SRK Quest: King Uncle
This is probably one of the most obscure and hard-to-find of all of King Khan's movies, and with good reason. He is barely Shah Rukh Khan in King Uncle, much less King Khan. Yes, he is attractive, energetic and appealing in his supporting role as Jackie Shroff's younger brother, but I got the feeling that the role could have been played by any of a dozen young unknown actors. He seems happy just to be in a film, and enjoying all the dance and action, but the role itself doesn't give him much to work with. Still, it is entertaining and definitely worth seeing, if only to track SRK's development as an artist.
Synopsis. Grumpy, materialistic elder brother (Shroff) neglects his family until his life is transformed by a spunky orphan. Happys ending, as Omi would say!
Worth watching for. Jackie Shroff. I am becoming a big fan of his work, and his comedic turn in the title role is truly engaging. The fight scenes are ridiculous, over the top, and highly entertaining.
Want to see it? Pirated versions come and go online, usually without subtitles. I got my copy through interlibrary loan.
In the last 12 months, I’ve watched every single film in which Shah Rukh Khan had a major role, and am ready for Dear Zindagi on Nov. 25. I think I deserve this:
(My dad died of emphysema, so it makes me really sad to know he is such a heavy smoker. But as a former smoker myself, I also know that quitting is very hard.)
H/T to my favorite blogger, Margaret Redlich for posting this fabulous photo. You can find her at https://dontcallitbollywood.com.
Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! gets my enthusiastic vote for the most underrated Shah Rukh Khan film. It was released in SRK's most prolific year, on the same day as Guddu, and about two months before Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayange, his career-changing hit. It was a commercial failure, but a critical success. I rented it online, watched it twice and then bought it.
Synopsis. This was an unusual film for its time. It uses familiar -- even clichéd -- Hindi movie conventions to spin a satirical fable about contemporary Indian political and social corruption. Most of the main characters have titles, not names: Miss India, the President, Prince, Hero (Shah Rukh Khan). It helps to be somewhat familiar with Hindi films, as there are constant references to songs, characters, and dialogs from other movies. It reminded me of Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Stanley Kubrick's brilliant Cold War satire, with the very Indian addition of romance.
With watching for: An amazing performance by Amrish Puri as the villainous Don Quixote, who is plotting to kidnap the President, install a look-alike in his place, and auction off India to the highest bidder. My favorite Amrish Puri role ever, and it looks like he had a ball doing it. They even manage to poke fun at his acting, when he is asked at one point "Don't you ever blink?" No, he doesn't, and that's why his eyes are so scary! Anupam Kher is wonderful as the President and his many lookalikes, and Javed Jaffrey is both frightening and sympathetic as Prince, Don Quixote's heir. And "the fountain scene" in this musical number is as sexy as anything Shah Rukh Khan as done.
SRK Quest: Josh (2000)
First, a little news. I am ecstatic to have received King Uncle via interlibrary loan, which completes my "early, obscure, and hard-to-find" list. What a relief!
Now, about Josh. not knowing more than a dozen words of Hindi, I thought this was the name of one of the characters. Silly me; it means "frenzy", and it means that this loose remake of West Side Story will have action as well as romance. As Shah Rukh Khan films go, it's in the middle of the pack: worth watching more than once, but not one I need to own. At thirty-five, SRK was poised to break away from the immature roles that first made him famous and take on more grown-up, challenging work. His biggest hit from 2000, Mohabbetein, was just such a role, winning him the Filmfare Critics' Award for Best Actor. Interestingly, the same actress appears with him in both films, to very different effect, in Mohabbatein, Aishwarya Rai plays his tragic love interest; in Josh, she is his twin sister. You can probably guess which casting is more credible.
