January 27, 2023 8:21 pm

30 years of SRK in 30 moments

Shah Rukh Khan started off by taking the road rarely traveled- playing highly risky anti-hero figures, characters really far from our conventional ideas of hero and yet won our hearts with his freshness and vigor.

And just when we thought we had a grip on our familiarity with him, he turned the tables like no one else, revamping himself as the ‘King of Romance’ and becoming the poster-boy of wholesome Bollywood entertainment for years to come, even playing a monumental role in the growing popularity of Hindi Cinema on a global level.

As Shah Rukh Khan completes 30 glorious years in cinema, Firstpost attempts to make sense of his magic and contribution to our lives, through 30 scenes and moments from his films where we find Khan to be at his very best, and which we believe deserve far more love (though some of them are already quite popular, you might reckon).


There are many moments in this Mani Ratnam film that capture Khan at his intense best, but my favorite remains the one where Amar realizes that Meghna has abandoned him yet again, in the middle of a stranded corner in Ladakh. There’s this burst of angst from Skechers Outlets Amar as he frustratedly wipes Meghna’s message off the ground, and sits atop the scattered sand in a fetal position – it’s the near-perfect image of a forlorn child who has just realized there are a few things that will be out of his control, out of his bounds of love.


It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly Khan’s signature laugh was first noticed, but I want to believe it was in the climactic clash of Baazigar. Ajay is stabbed and quivering, and as the villain (Dalip Tahil) laughs at his pitiful state, we are convinced of our protagonist’s doom.

However, Ajay begins to chuckle through his pain, which gradually turns into menacing laughter shocking both the villain and the audience. It’s a rise-of-the-Pheonix moment, the one that arrives through self-destruction – and undoubtedly one of the most chilling moments of Khan’s career.


This movie has gained a cult following over the years, especially among SRK fans, and the climax, where Sunil sees the ring but doesn’t pick it up, is a common favorite.

However, I also keep going back to Sunil’s child-like yearning in the scene where he awaits his present as Anna unpacks the luggage. When she first chidingly tells Sunil she couldn’t get a gift for him, Sunil puts up a happy facade, but we know he is crestfallen. And when Anna unpacks the harmonica, Sunil is back to being the besotted, grateful lover that is. Khan’s body language in this entire stretch – as he first plays around with others’ gifts, or how he ruffles his hair upon seeing his gift – is a thing of sheer beauty.


After a few teething troubles, coach Kabir Khan resumes his training sessions for the women’s hockey team – and things get a bit too intense. Khan continues to criticize his team for not living up to the mark even as a player falls unconscious. While others tend to her, Khan abruptly yells, “Behosh hui hai, Mari nahi hai wo!” His voice has turned hoarse, but his anger refuses to quieten.

In a filmography brimming with violent parts, this might arguably be the most aggressive and hostile we have ever seen Khan being.


Before Mohan’s grand realizations about the plight of people around him and his purpose in life, there are some amusing moments with Mohan and his initial impressions of the village. When Kaveri Amma introduces Mohan to Panchayat heads, Mohan quickly goes from a distant admiration to mildly disdainful curiosity. As someone dishevels Mohan’s hair while giving blessings and another unwittingly compares his work at NASA to a local weatherman – It is Khan’s reactions that make these visuals far more rib-tickling than they look on paper.


This is an odd yet memorable feature in SRK’s resume – where he tried both goofball and evil. The film bombed big time, but Khan went no-holds-barred with his hamming, especially As Bablu, the soft-hearted chef. My favorite bits are the one where after deciding Hoka Running Shoes to pretend to be Manu to save his skin, Bablu tries to imitate Mannu’s mannerisms, which include constantly smacking his lips and speaking in a slow, husky voice – It’s a parody of the already-caricaturish, and I don’t remember Khan ever having this much fun doing screwball ever again.


When Rahul sees Anjali after 8 years, he is a bundle of emotions with nowhere to go – so he fidgets, and fumbles forward for an awkward hug, before holding Anjali’s hand with all the delicate affection of a grown-up. That’s the best he could do right now – and Khan plays his moment with his usual nervous energy, yet with a touch of restraint, lending a beautiful, understated warmth to the moment, in a film otherwise brimming with mawkish melodrama.


I can’t recollect how many times SRK has been proposed to, on celluloid, but nothing matches the priceless reaction on Rizwan’s face after Mandira asks him whether he would marry her. By now, we are well aware of Rizwan’s love for her, and yet, SRK leaves just enough pause to build the anticipation – before breaking into a bashful smile and covering his face to hide his glee.


In what is arguably the most underrated romantic moment from the actor’s oeuvre, Veer asks Zaara for a day from her life so that he could show her his village. The request might sound nominal on paper, but Veer knows what the gesture means – and Khan accordingly lends the kind of pathos and gravitas to his delivery.


In a hilarious cross-connection, the CBI chief (Prem Chopra) ends up on a phone call with Raj, a mere local detective who they assume to be their secret agent. As they proudly tell him about the high stakes of their secret operation. Rahul gets all emotional, seeing such concern from the Doctor for his mother’s surgical operation.

