Filmdom friendship or enmity often happens depending on shifting market logistics, so it is hard to fathom how Shah Rukh and Salman Khan will behave with each other the next time they meet. Despite such an enigmatic equation though, the two superstars seem to be on one page when it comes to career basics. The deal for both right now is, after all, the same. They have to protect turf at the top of the heap even as they fast approach 50.
Salman and Shah Rukh's next releases bear an uncanny resemblance, and I am not talking of storyline (or the lack of it) that the two films, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and Dilwale respectively, will hawk. The commonality lies elsewhere - in the thought process on why both the two films have been made in the first case.
Salman has Prem Ratan Dhan Payo coming up on Diwali, rehauling the Sooraj Barjatya-patented shuddh desi designer family-mush mixture that catapulted him to Bollywood's elite list in 1994 with Hum Aapke Hain Koun!
The film had followed Barjatya's earlier release Maine Pyaar Kiya that had already made Salman an overnight star. HAHK! turned the actor into one of Bollywood's biggest phenomenon, in the process emerging the industry's biggest hit ever in its time.
Salman's superstardom, complete in the sheer loyalty he commands from his fans, is however not complete. The HAHK! record has been broken a long time ago. Over the years, Aamir Khan has quietly ensured that from time to time the job of creating and breaking the record of all-time biggest global hit mostly stays with him. If ever Salman needed a film that could let him scale such heights at this point, he has conveniently turned to Sooraj Barjatya after all these years.
The scene seems to be similar for Shah Rukh. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge released a year after HAHK! and patterned Shah Rukh's image as a superstar chocolate boy. In turn, that image let the actor enjoy his sobriquet of King Khan for nearly a decade and half.
Quite uncannily, memories of the 1995 blockbuster are suddenly being resurrected in an organised manner after all these years, and the objective is clearly more than just celebrating 20 years of its release. DDLJ, it seems, has become convenient hardsell bait for Shah Rukh's quite obtrusively titled next, Dilwale. Bollywood's Khan duo is obviously on a rewind trip to reiterate their demigod status. The question, of course, is why? For a pair of actors who have conquered all, 50 you would think is the right time to reinvent stardom.
For Salman, who just delivered the biggest hit of his career yet with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, this would be an ideal phase to move beyond playing himself. In Barjatya's new film, however, it does not seem he will. PRDP apparently has accommodated a double role to flaunt the two core areas that define Salman's superstardom - the customary six-pack swagger and the lovable loverboy with a mischievous streak.
Essential change between PRDP and Hum Saath Saath Hain - the last time Barjatya directed Salman - is just that advancing age had merely pushed up the Great Indian Parivar ladder. In that 1999 release, Salman played the middle brother. This time he will be bade bhaiyya.
Cosmetic change will also be in place for Shah Rukh going into Dilwale. The film has flaunted bringing back the DDLJ duo of Shah Rukh and Kajol. They will not be turning on the mush quotient the way they did in that 1995 hit, they are over the hill for that. Instead, the saccharine spread is being readied retaining the wonky commercial idiom synonymous with the film's director Rohit Shetty. For extra measure, Shah Rukh has pooled in the young pair of Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon as part of Dilwale's glamour pack.
The essential mush quota in the film, going by the title, will very much be in place. Even if the script bears no resemblance to DDLJ in any way, Shah Rukh obviously wants you to remember the nineties' blockbuster while returning in a film opposite Kajol that is about, well, dilwale (the large-hearted).
Both Shah Rukh and Salman are obviously in no mood to appear anything but the eternal sunshine boys of Bollywood right now, advancing age and reinvention ideas be damned.
There is a whole generation at the box office to woo that is less than half their age.