Why he matters: A theatre artist who became an unlikely leading man, a superstar who embodies middle-class India’s growth from socialism to capitalism... SRK is many things to many people. Kaveree Bamzai delves into the absolute phenomenon that is this feminist actor, a muse to countless directors and an inspiration to every outsider who dreams of making it big in Bollywood
Today, he’s 57, but he’s dominated the Hindi movie industry for the past 31 years as the ultimate romantic hero. With Pathaan, however, he made a paramount addition to his career by reinventing himself as an action hero and delivering 2023’s biggest hit so far.
For all the naysayers who thought Zero, his 2018 film, would be the final chapter of his filmography, the ‘Badshah of Bollywood’ has confidently responded through his work. Add to the mix an evidently unfair attempt to target him through his son, with allegations of drug use, and the nation has rediscovered its love for the man with three iconic initials — SRK.
Just for perspective, at 58, the biggest star of the previous generation, Amitabh Bachchan, was playing a stern father on the big screen and a kindly host on Kaun Banega Crorepati!
Much like Bachchan at the peak of his career, Shah Rukh doesn’t engage with the media, preferring instead to engage with fans directly on social media. Yet, whenever he does speak, he makes headlines — whether it’s about a divisive and destructive social media narrative at the opening of the Kolkata International Film Festival, encouraging his two older children who are stepping into the limelight, or launching his wife Gauri Khan’s book on design.
To clearly understand the phenomenon that is Shah Rukh Khan, one simply has to take a look at the crowds that gather outside Mannat, his seaside Mumbai home, for a glimpse of the megastar either on Eid or his birthday. Few movie stars in India have been written about so often, and so deeply, be it an economist’s work on India’s lonely young women and their search for love embodied by SRK, or an entire academic anthology on Pathaan.
With a significant cameo in the forthcoming Tiger 3 and the lead roles in Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki and Atlee’s Jawan (another action flick), this so-called king of romance isn’t retiring any time soon. As he said, in unison with Salman Khan at the end of Pathaan, the industry’s future can’t be left to the next generation.
To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!