Shah Rukh Khan Embodies the Affectionate Expression of South Asian Love

Web DeskJanuary 2, 2024
Shah Rukh Khan Embodies the Affectionate Expression of South Asian Love

In 1997, an aspiring young actor melodiously sang, “Saari duniya par main chhaaun/Bas itna sa khwaab hai” (I wish to conquer the entire world, that’s all I dream of). Little did he know that by uttering these lyrics, he would unintentionally be shaping his own destiny. Only Shah Rukh Khan can shed light on whether he was aware of this unfolding fate.

Now, 26 years later, buoyed by the tremendous commercial success of films like Pathaan and Jawan, the enduring star continues to reign as the Bollywood King. His journey has been marked by both remarkable highs and poignant lows, witnessed by audiences worldwide. As 2023 concludes with Dunki gracing cinema screens, Shah Rukh Khan reaffirms that, once again, the world remains within his grasp.

The period characterized by Shah Rukh Khan’s prominence.

As the global pandemic wreaked havoc, audiences worldwide sought solace in OTT offerings. This trend posed a potential threat of overstaying its welcome, with the risk of habituating cinema-goers to the unparalleled comfort, safety, and content available within the confines of their homes. Consequently, numerous star-studded releases struggled to make an impact in traditional cinema houses. The world awaited the intervention of its cinematic king, and deliver he did.

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Nikhil Taneja, co-founder and Chief of Yuvaa, an Indian “Gen Z media, insights, and impact organization,” and the creator/host of “Be A Man, Yaar!”—a unique talk show on positive masculinity—shares his perspective on this phenomenon. “This marks the era of Shah Rukh Khan,” he declares. “It commenced back in the 90s, and thirty years later, I’m delighted that it has endured.”

Nikhil goes on to explain, “He has singlehandedly rescued Bollywood. Similar to Tom Cruise’s impact after the pandemic with Top Gun, where theaters were struggling, and he turned it into a post-pandemic cinematic event, Shah Rukh Khan has done the same for India.” Reflecting on the post-COVID scenario, Nikhil notes, “No film was achieving the usual INR 200 or INR 300 crore benchmarks expected from major blockbusters. Shah Rukh Khan, on his own, drew audiences back to theaters. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he has saved Bollywood.”

Entertainment journalist Shaheera Anwar emphasizes, “Bollywood is inseparable from Shah Rukh Khan, whether you are a fan or not. Pathaan and Jawan have reaffirmed that the industry remains incomplete without his enduring presence.” Anthropologist and gender theorist Ekta Shaikh adds, “The substantial revenue he generated for the Hindi film industry put an end to monetary comparisons with industries in the South. Shah Rukh’s on-screen comebacks mirrored an actual revival of Hindi cinema.”

Two facets of the same coin

Despite the actor’s impressive journey, Shaheera points out that “certain plotlines in his movies may now be viewed as problematic due to changing times.” Nevertheless, she steps back to consider the broader perspective, noting that “his evolution from humble beginnings to global stardom, combined with a sense of nostalgia, turns every movie release or birthday celebration into a festive occasion.” She adds, “Revisiting these timeless classics, his relatable interviews, the release of his new films, and observing how he has aged—the enduring charm he possesses to this day symbolizes hope and a connection to cherished memories in people’s lives.”

Nikhil delves into Shah Rukh’s struggles, elucidating why his significant comeback holds particular significance. “For the longest time, Shah Rukh faced challenges,” he begins. “He grappled with defining his place in the industry. Traditionally known as the romantic hero—characterized by beautiful eyes, a big smile, and welcoming gestures for a hug—he wasn’t cast in the alpha, masculine roles akin to Salman Khan. At one point, he was labeled metrosexual, now referred to as soft masculinity. Society tends to categorize men as either ‘alpha’ or ‘macho,’ necessitating the creation of terms for those who don’t fit these molds.”

Further elaborating on the star’s “identity crisis,” Nikhil explains, “After a prolonged period of self-reflection, contemplating his essence and relevance in the current landscape, he has embraced his most authentic, hardcore elements—the action hero he aspired to become. He has reinvented himself, showcasing the multifaceted persona of Shah Rukh Khan. His films become festivals for this reason, as he is one of the few figures in cinema appreciated by all genders. In his heart and soul, he offers something for everyone.”

Influence

The superstar’s impact is so profound that the influence of his films has become deeply ingrained in the lives of many. Shaheera notes, “His legacy is destined to be recorded in history books as a pivotal chapter in the exploration of cinema and stardom. As a global icon and, in his own words, ‘the last of the stars,’ how many people do you know who aspired to be actors after being inspired by SRK?” She emphasizes, “He’s more than just a name; he’s an emotion.” Ekta observes, “Shah Rukh Khan is the reigning king. His legacy extends beyond his films, as he is a cultural phenomenon. His lasting impact lies in his ability to reinvent—a legacy of continuity.”

Nikhil openly shares, “He demonstrated that it’s acceptable to be a man who values his partner, who is sensitive, emotional, and expressive. He embodies charm, sophistication, softness, gentleness, and kindness. He has illustrated what it truly means to be a gentleman—not merely as a word but as a profound embodiment of two words. He is a gentleman, a rarity in recent times.” He aptly concludes, “Shah Rukh Khan epitomizes the love language of South Asia.”

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