Shah Rukh Khan’s name has become synonymous with romance, thanks to his performances as a quintessential lover boy in films such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Devdas among others.
But his superstar’s reign as the king of romance was shaken when his dimpled smile, incredible charm and heart melting dialogues failed to attract the audience in his last released Jab Harry Met Sejal.
His collaboration with Imtiaz Ali, who is known for giving Bollywood some of the best love stories of modern times, had evoked a lot of expectations among the audiences, but the film turned out to be a disaster.
Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma in a still from Jab Harry Met Sejal
Jab Harry Met Sejal saw Shah Rukh as a tourist guide, Harry, who helps a Gujarati girl (Anushka Sharma) find her engagement ring which she lost on her trip to Amsterdam. The film, which was apparently made on a generous budget of Rs 90 crore, only managed to collect Rs 64.33 crore in the domestic market, according to Movie Box Office Collection.com
Prior to Jab Harry Met Sejal, Shah Rukh risked his romantic image by taking up the role of a daring bootlegger Raees Alam in Rahul Dholakia’s crime-thriller Raees. Though the film received moderate reviews from the critics, it couldn’t register record figures at the box-office and only collected Rs 138 crore domestically, which is way too less for a Khan film, given their popularity across the world.
His other experiment, Fan (2016), was also rejected by his fans. The movie, which saw Shah Rukh in a dual role, fell flat because of its weak plotline, especially in second half where people’s intelligence was taken for granted by throwing an incoherent script. The film collected only Rs 84.1 crore at the box office.
Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale, which brought Indian film industry’s most romantic pair of SRK and Kajol back on the silver screen after five years, could not give the Baadshah of Bollywood his much-needed hit either.
Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in a still from Dilwale
In fact, its dismissal at the box office made it clear that Shah Rukh needed a break from his signature pose—arms wide open. Even working with hit directors didn’t reap any benefits to SRK as these top filmmakers only appeared to modify their scripts to suit the image of King Khan, which eventually hampered both the film and the actor.
In one of the interviews, Shetty had even admitted to tweaking the original script of Dilwale in order to cater to the fans of SRK and Kajol.
"We thought we should focus on the Shah Rukh and Kajol romance angle. Encash their already existing fan base. But that kind of mushy romance is not my brand of cinema. We altered the storyline to make room for romance but lost the original plot in the bargain," Shetty had told T2 Online.
After a series of flops, Shah Rukh is once again experimenting with his image on screen as he will next be seen playing a vertically challenged man in Aanand L Rai’s Zero, a multi-starrer project that also features Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma.
Shah Rukh Khan plays a vertically challenged man, Baua Singh, in Zero
However, in my opinion, Shah Rukh should just stay away from glossy commercial projects for some time and not just say yes to a director because their previous films were hits. He should only say yes to a role that relates to him and makes him want to perform at the highest level irrespective of his star status.
Even Shah Rukh’s contemporaries like Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar have redefined their careers by taking up movies which challenged them. While Aamir underwent massive, gruelling physical transformation for Dangal, Akshay brought variety to his filmography with socially relevant films such as Rustom, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Gold.
Salman, on the other hand, is also trying to break out of his image of a stylish action hero with movies like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan.
Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Chake De! India
Shah Rukh fans, too, are eagerly waiting for him to redefine his image and most importantly, his filmography. In a way, they have had enough of him striking his patent pose in films. They want him to do something as remarkable as Swades and Chak De! India where he did not try to play the “hero”, but yet managed to charm everyone.
Having said that, it’ll be interesting to watch if Zero would help Shah Rukh revitalize his film career.