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How the three Khans fared this year

Last updated on: December 29, 2011 14:05 IST

How the three Khans fared this year

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Aseem Chhabra in New York

Aseem Chhabra's report card for Bollywood's three superstar Khans: Shah Rukh, Aamir, Salman.

In 2011, the three Khans of Bollywood -- Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman -- were back on the big screens in our neighbourhoods in India and even in theatres showing Bollywood films in the United States.

Somewhat ironic, but it is a sign of the greatness of India and its deep secular roots, that a largely Hindu country has three Muslim-born superstars who are there to give us the sense that Bollywood is in an okay place!

But reassurances aside, it is another thing that two of the Khans -- Shah Rukh and Aamir -- tried to transform their screen images, with different degrees, albeit with good intentions. That did rattle many people, especially loyal fans in India and North America.

The third Khan, Salman, largely stayed himself and his fans loved every minute of his presence on the screen.

The year started with a very different Aamir than we have seen ever before. In wife and director Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat, he was the antithesis of the larger-than-life star and sometimes action hero he plays in films like Ghajini.

At the world premiere of Dhobi Ghat at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, Khan went out of his way to emphasize to a packed audience, mostly fans, that they should not expect another Ghajini. He said the same thing the next day at a press conference, hoping that the South Asian journalists present would get that message across through the reviews of the film.

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Image: Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat


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How the three Khans fared this year

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Aamir -- the most astute person in Bollywood, who is said to break into deep thoughts in the middle of group meetings, leaving others present wondering what is going on in his head -- has taken some remarkable risks in the past couple of years.

He produced three films with very independent look and feel -- Peepli [Live], Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat. But the biggest risk he took was to completely change his screen image, something few Bollywood stars dare to do.


Image: Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat


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How the three Khans fared this year

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Shah Rukh thought he was doing something even more remarkable -- producing and acting in a special-effects-packed, Hindi language superhero film that would appeal to all his fans -- from video games-loving kids to grandmothers.

By all counts, Ra.One is one of the most expensive films ever made in India and the concept of a video game characters coming alive on the streets of London and Mumbai can be interesting.

But unlike Aamir, SRK did not take the total risk. He buffed up his body to be the good video game character G.One who fights his nemesis Ra.One. But in Ra.One, Shah Rukh could not stop being Shah Rukh.

In the past, he has allowed other filmmakers to transform him on the screen and he had two remarkable successes with Swades and Chak De! India. But those two films were critical successes. Their box office draw was limited.

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Image: Shah Rukh Khan in Ra.One

Tags: SRK , Ra , Aamir , Swades , India

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How the three Khans fared this year

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For Ra.One, Shah Rukh wanted to be everything -- a superhero, an action star and even a romantic lead, who would dance and lip-sync to Bollywood songs.

I would bet anyone that nobody, not the director Anubhav Sinha nor any of Shah Rukh's advisors or handlers, could challenge him there.

And we saw the result. Ra.One was one mess of a film -- neither a fully fleshed out super hero product, despite the special effects and the action sequences, nor a typical Bollywood entertainer.

Fans came in large numbers for the Diwali season. Theatres showing Indian films across the US, and the United Kingdom and obviously in India were packed for the first couple of days. But then the not-so-positive word-of-mouth reports started spreading. Fans were not happy.

The film did decent business, but then a lot of people, including even SRK's fans abandoned it. They switched their hopes onto Don 2. I wish all his fans a Merry Christmas with the assurance that all with be okay for them, their star and Bollywood.

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Image: Shah Rukh Khan in Don 2


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How the three Khans fared this year

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And that leaves us with the third Khan -- the most risk averse of all -- Salman.

His contribution this year was to do exactly what he does best, strut around with his buffed up body, and be the only character he is always on the screen, with the least amount of effort.

In Bodyguard -- an odd, old-fashioned, silly film -- Salman was himself, Sallubhai, the way his fans like him. The film was released on Eid.

Like Diwali, Eid is not a major holiday in North America, but Salman's loyal fans came out in huge numbers to witness him being himself, in theaters from New Jersey to California.

His fans in India, too, made it clear that they could not give a damn about what the English-speaking, Western-educated and international films-loving critics had to say. They loved the film and could not have enough of it.

Bodyguard turned out to be a monstrous hit!

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Image: Salman Khan in Bodyguard


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Bodyguard was by far the biggest Bollywood hit in the US -- a clear indication that desi film audiences abroad do not appreciate changed images of their favourite stars.

The other unexpected hit was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, but that had more to do with the young second generation desis who connected with the Western tone of the film.

As the year closes and we revisit our memories of good and bad films seen, Bollywood lovers should pause and think about the Holy Trinity of the Khans. We should feel blessed. They are there to watch over us, entertain us, and despite a few hiccups (that may have cost a lot of money to some people), all will be well in Bollywood, as long as things do not change drastically.


Image: Salman Khan in Bodyguard


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