Earlier this month, I had come across a video of Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla from Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. The video showed Shah Rukh Khan exuding his charm and Juhi Chawla getting swayed by it. But it took me back and got me thinking about how Juhi Chawla effortlessly reigned over the rom-com genre in the 90s.
Romcoms were aplenty in the 90s. What made Juhi Chawla stand out from the rest was her girl-next-door presence on screen, her comfortable chemistry with her co-actors, and her quick comic timing which made sure that her dialogues never made her characters turn borderline caricaturish.
Juhi Chawla embraced all her characters with ease. In Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi, she played the role of Shalu. As the daughter of a millionaire in a David Dhawan film, her character was written in a stereotypical David Dhawan-esque style. But the way she injected life into Shalu with her expressions and her performance weaved magic on the screen.
Juhi Chawla made her debut in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak alongside Aamir Khan. Their jodi was loved and appreciated and she became a household name. However, it was in Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke that Juhi Chawla brought out her acting prowess as Vyaijanti Iyer. She is bubbly and free-spirited. Her character runs the risk of coming across as the stereotypical Bollywood depiction of a South Indian woman, but trust Juhi Chawla to balance her character beautifully. Many critics have dubbed this role as one of her finest performances.
In Duplicate and Bhagyawan, she wowed us with her perfectly timed antics that no other actor at that time could pull off with ease. Her chemistry with Shah Rukh Khan in Yes Boss is my favourite. Watch any song from that movie and I’m sure your heart will melt into a puddle. Only she can flutter her eyes the way she does in front of Shah Rukh Khan.
There’s a very overused trope in Bollywood – the trope of how two individuals who are extremely comfortable in the presence of one another end up falling in love with each other. This trope is very similar to the ‘best friends to lovers’ trope. As much used and overused as this is, this is the trope that Bollywood romcoms often use. Juhi Chawla’s movies fall in the same category but they never come across as cliche.
What really makes Juhi Chawla the queen of romcoms is how her characters look like that one couple, we all know of, whose love language involves teasing each other, pulling harmless pranks, and always laughing out loud to make each other smile. And this formula has always won.
Her characters might be stereotypical but they are starkly different. Many actresses back then performed roles that exuded a fiery and passionate romance. But Juhi Chawla’s characters were refreshing and they always left a warm feeling in your heart. She left the typical loud proclamations of love aside. She kept people glued to her with her sparkling eyes which always spoke more and her giggle that could fill an empty room.