‘Shah Rukh Khan’ — the name in itself is enough to make my eyes shine brighter, my heart beat faster and my smile deeper. From being my first love to my constant inspiration, he has always been there to make me laugh out more during my ‘happy days’ and lift up my mood when I was at my lowest self.
I have learnt, relearnt and unlearnt many things from the characters that he has portrayed on screen throughout his journey in Bollywood. As a result of watching and rewatching most of his movies, the characters that he portrayed in his films have got etched in my heart forever.
And to be honest, to me, they are not mere characters. They are a part of him — the man who has constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed himself, every time when critics blamed him for his mannerisms and each time when his fans moved out of the movie theatres with disappointing faces.
For his 56th birthday, I wish to share all the learnings and realisations that dawned upon me while watching his movies and analysing his characters. My takeaway from his films has always been his characters — their frailties, follies, vulnerabilities and everything that made them unique, special and unforgettable.
And for this, I have chosen ‘Rahul’ — the name that he has gladly welcomed and embraced with literally ‘open arms’. Yes, Rahul has been my hero in all senses since my childhood days. He has been the beginning of all my fantasies and the end to all my frustrations.
Every time Shah Rukh Khan played Rahul, he made sure that he put a part of his heart into the character. And that is why throughout all those movies, Rahul has become such a natural and relatable character.
Rahul Mehra is the passionate yet psychotic lover who is nothing close to what a girl would ever dream of. Though I do not support him in all the malevolent activities that he repeated in a series to cause harm to his potential threat, Suneel; I do stand by him for the sheer madness with which he loves.
Modern feminist interpretations of the cult song, “Tu haan kar ya na kar, tu hain meri Kiran,” question the lack of consent and approval from the side of the beloved. Critics and movie lovers are correct in their analysis of Rahul’s madness superseding his sense of right and wrong and his male ego overpowering his rationality.
However, to me, Suneel, though victorious at the end of the film, stands as nothing but a failure in contrast to Rahul, who loves with all his might but gracefully accepts death when his muse Kiran asks Suneel to avenge all his wrongdoings.
Yes Boss (1997)
Rahul Joshi is one of the many people who we meet in our everyday lives. He has the same desires, the same ambition and the same dreams that are very typical of middle-class people. But what makes him stand out from the rest of the society is his ability to stand up against his dominating and exploitative boss, Siddharth Chaudhry, at such a juncture when his dreams of becoming a rich man and enjoying a lavish lifestyle could have cost him the true love of his life.
At the point of no return, Rahul wakes up his inner self from the deep slumber and rids himself of the fondness and blindness that he had always nurtured for his boss, not knowing his true intentions behind the garb of fake sophistication. Rahul teaches me that when in love, one can give up everything except self-respect, honesty and true affection.
Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
“Rahul – naam toh suna hoga,” was the dialogue that got me drooling and crushing over him, every time I heard it and each time, I tried to mimic it. The fun-loving, charismatic, dynamic and easy-going Rahul Sachdeva shows me how to acknowledge one’s love and yet remain true to the person you love with all your heart, mind and soul.
Rahul does ‘friendzone’ Nisha in the movie but he does that very gracefully. He never belittles Nisha’s emotional dependence on him. Rather, he recognises that and even apologises for not being able to reciprocate her love in the way she would have loved to receive.
Rahul transforms throughout the movie. His notion and understanding of love change completely with the magic wand of Pooja who strikes all the right chords in his heart through her compassion, friendship and of course, the heartwarming smile.
Once Rahul believes that “Someone, somewhere is made for you,” he automatically channels that belief into me and leads me to believe that one day, love would find me as well, no matter what happens.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
Rahul Khanna might not excel as a friend or as a husband. But what he is good at is parenting. Though he does, at times, pamper his little daughter, Anjali; he is always full of love and affection for her. When during the inter-school competition, Anjali fails her extempore for the topic being ‘Maa’, Rahul Khanna, like a true father, not only shields his daughter from the public embarrassment but also gives a speech, heartwarming enough to make even a coldhearted person shed a drop of tear.
Throughout the movie, Rahul gets ragged on by her daughter and even lands up in Shimla following the fake news of her illness. However, Rahul teaches one how to don the hat of a single parent and give his or her child all the happiness that he or she truly deserves. Rahul is the perfect father who loves Anjali from the bottom of his heart and becomes much more than just a father.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)
Rahul Raichand, the epitome of an eligible bachelor, is the adorable elder son of the Raichand family. But only till he marries the ‘maholle ki ladki’ Anjali. The hesitation in Rahul’s eyes on hearing about his prospective union with Naina leaves not only him distraught but breaks my heart too.
I understand the pain that Rahul suppresses in his heart when he finally agrees to marry Naina and promises to forget Anjali and distance himself from the same. It is nothing but out of reverence and respect for his father, Yashvardhan Raichand, that Rahul prevents himself to follow the yearnings of his heart.
However, Rahul won my heart when he voluntarily accepts the responsibility of Anjali and Pooja. He throws a challenge to class hierarchy when he marries Anjali and remains true to his commitment towards her. Rahul becomes much more than just a doting lover. He stands for the humanity that believes in subverting all class-related distinctions and is able to view a person, not in the light of the social strata to which he or she belongs but in the light of utmost compassion.
‘Rahul’ is synonymous with the name ‘Shah Rukh Khan’. Though his on-screen name has been the same, the character of Rahul differs from one another hugely in terms of their preferences, attitudes and motives. What I like is that all the Rahuls that he has portrayed are immensely vulnerable and thus, seem real.
The name Rahul has gone beyond being just a name. To me, it is more of a concept, an idea. In all the movies mentioned above, Rahul symbolises madness and the sheer determination of doing something unconventional and unbelievable. The name Rahul contains in itself the indomitable spirit that the person Shah Rukh Khan is all about.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.