Synopsis. Max (SRK) and Prakash (Sharad Kapoor) are leaders of two rival gangs in Goa, one Christian and one Hindu. Prakash's brother Rahul, a chef from Mumbai, comes to visit and falls in love with Goa and then with Max's sister, Shirley (Rai). Their secret relationship is the romantic centerpiece of the film, with the gang conflict providing the action and drama. Max also has a love interest, Roseanne, but it seems almost an afterthought. The climax comes -- as in Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story, from the violent outcome of the gang conflict. Because it is not completely based on either play, there are enough plot twists to keep the story fresh.
Worth watching for. The musical numbers are very entertaining, and the score was a bigger hit than the movie. Aishwarya Rai is an excellent dancer, and I always enjoy her performances.
Shah Rukh Khan does his own singing on Apun Bola, and it is very funny. The backstory is even funnier; according to him, he had so much trouble carrying a tune was recorded one or two words at the time and then spliced together.
Want to watch? There is a version on YouTube with no subtitles. I got my copy through interlibrary loan.
SRK Quest: Chaahat (1996)
Chaahat (Desire) was Shah Rukh Khan's second major release in 1996, and his first film with director Manesh Bhatt,who also directed him in Duplicate. There are some similarities between the two films, notably the contrast between SRK's goofy, simple character (Roop in Chaahat, Bablu in Duplicate) and his angry, violent avatar (Roop again in Chaahat, Manu in Duplicate). For reasons I can't quite fathom myself, I liked him better in Chaahat than in Duplicate. Maybe it's Manu's tongue thing. Ew.
Synopsis. Musicians Roop (SRK) and his widowed father (Anupam Kher) share a close, loving relationship. They travel to Bombay so that the father can be treated for a throat ailment, and Roop tries to earn money for the hospital bills by playing for a rich woman's birthday party. The birthday girl, Reshma (the stunning and sexy Ramya Krishnan) falls hard for Roop, but he is oblivious to her attentions and instead loses his heart to Pooja (Pooja Bhatt). In an interesting reversal of the plot of Darr, Roop is pursued by an increasingly unhinged Reshman, and the film climaxes in a series of increasingly violent and gory fight scenes. I am not going to spoil it further. Yes, love wins and evil is defeated. (But you knew that!)
Don't Shah Rukh and Anupam look like they are having a blast doing this song? It's the father-son bond from DDLJ, only better!
Worth watching for: The performances of Naseeruddin Shah as Reshma's villainous brother Ajay and Anupam Kher, who are at the top of their form. The scenes with them and Shah Rukh Khan are top notch, but the opening father-son dance scene and the Khan-Kher fight scene are my favorites. In fact, the fight scenes in Chaahat have finally won me over to Hindi film fighting. Yes, I know I outed myself as a "delicate flower" in my post about Dil Se. But I watched Chaahat twice in two days for the fight scenes. Also: Ramya Krishnan as the obsessed lover!!! It is fabulous to watch her try -- repeatedly to seduce Roop -- and to see him move from oblivious to wary to complete rejection of her advances. This fan video mix of most of the pertinent scenes captures it pretty well (the ones in blue light with the piano are her fantasies, not his).
One last reason to watch Chaahat: it's gorgeous. Consider this beautifully filmed number, which sets up the dramatic climax:
Want to watch? This is one of several of his early films that Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chilies Entertainment now owns. The good news is that they have made it available on Youtube, iTunes, and Google Play for rental or purchase at very reasonable prices. Enjoy!
Shah Rukh Khan has appeared in 81 films, playing a major or starring in 60 of them. But the rest are a mix of cameos (much smaller roles) and special appearances in songs. Because he is such a big star, these are often done as favors to friends. Since time is of the essence to see all the SRK appearances, I decided to do a single post on all of his musical appearances.
Kaal (2005) - Kaal Dhamaal
Shah Rukh Khan produced this horror film with his friend Karan Johar. Farah Khan was the choreographer and it is clear that she revisited the number when she created "Dard e Disco" for Om Shanti Om. It is not a complex number; very sexy, with SRK making a gradual appearance, body part by body part. First you just see his lower jaw and lips, then shoulders and back, then eyes and arms. It is so much like Dard e Disco that someone has done a mash up with the Dard e Disco music and the Kaal video.
