Today I found out that Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan have done only 7 movies with each other as a lead pair. Well, 7 isn’t a small number but to me, it always seemed like there was a lot more.
It could be because of all the re-runs of KKHH (1998) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), but I feel it mostly boils down to their collective charm that stays with you long after you have watched the movie with them in it.
Very few on-screen couples could do this before them and none, after. And so, as much as we love the pairings of our current movies, most of us, but especially the 90s kids will always hold a special place in their hearts for Shah Rukh and Kajol.
Much like the concept of a superstar, the idea of a super pair is fading. There are some benefits to it, as these can hinder growth but irrespective of the pros and cons, it’s interesting how this change is coming about.
Anyway, let me not make this academic (only because didn’t intend to). Shah Rukh and Kajol’s appeal, I feel, is that they seem like us and can yet maintain the desirability of showbiz artists.
That’s pretty much the best combination and almost always, not something you can grow into. It’s either there or not.
For instance, in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, they play friends who turn into lovers. The circumstances under which this happens and the way it was handled in the movie, the tropes, are a bit problematic. That acknowledged, these two set a template for friendship between a man and a woman and how important that is, to be lovers.
That…is still relevant because of its vibrancy. They made it believable, they were like the couples we had met, or were, during college.
That sweet naivety was there, and confusion, and realisation. It didn’t seem pretentious, despite being highly dramatic in parts, I must admit.
Now, before Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, came Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Let’s just say the plot of it was not rooted in reality but as someone said, “movies don’t have to be real, they have to be believable”.
A woman meets a man, falls in love, goes her separate way, and he crosses 7 oceans (and a khet) to find his way back to her. What a classic!
I shouldn’t say that that can never happen in real life and this belief is their giving, and cinema in general, in a huge way.
Shah Rukh and Kajol seem like equals in any on-screen paring, even though their characters are not because most of our writing was, and continues to be patriarchal.
But barring some parts of KKHH, Kajol doesn’t seem intimidated by the presence of her reel-lover, I personally find that to be the part of their appeal.
This can be attributed to who they are as people. Both of them have strong personalities.
If I had to choose my favourite Shah Rukh-Kajol movie, I’d go with My Name Is Khan. It’s more with the times, and has so much love. It’s their first and only on-screen romantic outing that is adequately layered.
In a very touching scene in MNIK, Shah Rukh says:
Hazaaron panno pe laakhon baar likh sakta hoon “I love you, Mandira”. Par ek baar bhi tumse nahin keh paya. Shayad Isiliye naraaz ho mujhse.
That is so well done, it has the entire essence of the movie and the lead characters. The unfairness of the world and the helplessness of a man struggling with a disorder, and a woman, with grief.
MNIK came after Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, but it’s not the same Shah Rukh and Kajol. The couple wasn’t what we had known it to be for decades, and yet, they were so impactful together.
Proving that just like their characters, they always make it work.
To our favourite couple, thank you for making us believe that love can find anyone, in a classroom, on a train, or in the middle of a mustard field.