I am down to my last nine films in my quest to watch all of Shah Rukh Khan's major films before his next movie, Dear Zindagi, is released in November. The final nine, as I explained in a recent post, tend to be hard to find for a variety of reasons. Some were made early in his career; some were box office flops. Guddu (1995) was both. For each film, I plan to do a (very) brief synopsis, give the reasons it is worth watching, and let you know how I was able to access it.
Synopsis: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, TRAGEDY, family conflict, bittersweet ending. This was SRK's third film released in his most prolific year, just two months before his award-winning breakout role in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. He released SEVEN films in 1995, six of them between July and December. Four were flops, but the other three were the clear hits (DDLJ, Ram Jaane, and Karan Arjun). One of the flops -- Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India -- was well-received critically, though it didn't win popular success. Not too shabby for a fledgling actor just turning thirty.
Worth watching for: The performances of both Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala (Dil Se). How did I miss this for my "first date" series? They work so beautifully together, and their chemistry makes up for the plot, which swings between predictable and totally ridiculous. It even made up for fact that I had to watch it without subtitles. If you can only watch one part, zero in on the scene when Guddu and Salina run into an ancient temple to escape the rain. The temple walls are decorated with sculptures depicting sensual couples in amazingly explicit activities. Which leads to this musical number (check out the mood transition at 1:15):
SRK also gets to do some Olympic-level scene chewing. Some people dislike his over-the-top, melodramatic roles, but frankly, they have grown on me. One of the reasons for his popularity, I think, is his total commitment to every line, every reaction shot, every dance number. I have not yet seen a film where he just "phones it in". Even when he is subtle, he is focused and intense. You want to feel the agony of a crippling, blinding headache? Shah Rukh Khan gives it to you in Guddu. Several times.
I have nine more Shah Rukh Khan films to watch in order to have seen all of his full-fledged roles before November, when Dear Zindagi comes out. Thanks to Netflix DVD, einthusan.com, and the magic of interlibrary loan, I have been able to locate all of them except one -- King Uncle, the first one on my list. So I am moving that to the end of the queue and starting with the ones I have already watched in the last couple of weeks. Reactions to come! And if anyone has a suggestion for getting my hands on King Uncle, please pass it along.
September 4: Guddu (1995)
September 11: Ram Jaane (1995)
September 18: Trimurti (1995)
September 25: Chaahat (1996)
October 2: Josh (2000)
October 9: Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! (1995)
October 16: Shakti: The Power (2002)
October 23: Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke (2004)
October 30: King Uncle (1993)
This is one one my top two SRK films to watch and watch and watch again. (The other is Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which is next in my blogging queue.) They both showcase Shah Rukh Khan's virtuosity in dual roles, and they also have very catchy soundtracks. They are also both interesting "gateways" into Hindi film history because of their extensive use of old themes and references to popular movies. So much to love! And they are perfect for this series, because they mark the debut of two of my very favorite female actors of the current era, Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone. In both cases, their first roles were as Shah Rukh Khan's co-stars.
Deepika plays Shanti/Sandy to Shah Rukh Khan's Om Prakash Makhija(Omi)/Om Kapoor(OK) in this truly masala mix of romance, comedy, mayhem, murder, revenge, karma, and HAPPYS ENDINGS. Yes, she gets to try her hand at a dual role, too, and she rises to the challenge beautifully. So they get to have not one but two first dates!
In the first half of the movie, SRK is a lowly Junior Artiste (bit player or extra) and Deepika is a glamorous superstar, the object of his distant and unrequited affections. Their first encounter is on the red carpet at a movie premier. She is the center of attention, and he is the lowly but ardent fan. Her sweet, gracious response to his goofiness is a wonderful introduction to her character: unpretentious and guarded. The goddess acknowledges her worshipper, but keeps him at a safe distance.
Their relationship deepens, but is inevitably one-sided, and doomed. No more plot spoilers; see this movie yourself!
Thirty years later, and the roles are reversed. Om Kapoor (OK) is the superstar, and she is the adoring fangirl.
Their relationship is subordinated to the dramatic plotline in the second half of the film, and only at the very end is there a hint of something happening. But that's fine. I use Om Shanti Om to introduce my friends to SRK and Hindi "entertainer" films, and it usually does the trick. (Except with one of my very best buddies, who finds it too melodramatic. But we do share a taste for malty, not hoppy, beer, so that's ok.)
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Omi/OK? Omi is a good-hearted, cuddly bundle of overacting. He is a good son, a good friend, and respectful, distant admirer. He is a dreamer, an optimist. OK is a spoiled, privileged superstar, sauntering late to the set, and behaving rudely to nearly everyone. (Fortunately, he grows as a person throughout the second half.)