Alag (2006) - Sabse Alag
This is hauntingly beautiful song, with ten stars , including Shah Rukh Khan, each singing a portion. It is very simply staged. No fancy costumes, no dancing, just one person singing directly into the camera. It's amazing to see how few of them can actually both lip-sync and connect with the camera, and not one can do both as well as Shah Rukh Khan does. Seeing this actually made me want to see the movie, until I read the reviews. It is a remake of the 1995 Hollywood film Powder, and apparently not a good one. So enjoy the video!
I see you (2006) - Subah Subah
SRK does not sing or dance in this, which is the title number. Instead, he is the guitar-playing street musician, which is pretty funny. It is also very, very short. Don't blink or you will miss it. There is also a teensy Hrithik Roshan cameo towards the end. It looks like an intriguing film, and it is nice to see a smiling Rampal in a romantic role!
Zrazzy 4 (2008) Break Free
The scene is an awards show taking place in what looks like a nightclub, and SRK is doing a special appearance as a featured performer. He is very much in his Don character, complete with that little ponytail and menacing sneer. There's a Hrithik Roshen version, too, that was used in the promotional video. It's fun to compare their interpretations!
Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011) - Antenna
Shah Rukh Khan produced this film about high school seniors on the verge of adulthood. He appears during the closing credits in a sexy, remixed version of this song performed earlier by the youthful ensemble. Very catchy tune, but the movie flopped.
Bombay Talkies (2013) Apna Bombay Talkies
Not a single film, but a set of four shorts produced in celebration of Bollywood's first century. It opens with this really fun title sequence with lots and lots of familiar faces (20!) doing a capsule history of Bollywood movies. SRK gets the biggest part, but they all look like they are having a ball. Fun!
SRK Quest: Trimurti (1995)
This was Shah Rukh Khan's last release in his biggest year. While it got off to a good opening day, thanks to three big stars (not only Khan, fresh off of DDLJ, but also popular veterans Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor) and a well-respected director, it fizzled fast thanks to negative word of mouth and reviews. It was listed as a flop by Indian sources, despite record-setting first day collections. In my opinion, it is underrated. Flawed, but still watchable and entertaining. Trimurti had been plagued with troubles from the beginning. It was supposed to release on Christmas 1994 but due to Sanjay Dutt's imprisonment most of the film had to be reshot with Anil Kapoor in the role, which resulted in the film being released an entire year later.
Synopsis The "Trimurti" (Trinity) in the title has a double meaning. In Hindu mythology, it refers to the combination of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) brother and Shiva (destroyer). They are represented by Romi (Khan), Shroff (Shakti), and Kapoor (Anand/Sikander), respectively, as the three sons of a virtuous police inspector, Satyadevi Singh (Priya Tendulkar). Satyadevi defies a corrupt priest and in return, he murders her husband and frames her for a murder, resulting in her sent to prison. She hopes her sons -- her Trimurti -- will someday avenge her fate and bring the priest to justice. But the two older sons argue over how to raise the youngest and Anand leaves home and becomes a criminal (taking the name Sikander). There's a couple of romantic interests, but the main plot line is the destruction and repair of the brothers' relationship. (And of course, a prolonged and dramatic scheme at the end where evil is defeated and good triumphs!)
Worth watching for: Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff are always worth my time. This is, in some ways, a rewrite of their film Ram Lakhan, with the added presence of a baby-faced and very lively Shah Rukh Khan. This is the only movie in which Anil Kapoor and SRK appear together, and Anil's manic scenes with SRK are some of the best in the film, at least for me. They are both high energy performers, and exhausting to watch (in a good way). "Very Good Very Bad" is my favorite musical number in the film, partly because of their chemistry. It may be the only credible brother casting I have seen for either of them. Trimurti also offers a rare opportunity to see SRK in drag, when he dresses like a maid to visit the object of his affection.
