“His time is over,” “SRK’s superstardom is finished,” “The man should stop acting” – these are the kind of comments that I have been hearing ever since Jab Harry Met Sejal came out and put up a dismal show at the box office. It also didn’t help matters that the movie didn’t get glowing reviews from the critics, turning out to be a critical failure as well. But why are people saying that it’s game over for Shah Rukh Khan, who is getting the lion’s share of the blame for the failure of the movie? Is it really fair for the actor, who entertained us for over three decades and has given his best even in JHMS, to be written off over the failure of a film?
Well, yes and no! While it is unfair for people to write him off as an actor and a star just because he is going through a bad phase career-wise, I admit that it is high time that Shah Rukh Khan buckles up and take the reins of his career back in his hands. I had previously written a piece on why SRK shouldn’t alone be blamed for JHMS’s performance, but equal, if not more, the blame should also go to the director Imtiaz Ali as well. But the matter is not just restricted to one flop. The alarm bells started ringing for the actor three years ago when Happy New Year released.
It was with this Farah Khan multi-starrer that Shah Rukh Khan had begun to take his die-hard fans (yours truly included) for granted. Chennai Express may have started the trend, but it was with HNY that SRK began to over-promote his movie to compensate for the lack of substance in the script. It worked to some extent, and the movie managed to gross more than Rs 150 crore at the box office. But people were disappointed with the movie, and it couldn’t beat the records of Chennai Express, which remains his highest grossing movie of all time.
And yet, we were willing to give Shah Rukh Khan a chance to better his act. Then came Dilwale, which went the same way as Happy New Year. By that time SRK finally began to hear his fans’ yearnings for him to do different genres and obliged. He did stick to his promise and gave us different stuff in FAN, where he played a star and his diehard fan, Dear Zindagi, a slice-of-life drama, where he had a supporting role to Alia Bhatt, Raees, a gangster drama, and JHMS, a love story. Each of the movie was with directors with whom he has not worked before, and they gave him something different to try out.
However, save for Dear Zindagi, none of the movies managed to make a huge impact at the box office. It’s strange since SRK gave his best performance in recent times in FAN. Raees is the highest-grossing Bollywood movie of 2017, but the profit share is quite low. And in JHMS, SRK even returned to the genre his fans yearned to see him in – romance. But nothing is working for him. So where is he going wrong?
It’s actually quite easy to decipher. In all these cases, more than his role selection, it is the script that has let him down, big time. Plus, there is a fact that his super-stardom is coming in the way of his performances. Otherwise why do acclaimed directors like Maneesh Sharma, Rahul Dholakia and Imtiaz Ali, known for their content-driven movies, end up making such underwhelming movies with him? Shah Rukh Khan needs to take a page out of Aamir Khan’s book, and start having more creative control in his movie right from the conception to its execution, instead of just focussing on doing his thing and later over-promoting the movie. He may be called a tyrant for doing so, but since he gets blamed when the movie fails, it’s better to be called a dictator than a washout!
Shah Rukh Khan will be next seen in Aanand L Rai’s upcoming movie, where he is playing a dwarf. Again, it is an experimental movie, and he is working with the director for the first time. Since it is releasing in 2018, he has ample time to focus on the minute details of the shoot and make things right. Above all, he should never let the director get overwhelmed by his stardom. But he has still miles to go before he can retain his box office king tag (that belongs to Aamir Khan only these days).
With the hopes that this experiment works, we do expect him to play safe with his next. Maybe he should return to the Karan Johar kind of romance or do an action-thriller like Don 3. Or perhaps he should do something that resonates with the core of our audience like Chak De! India. Or a masala film that’s entertaining too, like Om Shanti Om. We genuinely don’t know what he should try next to gain his box office mojo back. Perhaps, you readers, can give some helpful suggestions.