What is Shanti/Sandy's first impression of Omi/OK? I've described it above, but the contrast between the two first meetings is very sweet. Luckily for Sandy, by the time she meets OK for the first time, he is already shedding some of his arrogant brat ways. So SRK gets to make two good first impressions!
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Fabulous. There is a reason Deepika has made several blockbuster movies with Shah Rukh Khan since their debut. Despite the 19-year difference in their ages, they have great chemistry, whether in comic, dramatic, or romantic scenes. She is a very fine actor; in 2015 she was nominated for Best Actress awards for not one, but two films (Piku and Bajirao Mastani). How is this for chemistry?
If you had a first date with Omi/OK would you go on a second? I really love SRK's goofy nebbish characters, so I would be following him around while he was mooning over Shanti. The obnoxious pup version of OK is not my type, but by the time he is in full-on revenge mode, he's got my attention.
Speaking of getting my attention: Arjun Rampal.
Pryanka Chopra is the latest Hindi crossover, with starring and award-winning performances in India and the US. She's a former Miss World (2000) and -- of course -- gorgeous. But she has also developed into a very fine actor since her debut in 2003, with a variety of roles under her belt. Don (2006) is an update of a very popular 1978 film by the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan. If you can, I absolutely recommend watching the 1978 version first, because part of the fun is in the comparisons. Both films are superb at showcasing the talents of the star playing the title character. Anyone up for a Don marathon watchalong?
Anyhoo, back to our first date. This was a doozy on, and off the set. Pryanka was such a fangirl about working with SRK and they spent so much social time together that it spawned rumors that they were having an affair. Shah Rukh Khan plays Don, a ruthless criminal mastermind, and Pryanka plays Roma, the sister of one of his victims. Intent on revenge, she trains herself in firearms and martial arts and then insinuates herself in his gang -- and his trust. Enter SRK's other role (I looove watching him in double roles!), the good-hearted simpleton Vijay, who is recruited by a police inspector to impersonate Don. At this point I will abandon my attempt to summarize the plot, which is both very complicated and hard to summarize without spoilers. WATCH THESE MOVIES!
As an acting pair, they work very comfortably together, in both of SRK's avatars. In fact one of the best scenes is their fight scene -- and how many film couples get the chance to spark that kind of chemistry? The attraction between them varies throughout the movie, depending on which SRK is paired with Roma. Roma responds to Don's wary yet lustful first encounter by attacking him and placing him in a headlock with a sharp blade at his throat. Believing that Vijay is really the injured, recovering Don, Roma shifts into seduction mode. When Roma is on the lam with Vijay, their connection grows slowly and very sweetly. It's all pretty terrific.
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Don/Vijay? The beauty of SRK’s double roles is they often give him a chance to showcase both his comic acting chops and his outstanding ability to take on the darkest of negative roles. Don is a great example of this. Don is a sleek, conniving, cold-hearted killer. Vijay is a warm, loving, lovable goofball. (This is the contrast promised in Duplicate but not quite delivered.) The fact that both of them are super attractive shows how much he had grown as an actor between 1998 and 2006.
What is Roma's first impression of Don/Vijay? She is viewing Don through a thick haze of hate, with her heart set on murder, and he does nothing to change her mind. In fact, he behaves like the wily heartless bastard he is. When she first meets Vijay, he is posing as a wounded and harmless Don, and there is no change in their interactions until the pretense is revealed. Slowly, wariness turns to trust, trust to friendly affection. He grows on her, and she softens towards him.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Complex and convincing. Negative when it needs to be, with a transition to attraction and love that helps us believe in an otherwise series of plot twists. (In the video below, Vijay/Don is making celebrating his recovery with a wild party. The woman in the white minidress is his "old" girlfriend; Pryanka enters around 2:52.)
If you had a first date with Don/Vijay would you go on a second? With Don, I would have to survive the first date to go on a second. (I was so rooting for Karina to succeed in her seduction, but not the assassination.) Vijay is adorable, if a little simple. So, yes.
Next First Date: Deepika Padukone - Om Shanti Om (My very very favorite!)
I am chipping away at my goal of seeing all of Shah Rukh Khan's films before his next film comes out on November 25. As of today, I have watched 49 of his 58 films where he played a major role (not a cameo or special appearance). So here is my plan:
First Dates Series
June 3: Juhi Chawla - Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992)
June 10: Kajol - Baazigar (1993)
June 17: Madhuri Dixit - Anjaam (1994)
June 24: Sonali Bendre - English Babu Desi Mem (1996 -videos only) and Duplicate (1998)
July 1: Karisma Kapoor - Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
July 8: Preity Zinta - Dil Se (1998)
July 15: Rani Mukerji - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
July 22: Aishwarya Rai - Mohabbatein (2000)
July 29: Karina Kapoor - Asoka (2001)
August 5: Priyanka Chopra - Don (2006) I have watched this, will post reaction very soon!
