Shah Rukh Khan entered the industry with a five-year plan. He gave himself five years to make his mark, then insisted that he would quit.
He debuted with the love triangle, Deewana, in which he got to keep the girl, Divya Bharti. But then, he went on to shock the world by shoving another girl who believed him to be in love with her off the terrace, almost killing her sister too.
Baazigar was a gamble that actors before him had turned down, including Anil Kapoor and Salman Khan. But Shah Rukh dared to take it up and it paid off handsomely for him.
He then went on to stalk his K…K … K… Kiran and creating Darr. Followed another psychological thriller, Anjaam, the first negative role he had signed. It was supposed to complete a hat-trick of hits, but this film brought him tumbling down. But by then the dimpled bad man had accomplished one mission impossible. “At the end of my career, I would like to be known as the actor who introduced the bad guy or at least be acknowledged as the best bad guy we’ve seen,” he had shared. And the Great Gambler proved it true.
In fact, such was the impact of these three chiller killers, that many, including some of his filmmaker friends, told Shah Rukh that he would never be accepted as a romantic hero. This time he proved them wrong.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge came at a time when he had blood on his hands and his face. This time Yash and Aditya Chopra dared to take a gamble with him. And everyone fell in love with Raj. And they stayed in love with him through Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Yes Boss and Pardes.
I met him in October 1997, just before his much-hyped Diwali release, Yash Chopra’s musical romance Dil To Pagal Hai. Pointing out that he had been welcomed by the film industry with open arms, given the best of roles, got to work with several talented directors and been amply rewarded for his efforts, he had made another five-year plan. “I’ve taken a lot from the industry, now it’s time to give something back. As an actor, maybe even as a director and a producer. I’ll be around for another five years, at least. And they will be the thanksgiving years,” he asserted.
Almost a quarter of a century has gone by since and Shah Rukh, or SRK as he is known now, is still around. And there’s no talk of five-year plans because everyone knows that Mumbai is home to this Delhi boy now and the Hindi film industry is where his heart is.
The one person who was not surprised by his phenomenal success story was Shah Rukh himself. He was always aiming for the stars, and he always knew that he would be the brightest of them one day. “But when I said this, everyone said I was pompous, brash and outspoken. They told me that with success I would become more humble. That hasn’t happened yet, though I have to admit that at times I have been humbled,” he had admitted in the course of that interview.
When prodded on what he meant about “being humbled”, he confided that when he was dancing with his Dil To Pagal co-stars, Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor, who were extremely talented and a hundred times better looking than him, he would wonder often while struggling to match steps with them, “Why am I the chosen one?”
Yes, at a time when many were calling him an arrogant brat for speaking his mind, without a tempering modesty and diplomacy, Shah Rukh was wondering why he had been chosen from among so many starry-eyed actors who were equally hardworking and dedicated, to light up the marque. “I guess, God was just nice to me, and that’s another humbling thought,” he smiled.
Today, as he turns 56, his words resonate with me. And explain why there can never be another Shah Rukh Khan. Where else would you find an actor who is loved as much for being good as he is when he turns bad, who always knew he was the chosen one, yet wondered why he was the one, who came with a five-year plan and stayed on in our hearts forever.