And yet, he cannot be seen crying. If ‘Keep calm and carry On’ had a face, it would be Shah Rukh Khan at this point – as he coolly wipes his tears, puts on his black shades, and gets back to the ‘In Control’ mode in a jiffy. It’s a brilliant off-hand moment, the one of many that Baadshah makes such a fun watch even 23 years later.


Shah Rukh Khan has played an obsessive man on many occasions, but rarely a misanthrope. In KANK, Dev Saran is a bitter underachiever who hates parties as much as people – which results in one of my favorite scenes in KANK. Dev grimaces his way through others’ pleasant exchanges, even slipping in a ‘Teri Maa Ki’ to an imaginary extrovert after imitating their fake air kisses, with the cherry on the top being his vigorously disapproving nod when Sam (Amitabh Bachchan) yells, “and we are not done yet.”

After all the years of offering unbridled love, it was a treat to watch Khan play a hateful cynic and go all out.


Khan playing against his type here in a brief cameo as an upright IAS officer displayed an uncharacteristic restraint. However, this moment makes it to the list mostly for being the rare occasion when Shah Rukh and Tabu shared the screen – As Savitri (Tabu) sobs uncontrollably while confessing about a grave mistake and Yashwant (Khan) consoles her while feeling the right to stay responsible, Khan and Tabu play off each other’s energy with amazing ease and grace, rekindling our wishes to see them together in a film of their own.


A lot of people have seemed to forget this film and Khan’s robust cameo as Jai Singh, a heartland hustler. His last scene has him doing so many things right up Khan’s alley – as Jai limps restlessly after realizing his fatal wounds before he falls again. It’s his final stop, so he now lights a cigarette, alternatively wincing and smiling through his pain while looking at the hard-earned dollar notes cashing which now remains a distant dream. It’s an uncut 2-minute monologue – and the actor gives it his all.


Talking of monologues, this is possibly SRK’s longest single-take scene, and Khan is at his extravagant best here – as an incredibly drunk Gopal explains the tragedy of his failed marriage to a horse statue with overwhelming self-pity, a confession that soon turns comic as he gradually begins talking into the marble horse’s ears, for the sake of privacy, and eventually mocking the marble equine for not having any feet or hands.


Raj, in order to impress Simran’s father Baldev, turns up in a clumsily tied Dhoti to feed the pigeons just like Baldev would. He hears Baldev say “Aao” to call the pigeons, Oofos Outlet and quickly adapts the word – but cannot let go of his goofball self. It’s a hilarious moment, with Raj exclaiming “Aao” in his sing-song tone, in perfect contrast to Baldev’s baritone – the cherry on top being the politely interrogative ‘Phurr’ that Raj says looking towards Baldev, slyly suggesting to the old-fashioned man that perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to change one’s way a little.


This is one of SRK’s more forgettable films during his peak, but it contains one memorable stretch of everything Khan is best known for. The song ‘Badan Juda Hota Hain’ has a bloodied and bruised Shah Rukh Khan reminiscing his beloved Ganga with all the intensity of an epic star-crossed lover. Rakesh Roshan shot this song exquisitely, making great use of Khan’s eyes and his immense jest for physical expression in the last stretch of the song where Shankar (Khan) runs atop a mountain, breaking free of his bandages to retrieve Ganga’s scarf


Surinder Sahni, a mild-mannered 9-to-5 man if there ever was one, quietly prepares breakfast for his bride. Their marriage is born out of obligation, both of them know that, and it reflects in Sahni’s passive, no-fuss body language. However, just before he leaves, there is an adorable moment of contemplation as Sahni wonders whether to place a rose with the note for Taani – SRK imbues this moment and the character with just the right amount of softness and mousy vulnerability to make us root for him and later feel sad as Sahni eventually decides to do away with the rose.


As Raju finds himself accused of the death of a few innocent bystanders and his enraged friend Jai (Nana Patekar) keeps coercing him to see the dead bodies from up close, Khan channelizes his quintessential restlessness to capture Raju’s guilt-stricken fear, defending himself in a quivering voice and with flailing arms, keeping up with the intensity at display by Patekar (possibly the only other actor capable of a similar restlessness).


SRK plays Max, a leader of one of the two rivaling street gangs who continue to clash with each other – until the leader dies. As Max’s bravado facade falls, unveiling a soul brimming with fear and sudden recognition of mortality, first when he stares at his rival’s still body and later when confronted by the Cop figure, Khan plays these moments with heart-wrenching vulnerability.


In what has now acquired a lot of resonance, Khan, here playing Amjad, a noble Muslim man who refuses to give into communal hatred despite the stoked fires of partition, defends his decision to stay back in India. When Amjad says, “I am Gandhi’s child, I will live here,” we now cannot help but see a superstar whose loyalty continues to be questioned in current times and yet the man, who has sustained all the blows, has love and empathy to offer in return.

Also, what an absolute treat to see Khan and Haasan in the same frame!


