahrukh for how he lost focus and let these little bits of the Don character sneak in even when he was playing Vijay. And then of course, twist! It was all on purpose! And it was PERFECT! Just enough to make you think it was an actor slipping, because it was an “actor” slipping, only it was the character acting the role, not the actor acting the role.
(I know it’s a fanvid, but it is SO GOOD!)
4. Dear ZindagiOnce again, the recent films are at the top of the list. He is really challenging himself with the roles he takes, and with how he performs them. Jaginder Khan is a wonderful character already, but Shahrukh makes him even more wonderful, so much so that he overwhelms the film. The little things, the way he mentions his father and you suddenly know that he is dead, the way he delivers a monologue without making it feel like a monologue, the way he treads the line of gentle warmth without veering into romance. And makes it all look easy!
3. Jab Harry Met SejalAnother one that he makes look easy! Charming bad boy type who romances a young woman. On the surface. But underneath that is pain and bitterness and deep deep depression and it is all there in his eyes, in a half-caught expression, in tiny little gestures. And that’s not even mentioning the way he manages to capture the spirit of a younger man, tired and sad certainly, but still with the uncertainty and energy of someone younger than 52.
(The joy, the sadness, the youth, all there just under the surface)
2. Fan: I almost flipped a coin to decide between this and next one. In most ways, this really is the greatest performance of his career. A double role, in which he disappears so much into it that someone I went with honestly thought there were two different actors. And both characters are so complicated! It’s not like Duplicate, where they are two different spot on impersonations, but these are two fully realized layered people. Really, either of them alone, the movie star with the madness inside and the charm on the surface, or the lowly fan whose humility hides insanity, would have gotten the film on this list easily. But to do both! That’s just unbelievable. Honestly, I don’t know if there is another actor living today, anywhere in the world, who could have pulled it off.
1.1. My Name is Khan: So, why is this one #1 and not the last one? It’s not because of anything we see onscreen, although his performance is amazing there, but because of the choices that went into this performance before the cameras started rolling. Dealing with the actual performance first, this is another one like Swades where all of the standard “Shahrukh Khan” stuff is just totally stripped away. But unlike Swades, it is replaced by a whole new array of mannerisms and personality and everything else. And then those mannerisms are put through the emotional wringer as he has to act out the deepest possible emotions, from sudden love to impossible grief to anger to resolution to really just about everything.
So, that’s why it’s in the top 2. But why is it at the very top of the list? Because, before he researched the character and dug deep into his training for every line and every expression and gave up months of his life for filming this one project, he must have read the script and decided he was going to risk his entire career on this very very dangerous project with a very very important message.