I'm definitely not Shah Rukh Khan's "sabse bada fan", nor am I visible as a miniscule part of the Fan poster (made up of faces of several fans), but I'm a fan alright. And just like some of you, I too saw the 20 years of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) tribute that Shah Rukh and Kajol filmed on the sets of the movie they're currently filming together, Dilwale, with nostalgia in my heart. Not once, but twice. And, I have to say, the man still has it. I don't know any woman who saw that short film and didn't go "awwww".
No wonder then that SRK's last two outings at the box office failed to impress me. As a generation that grew up on the actor's romantic charm - I was 18 when DDLJ released - it's a tad disappointing to see directors not only ignoring this aspect of the actor's huge appeal but also wasting it.
In both Chennai Express and Happy New Year, SRK character couldn't care less about the girl (Deepika Padukone in both cases). In the first, she was a damsel in distress, who realised she loved him midway through the film. SRK's character, however, realised somewhere between the second last and the last frame that the girl he'd been protecting might, just might, have warmed his heart.
In Happy New Year, apart from mouthing crass, tasteless misogynistic dialogues, often when the girl was in the room, SRK's character didn't realise until the epilogue that he might have found a life partner. In both cases, I also got the feeling that SRK himself was not convinced - romancing someone so much younger does require a certain suspension of belief.
Compare this to any of the movies he did in his earlier years. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or Dil To Pagal Hai or DDLJ. Amateurish it may have been, yet consider the scene where SRK steals into Rani Mukherjee's room to tell her the three people he would bow his head down to, or the iconic "Aur Paas" scene from Dil To Pagal Hai with a reluctant and conflicted but caught-in-his-charm Madhuri Dixit, or the now signature arms-spread-out-wide pose in the mustard fields when he arrives in Punjab to a waiting Kajol. In each of these films, he managed to not only charm the character he was in love with, but also pretty much every woman in the audience.
And that is why SRK is one of the very few actors, who I think has managed to make love and heartbreak tangible. When SRK pines, his brows furrowed into deep lines, you know exactly what one-sided love feels like. When he's rejected, you can hear his heart breaking into a million pieces. Cliched yes. True, yes. When a consumed-by-love SRK relentlessly follows Manisha Koirala in Dil Se, you know what insane passion is all about. Even in Darr, when his love takes on shades of obsession, you still go home not hating SRK but feeling somewhat sorry for him, because his passion for Juhi Chawla far outweighed Sunny Deol's. Put simply, no one can do love like SRK. It may have to do with his personality as well, given the story about him following his wife Gauri to Mumbai and unabashedly pursuing her, but whether he's channeling a private emotion or putting his initial Barry John classes to good use, I don't know. And I don't care. What I do care about is how he serenades - always with sincerity, dignity and a certain amount of respect for the opposite gender.
I do understand, however, that an actor needs range, and needs to experiment, which is why I truly enjoyed Chak De, Don, even Swades. In Chak De too, it's passion of a different kind, that propels Kabir Khan, and it's a movie that never fails to produce a lump in your throat. The good thing is, it doesn't have a forced love angle.
So, on your 50th birthday, Shah Rukh, by all means, try different genres, explore your range, but don't forget to give romance a shot too. And when you do love, do it the way you know best - with raw emotion and burning passion. Just like wine - especially after witnessing those few minutes of your banter with Kajol in that DDLJ tribute - I'm sure you'll only get better with age.