Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Top 10 Shah Rukh Khan movies

This morning Geet TV presented the Top 10 Shah Rukh Khan movies as voted by visitors to the Namaste America website.

Shah Rukh is the reason we began watching Bollywood films. Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come, 2003) and Devdas (2002) were the first and second Bollywood movies we saw, and we were immediately hooked. We have since seen more than 40 of SRK's films; the Internet Movie Database lists 77 movies in which he has appeared as an actor, but that list includes special appearances, voiceovers, and movies that haven't yet been released. So we've probably seen at least two-thirds of the movies in which he has a major role (though we haven't yet seen either of his movies from last year, Ra.One and Don 2).

The results of the vote by the viewers of Namaste America were eyebrow-raising; here they are, in ascending order, with my comments:

10. Main Hoon Na (I'm Here Now, 2004): While for my taste this movie is a bit heavy on the masala—it's a college comedy crossed with a terrorist thriller, with a couple love stories and a father-daughter reconciliation thrown in for good measure—it belongs on this list for the wonderful musical numbers choreographed by writer/director Farah Khan. As bonuses it has the adorable Amrita Rao and, as SRK's love interest, Sushmita Sen (a pity that she and SRK don't work together more often). As a taste, here is "Tumse Milke" (if after clicking play the English subtitles don't appear automatically after 45 seconds, click on the CC button on the bottom bar):

9. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (A Match Made In Heaven, 2008): On my list of favorite SRK films, this one is now in the top five. It took a while to grow on me, but I think it has one of SRK's strongest performances. He plays Suri, a shy, plain office worker who, with the aid of his hairstylist buddy Bobby (Vinay Pathak), secretly transforms himself into the brash filmi-style hero "Raj" in order to win the love of his estranged young wife Taani (the delightful Anushka Sharma in her first film). Of course, the plan backfires in a big way; the scene where Tani confesses her awakening feelings to Raj is devastating.

In "Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte" SRK pays homage to Golden and Silver Age Bollywood heroes and heroines; SRK's partners are Kajol, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukherjee:

I have also written a full-length post on RNBDJ.

8. Mohabbatein (Love Stories, 2000): A teacher (SRK) carrying a secret returns to the boarding school where he was once a student and confronts its strict headmaster (Amitabh Bachchan). We rewatched Mohabbatein recently, and found it more enjoyable the second time; still, I think I might put the tender supernatural fable Paheli (Confusion, 2005) in this slot. Here is Paheli's "Khali Hai Tere Bina," with SRK and Rani Mukherjee:

7. Don (2006): Farhan Akhtar's slick remake-with-a-twist of the classic Amitabh Bachchan movie from 1978 is entertaining enough, but it wouldn't come close to making my SRK Top 10. Instead I think this slot should belong to Om Shanti Om (2007), which is inexplicably missing from the viewers' list.

OSO features SRK in a dual role as a struggling junior artiste in 1970s Bollywood and as his reincarnation as a modern Bollywood superstar. Along the way we get hilarious parodies of both Silver Age and contemporary Bollywood. As an example, here's "Dhoom Taana," which features the lovely Deepika Padukone in her first major role (no subtitles, alas: clicking the CC button will only get you an English phonetic "translation" of the lyrics):

6. Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come, 2003): This would be Number 1 on my list. As I wrote in my earlier post "Bollywood for the Curious": "The clever script, appealing stars and razor-sharp editing make KHNH an excellent candidate for a Bollywood conversion experience. It's a film that gets better with multiple viewings, as more of its Bollywood in-jokes become comprehensible. But while it's fun to get the references, we can attest that the movie is also highly enjoyable without any previous experience of Bollywood." Here is the title song, with SRK, Saif Ali Khan, and Preity Zinta:

5. My Name Is Khan (2010): I don't quite know what to make of this choice. I thought this Karan Johar-directed film was well-meaning, and that SRK did an amazing job in the role of Rizwan Khan, a man with Asperger's Syndrome whose stepson is the victim of a hate attack after 9/11. The movie also stars Kajol, whose onscreen chemistry with SRK is justly famous.

Still, I thought My Name Is Khan took on too many issues too superficially (if Asperger's, 9/11 and anti-Muslim prejudice aren't enough, there's an extended Hurricane Katrina sequence and a nod to the 2008 presidential election). Despite its positive qualities, this movie wouldn't make my SRK Top 10.

Instead, I'd put Veer-Zaara (2004) here. It's the impossibly romantic story of Veer, an Indian man (SRK) and Zaara, a Pakistani woman (Preity Zinta), who are separated by the political divisions between their countries. Yash Chopra's lush, sweeping direction is especially apparent in "Aise Des Hai Mere" (if after clicking play the English subtitles don't automatically appear, click the CC button on the bottom bar):

4. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Joy, Sometimes Sorrow, 2001): This has to be on this list somewhere, if only for the songs, but Number 4? For me this would just squeak on at Number 9 or 10. Director Karan Johar pulled out all the stops on this multi-starrer, but the final result leaves me less moved than I suspect I'm intended to be. We do get to see SRK and Kajol, along with Amitabh Bachchan (reprising his Stern Dad role from Mohabbatein) and Jaya Bachchan, and the young Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor. For me, though, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Still, the big-budget treatment of the songs is highly effective, as in "Yeh Ladka Hai Allah":

3. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Will Win The Bride, 1995): As with its placement in Namaste America's list of the Top Ten Bollywood Love Stories since 1990, I'm only amazed that this didn't come in higher. The movie that made SRK a superstar, it remains a classic. It's marred for me, though, by the violent final scenes. Still, the Jatin-Lalit songs are excellent and SRK and Kajol are unforgettable together, as in "Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna" (apologies for the lack of subtitles on this latest version from Yash Raj Films):

As I wrote in my post "Having it both ways: Bollywood contradictions", "I also love how, when Raj sings 'Keep your eyes downcast,' Simran looks straight into his eyes."

2. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Is Happening, 1998): Another great SRK-Kajol pairing; there's a good reason why four of the top five films on this list feature this famous jodi. Probably the third or fourth Bollywood film we saw, it remains among my favorite SRK films; my partner and I still quote the gazebo scene to one another. Here's the title song, with SRK, Rani, and Kajol:

1. Devdas (2002): And I thought I was the only one who appreciated this amazing film; see "In defense of Devdas, the movie everyone loves to hate". It wouldn't be my Number 1—that honor belongs to Kal Ho Naa Ho—but it's definitely in my top three or four. Here is "Kahe Chhed Mohe," my Platonic ideal of a Bollywood dance number, which features the exquisite Madhuri Dixit as the courtesan Chandramukhi:

Missing from the list: Apart from the films mentioned above, I was a bit surprised that Dil Se (From the Heart, 1998) didn't make it onto the list, as it has the famous SRK-dancing-on-top-of-the-train number "Chaiyya Chaiyya"; it's the fourth entry on "Why I Love Bollywood: The Playlist". SRK gave an excellent performance as coach Kabir Khan in Chak De! India (Come on, India! 2009), the thinly fictionalized story of the Indian women's field hockey team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Given the patriotic, uplifting story, I wonder why more viewers didn't vote for it—perhaps the lack of songs hurt its chances. Also, a good argument for inclusion could be made for Swades (2004), and I think the forthright Kabhie Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye, 2005) is underrated.


  1. I agree with your list much more than Namaste America's. Please watch RaOne when you bave a chance, but you can give Don2 a miss.

  2. I think Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge will always remain the best film of SRK'S career. Although my favorite is Swades.

  3. Updates, thanks for the kind words. I have to confess that I'm wary of both Ra.One and Don 2, though I'm sure we'll see both of them eventually. Both of them seem to follow contemporary Hollywood models, Ra.One of superhero/comic book/game-based movies, and Don 2 of action/thriller/heist movies like Mission Impossible. I started watching Bollywood movies in part because I was looking for something different from typical Hollywood product. That Bollywood movies are converging with multiplex Hollywood flicks in content and style is dismaying; that it's SRK who is a major force in this convergence is disheartening.

    BC, Swades could well have been included on this list. SRK gave an excellent performance as a NASA engineer who returns to India bring his ayah back with him to America, only to find himself caught up in trying to solve the problems of his village. (The presence of the lovely Gayatri Joshi only played a small part in his decision, I'm sure.)

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. I'm surprised to read your praising of Kal Ho Naa Ho, one of my favorite movies, which is often depicted as a bland and typical film. It was actually the film that set off my interest in Bollywood, even though Kabhi Khushi was the first film I had seen.
    My favorite Shah Rukh film is Devdas, though, I can't get enough of that film. It gets better and more beautiful each time.

    I also can't believe they didn't include Om Shanti Om!

  5. Mette, KHNH was the first Bollywood movie we saw, and multiple viewings since then have confirmed its excellence for me. If only such wonderful writing, acting and editing were typical. After we saw KHNH we were hooked, and it's still the movie we show more than any other to introduce friends to Bollywood.

    Devdas is an amazing film on many levels. It remains unsurpassed for its sheer visual opulence and the way Ismail Darbar's songs are so brilliantly integrated into the narrative. (We often watch the songs in sequence, because the story unfolds through them.) And Chandramukhi is the greatest role of the great Madhuri Dixit.

    And yes, where is Om Shanti Om? Don is slick and entertaining, and My Name Is Khan is worthy, but I've never been tempted to rewatch either of them. I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I've watched KHNH and the other movies on my version of the list.



  6. I think you are missing some of srk's highly acclaimed performances like Swades,Chak De India and Dil To Pagal Hai..... Watch them if u haven't by now.

  7. SantatusQuo, thanks for your recommendations. I've seen all of the movies you mention, and considered two of them for my list. (The one that had no chance to make my Top 10 is Dil To Pagal Hai; for my comments on it, see The Top 10 Bollywood Love Stories?.)

    If Chak De! India and Swades didn't quite make the cut for my (or the viewers') Top 10, they are certainly well worth seeing, and I agree that SRK is excellent in both. If I had made a list of the Top 15 SRK films, they would likely both have been included.



  8. My ordering :
    1) Kal Ho Naa Ho
    2) Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (he makes playing a 'loser' cool) ...and also a good way to look at life
    3) Swades
    4) Dil Se (set on the backdrop of political conflicts in north-eastern Indian states) but is still a passionate love story.
    5) Chak De India (plays a hockey coach)
    6) Darr (obsessive psychotic lover..... changed the image of the conevntional bollywood her and outshone established satr like Sunny Deol)
    7) DDLJ (simple, good at the heart and makes you believe in love, forever)
    8)K3G (for all the emotions)
    9) KKHH (simple,sweet,brilliant)
    10) Main Hoon Naa (hugely entertaining....but some jokes doesn't translate well into English subtitiles for non-Indian viewers)
    11) Jab Tak Hain Jaan , Veer Zaara, MY Name is Khan, Chennai Express, Donand many will never get bored of him....

    I love him bcoz he is a true family man...has loved and been married to the same woman for the past 22 years unlike other actors who head for divorce.......thats why he is a romantic hero.......and not just bcoz he has done so many romantic films :)