August 12: Deepika Padukone - Om Shanti Om (2007)
August 19: Anushka Sharma - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
After I finish this series, I will be on vacation/retreat on an island with limited internet, so will take a week off. Then in September, I will dive into a double-track schedule of the last nine major roles and the remaining 21 special appearances and cameos.
Here are my dates for the "major role" blog posts, if you want to play along (assuming life goes smoothly...).
September 4: King Uncle (1993)
September 11: Guddu (1995)
September 18: Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! (1995)
September 25: Ram Jaane (1995)
October 2: Trimurti (1995)
October 9: Chaahat (1996)
October 16: Josh (2000)
October 23: Shakti: The Power (2002)
October 30: Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke (2004)
I will sprinkle reactions to the short roles along the way.
Thanks to everyone who has commented on these posts!
As first dates go, this is pretty awesome, especially for those of us who are fans of warrior princesses. Aśoka is a terribly ambitious film -- a historical story set in the 3rd century BCE, complete with thousands of extras and hundreds of elephants in the final battle scene. It was critically acclaimed, but a popular failure, overshadowed by Aamir Khan's own historical drama, Lagaan, which was released the same year (2001) and was the third Indian film nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Film category. (It is also a fabulous movie, with the added advantage of teaching newbies about cricket!) It is a fictionalized version of history, drawing on various accounts of the life of Emperor Aśoka the Great, who was transformed from a ruthless, ambitious warrior into a Buddhist who spread that peaceful faith across much of Asia.
Their story begins when the young Prince Aśoka (Shah Rukh Khan) is traveling incognito and Kareena Kapoor's character, Princess Kauraki, is also in hiding with her young brother. He happens upon her and watches her surreptitiously while she dances and bathes, and is immediately smitten. She really is striking in appearance, and holds her own in the film, which is only her second. Just 21 at the time, Kapoor had two major roles in 2001 that firmly established her as a major talent in Hindi film: Aśoka and as Kajol's sexy younger sister Pooja in the blockbuster Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. And yes, she is the real-life younger sister to Karisma Kapoor, who also more than one film with Shah Rukh Khan.
Some people hate this movie, and it inevitably gets compared to Lagaan. It was an ambitious and risky choice for SRK, and I am finding that when he does this, the results are always worth watching. The films themselves may be flawed, but he clearly loves a challenge, and dials up his energy and focus when the demands are high. Kareena matches him for energy, which is one reason Aśoka is so watchable.
Another reason the movie bombed might have been the lack of a happy romantic ending. It's sort of uplifting, but not what many SRK fans were expecting. The long hair he sports for much of the movie was also a turnoff for some of the audience, though compared with his mullet days, it was a real relief for me. The story is that he didn't want to go shirtless the whole time, which would have been historically accurate, so instead he ended up wear weird vests and poncho-like shirts. It's worth considering whether showing more of his chest might have helped at the box office. Someone needs to do a study and produce an infographic about that.
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Aśoka? Arrogant, ambitious, petulant, and even a little childish. His first interactions with Kaurwaki are rather smug and entitled. (I'm a prince! I'm irresistible!) But mid-thirties Shah Rukh Khan is finally outgrowing his baby face and looking like a man. I like!
What is Kaurwaki's first impression of Aśoka? She's a princess! And a warrior!! She doesn't have to put up with this impertinence from an itinerant nobody. Besides, she's in hiding because usurpers just murdered her parents and are pursuing her and her adorable little brother so they can kill them, too. So she is wary as well as aloof, until SRK proves he can be trusted by saving them, and proves he is loveable by befriending her little brother and acting like less of a brat himself.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? This pair sizzles whenever they are on screen, and the fire is lit in Aśoka. (Loved them in Don and in Ra.One.)
If you had a first date with Aśoka, would you go on a second? As is often the case with Shah Rukh Khan films, the man he is at the beginning of the film is physically attractive but emotionally and morally flawed. Do I think that after that first date I would think it might be worth trying to transform him? Honestly, probably not. But then, I am not a warrior princess.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is one of my favorite Hindi actresses, ever since I saw her in Bride and Prejudice, the British Bollywood-style remake of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. (I tend to burrow deep when I like something -- you may have noticed -- and Austen's works have been a long-time passion. I read or listen to all the novels every year, and can't pass up an adaptation.) She is stunning in a very classic movie star way, and she is an excellent dancer. Her dance duet with Madhuri Dixit from Devdas is glorious; I never get tired of watching it.