Want to watch? YouTube has it with no subtitles. I got my copy through Interlibrary Loan.
SRK Quest: Ram Jaane (1995)
One of the drawbacks of watching early Shah Rukh Khan films is that so many of his role are negative. His romantic heroes are often flawed in some way (and redeemed or improved by love), and many of his negative roles, inversely, have some tiny sliver of good in them. In Darr and Baazigar, those small hopeful flashes appear throughout the movie, making an otherwise detestable character somewhat sympathetic. Then there are films like Ram Jaane, in which SRK plays a villain so black-hearted that even his legendary charm cannot make him attractive. (Though, I discussed below, he retains his humanity and it far from being a cardboard villain.) After watching Ram Jaane, I had to re-watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi to recover.
Ram Jaane is a reworking of the 1938 Hollywood classic, Angels with Dirty Faces, with Shah Rukh Khan in the James Cagney role of the slum kid who grows up to be a ruthless criminal. The Hindi version turned the virtuous boyhood friend into a social worker instead of a priest (can't work in a love triangle with a priest...), but otherwise the plot is very similar, and the ending is the same. The Cagney/SRK character is caught and convicted, and goes to his death promising bravado and defiance. At the last minute, in full view of witnesses, the condemned man cries and pleads for mercy. It is understood that this was his one unselfish act, an attempt to reduce himself in the eyes of his adoring young gang of wannabe gangsters.
Synopsis: A baby boy is abandoned and grows up neglected and abused. He doesn't even have a name; the film title is the response he is given when he asks what his name is, and gets the reply "ram jaane" (God knows). He was two childhood friends, a good-hearted boy (Murli) and a girl (Bela) that they both adore. Ram Jaane becomes a gangster; Murli and Bela devote their lives to helping orphaned children. Ram Jaane tries to help them, but only knows violence and corruption. Even his "good deeds" are criminal. The Murli convinces Bela to try to reform Ram Jaane, but his uncouth and violent behavior drives her away. Eventually, Ram Jaane is arrested, convicted of murder, and executed. After his death, Murli and Bela read a letter from Ram Jaane revealing that he knew that Bela loved Murli, which why he drove her away. So there is that one tiny sliver of goodness, at the very end. I don't usually cry at movies, but if this ending doesn't make you tear up, you are made of stone. This was the third of Shah Rukh Khan's hit films from 1995 (after Karan Arjun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge).
Worth watching for: The performances and the music. Juhi Chawla and Vivek Mushran are superb as Bela and Murli, and there is a marvelous array of villains, including Tinnu Anand, one of my favorite baddies. The music by Anu Malik (who has scored over 350 films in his career) helps set the mood and convey the characters' emotions beautifully.
Update: Marilyn, a sister SRKian from Ohio, posted this on Twitter: "Ram Janne makes me grieve for the child who craved love and grows into the man who was denied love, turning bad because of it." Beautifully said. The performances make it possible to be appalled by Ram Jaane's behavior without reducing his humanity. Ram Janne is the most fully developed of SRK's early negative characters; if there is a Don 3, i would love to see the same level of complexity, which the first two films in the franchise don't quite achieve.
Yes, Shah Rukh Khan's performance is energetic and over the top, but so was Cagney, in Angels with Dirty Faces. In Cagney's death row scene, his face isn't shown as his cowers and begs for his life. Shah Rukh, never afraid to look ugly, blubbers as he collapses in front of his horrified gang. I could not find a video of that scene, but here is a live performance of the courtroom scene where Ram Jaane indicts the corrupt and heartless system that punishes poor children for being born. It is a reminder that he was trained in theater, and knows how to deliver lines to a real audience.
Want to watch? It's $1.99 on Youtube. I got my copy through Interlibrary Loan.
SRK Quest: Guddu (1995)
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.
Want to watch? It's free, on Youtube. No subtitles, but the Wikipedia synopsis gives you all you need to follow the plot.