Year: 2021, Month: June. Looking for a casual night-time watch, I chose Darr on a whim. I wasn’t planning on getting invested, nor was I a dedicated Shah Rukh Khan fan. By the time the credits bled black three hours later, my heart was changed. Darr was heady and profound—an all-encompassing fever unlike anything I’d experienced before. Shahrukh plays Rahul, whose vehement obsession with Kiran (Juhi Chawla) from their college days and his attempts to sway her into marriage despite her fiancé Sunil (Sunny Deol) form the crux of the plot. However, this simple synopsis is heightened with SRK's intimate and layered take. His innocent conniving and prickly mania crawls through the heart and permeates the mind for weeks on end.
Both SRK and Rahul could be termed outsiders, ensnared, and atypical in 1993. Unlike many of his counterparts, SRK was not a chocolate boy. He was a man of chiseled edges and suave spikes, a combination of unadulterated passion and raw Delhi dapper. Rahul isn't the lukewarm lover nor the distracted darling of conventional 90s cinema. His immense love for Kiran is a black hole. His obsession renders him blind. Love isn’t a pastime; it's an honor and unbridled passion. As Sunil first meets Rahul, he asks him what he does for a living. "Mohabbat," he responds. Moments later, he adds, "Mohabbat Zindagi Hai." He has surrendered laughingly to love. Love is indeed his life. SRK’s hunger to prove himself as a newcomer in the sphere of doubt was exactly what did justice to and fed the radical character ‘s desperation on screen, culminating in a tragic masterpiece. He embraced Rahul, and Rahul embraced him back.
Darr is commercial cinema about the intersection of love and fear, but its subtle exploration of mental illness and the perils of stifled emotion induces the actual creeps. Rahul was a neglected and shy child, as we discover. His mother lost her life in a car accident, but he still talks to her on the phone. His father survived, but he keeps a casual, heedless distance from his son's life. Rahul was bullied, made fun of, and further isolated in school and college. "Jhepu," he’s called in one of the scenes by Kiran and chastised for blushing.
In a society that envisions men as protectors and saviors, there is no room for Rahul’s sensitivities and hesitations, but he doesn’t blame anyone for this trauma, nor does he harbor expectations. He’s made a whole world inside his head, and it's shocking to peep into. Charting the roots of Rahul’s behavior, the film gives an enduring warning of how our treatment of others may topple their whole worlds. He’s a man marred by life, but the film does not cover up his extreme actions. He stalks, threatens, and pains Kiran, even killing innocent people in the process. He won’t stop at any length and is disgusting as a prospective lover, but such is the genius power of SRK that he still manages to make us feel for him. Rahul emerges in his delicate hands, discreetly advocating for the forgotten individuals amidst the masses—voiceless piners whose emotions are mistreated by life's demands and norms. You get reminded that this is a character from the daily occult, whom you might have seen yet unseen innumerable times. You might have been him, to an extent.
Darr hits harder in a world tarnished by love. As Rahul flails and thrashes for Kiran throughout the movie, he comes to embody a universal ache. As you watch him, crystals glitter in your eyes. You wonder about all that you have loved and lost. Celluloid transcends to life as his pain shifts to yours. Because he can hold a mirror to the plethora of human emotions and foibles, Shahrukh endears Rahul to our wretched hearts, shifting something deep inside. SRK isn’t held back here; he is free. He thrums and reigns like the king he is.