I'll admit that it has taken me a while to appreciate Mohabbatein (Love Stories), probably because instead of the usual love triangle, the three interconnected lovers are a young man, the young woman he loves, and her father. And the girl is dead. So the central love story is about a different kind of relationship. Still, this counts as a first date for SRK and Rai; they go on to the very successful pairing in Devdas. We don't actually see them together (and both alive) until well into second half of the film, in flashback to the day they declared their love for each other. Up until then, SRK's character, Raj Aryan, has been a more mature hero than most of his 90s films -- he is now a grown man, working as a teacher at Bachchan's tightly-run school. His dreamlike interactions with the spirit of Megha (Rai) are deeply romantic, but also constrained by the existential distance between them.
Not too reminiscent of the gazebo scene in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, right? But much less physically passionate.
The earliest scene, chronologically, is this flashback. (Runs from about 50 seconds to 2:42)
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Raj? Grown-up Shah Rukh! At last! He was 35 when this film was released, and is playing close to his actual age. There's enough suppressed mischievous humor to keep him from being too much of a paragon. In the flashback, he does a great job of portraying the awkward student, without being at all annoying.
What is Megha's first impression of Raj? We don't get to see the very beginning, but clearly she sees him as "different", though that could be a result of their attraction for each other. But she trusts him, just as she trusts her father to accept him.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Steady and pure. It has that "first love" aura throughout. SRK and Rai are well-matched physically, and I think she makes him a better dancer, just as Madhuri Dixit does when they are paired.
If you had a first date with Raj, would you go on a second? I did. Just a different guy. In fact, dear reader, I married him. And no, our parents did not approve.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens, aka KKHH) is a super popular film, especially among SRK fans who were teenagers when it came out in 1998. It features two love triangles separated in time by nearly ten years, both combining Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol with a third supporting player. In the first half of the film, Rani Mukerji, in her major film debut, plays Tina, the gorgeous, sophisticated, feminine new girl on campus who wins Rahul's (SRK's) affections away from his tomboyish best friend, Anjali (Kajol). The rest of the film, set years later, pits a widowed Rahul against Aman (Salman Khan), who is engaged to Anjali. The film swept the Filmfare Awards that year, including all four acting and supporting actor awards, and it really is just that good!
As the college-age Rahul, SRK is his usual insufferable dude self at first. (I am getting used to this, but still find myself looking forward to his inevitable transformation into Mr. Charming Sadder-but Wiser-Guy.) Anjali sees through his macho facade and they enjoy a close, platonic friendship. When Tina arrives and proves immune to his tried-and-true ways with the ladies, Rahul falls hard, just as Anjali is starting to feel attracted to him.
Because this is a film that argues that love and marriage can happen more than once in a lifetime, it is important that Rahul's connection with both Tina and Anjali are credible as real love. Their chemistry is different, though. College-age Rahul's feelings for Tina are infused with youthful passion in the flush of first love, and the conviction that there is just one such soulmate for each of us. Grown-up Rahul realizes, as he realizes the depth of his feelings for Anjali, that this, too, is love. Compare the previous scene with this one, which always gives me chills.
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Rahul? Nobody does insufferable young pup like Shah Rukh Khan. Newcomers may hate collegiate Rahul; fans will know that he grows out of it and cleans up his act really, really well.
What is Tina's first impression of Rahul? She's not impressed by his Big Man on Campus act, and teaches him a thing or two. She also befriends Anjali, which earns her major points for being able to spot a quality person.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Credible and very sexy. She goes on to win his heart over and over again in many memorable romantic films. Chalte, Chalte (2003), Paheli (2005), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) are all fabulous romantic stories.
If you had a first date with Rahul, would you go on a second? Young dude Rahul? Yes, if only to beat him at basketball. Grown-up Rahul can park his slippers under my bed anytime.
Next first date: Aishwarya Rai - Mohabbatein (2000)
The first time I saw Dil Se, I was disturbed by the violence and devastated by the ending. I will admit to being a delicate flower when it comes to violent movies. Strong violent imagery stays with me longer than any other part of the film. You say "Godfather" and I see a horse head. Star Wars = the burned bodies on Tatooine. Indiana Jones = melting faces. So you can imagine that many of Shah Rukh Khan's films are tough for me, and Dil Se is full of scenes that, for me, are the stuff of nightmares.
