Today is Shah Rukh Khan’s 46th birthday. He’s one of the most popular actors in the world. India’s popular Hindi cinema, based in Mumbai and often referred to as “Bollywood,” has a huge worldwide audience. I’ve been a fan since 2003, when I saw the stage musical Bombay Dreams in London. I’d never seen a “Bollywood” film, but as soon as I started watching, I got hooked. Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan quickly became my favorite actors.
I’m most fond of the films made between 1994 and 2004. If my interest has declined, it’s because my favorites have been making fewer films, and the films coming out of Mumbai have become too much like Hollywood films. The films used to be over three hours with an intermission, with the first half being more comic, the second half more tragic. The lovers never kissed on the lips but instead danced in the rain (the “wet sari” number) and were far more sensual. Now the films are shorter, the characters are (gasp!) kissing and having premarital sex, and often the songs are in English.
It’s hard to explain the appeal of Shah Rukh Khan. He’s not traditionally handsome; he’s got a big nose, uneven teeth, and thick lips. He’s not considered the best dancer, but he’s far from being the worst. I’d still rather watch him dance than anybody else. He doesn’t do his own singing, but that’s normal for these popular musicals. Many playback singers are famous and stars in their own right. I didn’t really start loving Shah Rukh until I got to see one of his films in a proper cinema. He can be too big for a television screen, especially in his older movies. All I can say is Shah Rukh is greater than the sum of his parts, and the man has energy and charisma. I love to watch him cry, which is a good thing, because these films have a lot of tears!
In honor of Shah Rukh’s birthday, here are some images from one of his best films, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which translates roughly as “Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness.” Shah Rukh stars with Kajol, my favorite female and favorite Shah Rukh partner. Enjoy!