In another fascinatingly meta moment, Shah Rukh Khan playing himself advises a rising up-and-comer (who too found success through a film rejected by other stars). The film saves the wisest words for him and lends him aura of an enigma – and Khan adequately imbues his lines with a sage-like intuition. In a film filled with star-studded cameos, it is Shah Rukh Khan who has the last word.


This one may have been a misfire at the box-office, but remains a wildly ambitious project for its all meta-commentary. The last few scenes see Khan pitted against himself, as Aryan and Gaurav exchange a few final thoughts about love, hate, and the thin line dividing the two. And in the last scene, as Aryan looks at the obsession and devotion of his fans, there is now a sense of terror on his face – for now, he has seen the other side of devotion, the side that continues to look at him with twinkling eyes and admiration, despite feeling betrayed.


Stripped away from the burden of carrying a film, and in a role that mostly has him doling out wisdom about life, Khan naturally feels at ease in his part, most notably in his final scene with Kiara where he has to deal with an awkward proposal and yet make the other person feel like the most special soul. There is love, and there is also letting go – and Khan conveys the poignance of both with great warmth, just like he can.


Khan has rarely played a conservative old-fashioned man, but Johar briefly gave him that opportunity in the second half of K3G, where Rahul finds himself as the hen-pecked patriarch. Some of my favorite bits of the film are Rahul trying to make peace with Poo’s rising hemlines, and later with her growing closeness with Rohan – and Khan uses his frantic dialogue delivery to great comedic effect here.


It is established early on in the film that Rahul, our obsessive protagonist, is mentally ill. Khan captures all of it and more in the final act where, after we see him running through the wilderness after realizing that his ruse has been caught, Rahul stops in the middle of nowhere, tired and panting – and then erupts that signature menacing laughter. Only this time, it’s more an admission of his own insanity; He laughs and laughs until it turns into a wail. It’s amazing how many times the actor has haunted us early in his career, for someone whose films went on to become the symbol of heartwarming feel-good cinema later on.


It’s a 6-minute scene where Hero (Khan), who is an aspiring actor, taps his flair for histrionics and melodrama, weaving an elaborate manipulative tale to get out of jail. It requires the narrator to carry multiple moods – and Khan is brilliant here as he tosses, jumps, and frolics all over the cell, reaching a point where the constables are all tears, worrying about the fruits of their bad Karma – and Khan himself is unable to control his laughter (admittedly the only occasion where the superstar has confessed to breaking the character and getting away with it).


This film stands out both for the scene as well as its place in Khan’s oeuvre. Mani Kaul’s Ahamaq (aka Idiot) is a very indulgent exercise in film-making, where most of the performers are in sync with the film’s slow-burning laboured energy.

And in such an atmosphere, Khan stands out with his kinetic presence, a dichotomy that becomes overwhelmingly visible in a confrontation scene between Pawan (Khan) and the film’s protagonist Myskin (Ayub Khan-Din) where Khan-Din’s stilted dialogue delivery is countered by Khan’s dynamic rendering as well as expressive physicality.


This Imtiaz Ali romance was a major letdown both for the fans of the filmmakers as well as its leading actor, but it was not without its moments.

Right before the film’s spunkiest and most vital sequence where both Harry and Sejal dance their inhibitions away to ‘Radha’, there is a quite moment for Harry as he sobs helplessly in a corner, just reminded of the comfort of home, and yet tries to console himself. And just as Sejal turns up, concerned, Harry effortlessly switches from a weeping mess to a man in control of his emotions, ready to tell a story about why Punjabis sing in a high pitch – This is the closest SRK came in this film to being a bonafide Imtiaz Ali protagonist, shedding all his star-power to imbibe a character in all their messy glory.


Yes Boss begins with a brief montage of Rahul switching between multiple meetings, having valets hand him juice as he gets in his car, working from his laptop on the road (in 1997!) – and we are convinced here is a man who has made it in life.

Rahul then gets down and coolly struts down towards another car – before that car zooms off and we see Rahul standing, trying to kick-start a scooter. Rahul gives a self-deprecating smile as he looks at the car passing by – it has all the underdog charm that made Khan such a lovable presence in his 90s films, esp. the one by Aziz Mirza.


Okay, I know I said one entry per film, but this moment deserves an exception.

Raj and Simran’s fate may depend on Baldev’s approval, but a lot of DDLJ’s second half is also about Raj winning the heart of every woman in the house. Towards the end of ‘Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna,’ where Raj leads the boys’ pack in light-hearted banter with the girls’ side, the air of celebrations and joy reaches such a crescendo that Raj jumps over to the other side as he picks up a Dupatta and dances with Simran’s mother and Bua.

It’s one of the most infectious moments of the film, with Khan looking so comfortable in that traditionally-feminine expression, reminding us why Raj Malhotra eventually won his battle – he is a man who doesn’t necessarily see women as the other. His charm lies in his comfort with his masculinity..

.. and that perhaps holds true both for Raj Malhotra and Shah Rukh Khan.

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