But. It is also poetic and beautiful. The music (A.R. Rahman) is magnificent. The performances are outstanding. It is fast becoming one of my five favorite SRK films.
Preity Zinta, in her debut role as Preety, Amar/SRK's fiancé, is one of the reasons this film is so wonderful. It is an arranged marriage, so we actually see them meet for the first time and watch as they awkwardly get acquainted, and eventually agree to the match. He is already hopelessly in love with the mysterious Meghna*, and she has also loved and lost. Her honesty and directness is fresh and disarming, and Amar responds with a tragic mixture of resignation and pathos. Her attraction to him grows, and he plays along as the dutiful son and grandson, keeping his family happy while still pursuing Meghna. Preety represents his option to return to a normal life, to give up on Meghna, and she makes that choice very attractive. Clearly, Amar would not be "settling" for her. She is quite a catch, and would make him happy under other circumstances. But he cannot make that choice. It is poignant and powerful. This role won Zinta the award for best debut, and set her on a path of several more roles with Shah Rukh Khan, all of them fabulous!
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Amar? Earnest, passionate, and utterly sincere. Even though his obsession makes no logical sense, SRK makes his attraction to Meghna completely believable. His acceptance of the marriage to Preety is equally credible; at that point in the film, he has no hope of ever seeing Meghna again. The match with Preety will please his family, especially his beloved grandmother, and they definitely have the beginnings of good chemistry. In a different movie, she would be perfect for him.
What is Preety's first impression of Amar? You can tell that she think's he's pretty cute. Any hesitation she has comes from her own reluctance to marry and lose her independence. (The fact that he abandons her to chase after some random guy on the street gives her pause, but is evidently not a deal breaker.) Think of the kids! Guaranteed dimples!!!
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Sweet and natural. A bit awkward at the beginning, when it needs to be, and comfortable enough to lead you to hope it will all work out. I realized watching this how great he and Preity are as a working pair. They rarely get to "happy ever after", though. She loves and loses him in Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (both great movies, anyway.) Only in Veer-Zaara do they finally seal the deal -- eventually, but worth the wait.
If you had a first date with Amar, would you go on a second? Oh, yeah. He's good company and super polite with women. But his heart would never be mine, of course.
My favorite interaction:
Next date: Rani Mukerji in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai!
*Meghna is played by the amazing Manisha Koirala. I only wish they had made more films together, because their interactions are electric!
I was not sure whether or not to include Dil Toh Pagal Hai in this series, because (1) Karisma has only been in two films with Shah Rukh Khan -- not counting her friendly appearance in Om Shanti Om, which is adorable -- and (2) she doesn't exactly play his love interest. She's the odd girl out in a love triangle with SRK and Madhuri Dixit, so the love is unrequited. DTPH is a light film -- a bit of musical romantic puffery that features four of the best actors in Hindi cinema. In addition to the triangle of lovers, there's the dashing Akshay Kumar completing a second triangle with SRK And Madhuri. So the performances are all great and the music and dancing is delightful, even though the plot and dialogues are <<eh>>.
So the synopsis: Nisha (Karisma) loves Rahul (SRK), who thinks love is bunk but still harbors a longing for an imaginary woman he calls Maya. He's a dance director, so he is designing a show around the mythical Maya, with Nisha in the lead role. Nisha injures herself, and Rahul seeks a replacement, discovering Pooja (Madhuri), who is literally the girl next door. Pooja is engaged to her childhood friend/foster brother Ajay (Akshay). Of course, Rahul and Pooja fall in love.
Nisha, on the other hand, is in the friend zone from the word "go". When, after a few too many tequila shots on her birthday, she blurts out to Rahul that she loves him, this is the look she gets from him.
Uh-oh. Compare with the look on his face in the other video as he repeats "closer".
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Rahul? Adorable! This is high energy SRK, with his cheeks still boyishly chubby enough to create the best dimples.
What is Nisha's first impression of Rahul? They seem to start off as friends at the beginning; we don't learn about her feelings for him until later in the film. Their relationship is very much like a brother and sister, especially on Rahul's part. He teases her in a very big-brother way that conveys connection and friendly affection, but not a tiny hint of love. Nisha knows almost immediately that her love will never be reciprocated. Meeting Pooja seals the deal; she knows Rahul's feelings better than he does.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Their friendship is actually believable; their interactions are so natural that you almost wish the filmmakers hadn't felt the need for the love triangle.
If you had a first date with Rahul, would you go on a second? Yes, of course, but that wouldn't happen, because I can't complete with Madhuri Dixit. Karisma gives it the old college try in this epic number called (appropriately) "Dance of Envy".
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