Also, Shah Rukh’s own My Name Is Khan had done one third of the business of 3 Idiots (at least in India, though in overseas it was monstrous) and despite the fact that its theme didn’t quite carry a similar commercial appeal, the fact remained that Salman’s immediate superstardom was threatening enough. Well, with all these debates around, I was tempted to join the fun as well. It would have been good to hear both sides of the stories and then add on my own bit. However, I wanted to wait for a while. Wait for the time when Dabangg euphoria would have settled down. Wait for the true collections of the film to emerge over a period of time and then formulate an opinion. After all regardless of the fact that films are made and broken on the opening weekend itself, Dabangg still had quite some distance to go even if it had to come anywhere in the vicinity of 3 Idiots. Now that Dabangg has already netted over 130 crores, hence making Salman the only actor other than Aamir Khan (3 Idiots – 205 crores, Ghajini – 115 crores) to break the 100 crore barrier, and could perhaps be ending it’s run just a little short of 150 crores, it is clear that pressure is on Shah Rukh to deliver. In this week’s ‘Reflections’, let’s heat up the debate. The number game? Oh yes, it does exist Ask any superstar a question around the number game and more often than not, the answer is – ‘I don’t believe in it’. However, for a self proclaimed Baadshah, Shah Rukh hasn’t quite shied away from admitting that he is pretty much aiming for being at the top of the game. Of course he has proved that time and again as well.
In the last 10 years, his only flops have been Paheli, Swades, Asoka and One 2 Ka 4. In the last five years, there have been none. The only other actor to enjoy a similar feat is Aamir Khan and he has done far lesser films. On the contrary, Salman has delivered a dozen odd flops in least 10 years. It is clear that with maximum number of films and maximum number of big money spinners, some even record breaking (Om Shanti Om, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi), Shah Rukh Khan was pretty much reigning with Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar being his closet competitors for a long duration. It was a good comfort zone that Shah Rukh found himself in. Early signs of disturbance One can debate whether Shah Rukh realised that soon enough but the early signs of disturbance were pretty much visible a couple of years back itself. Soon after the release and super success of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Bollywood saw the release of Ghajini. Not just did the film act as a speed breaker in the victory march of the Shah Rukh starrer, it even went on to create new records for the first weekend and the full week. This is not all as the Aamir Khan flick went on to be the first ever in the history of Indian cinema to top the 100 crore mark.
However, Aamir being Aamir was working in only one film a year and hence his 3 Idiots was still a year away. Akshay and Salman were working in multiple films and though Akshay’s two films – Singh Is Kinng and Welcome – had topped the 70 crore mark, Salman’s highest grosser Partner had played around in the vicinity of 60 crores. Clearly, Shah Rukh didn’t have many reasons to worry though one would have expected him to re-strategise when it came to his films. Prestige or commerce Decision to work in only one film a year is appreciable but then one does expect that one film to be something special. Shah Rukh’s sole concentration post Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was on My Name Is Khan which was always a risk to begin with since it was a classy film with an issue at the core of it. Of course globally the film was expected to make a huge impact but locally, it would have been too much to expect this dramatic affair to find such response from the audience that it would have turned out to be that 100 crore affair. While Shah Rukh did put his finger on a prestigious affair, commerce wasn’t the talking point here. This was a little puzzling though because when a top actor does only one film a year, one does expect it to be a massive entertainer that combines entertainment with commerce. However, My Name Is Khan felt somewhere in the middle. Of course it is far easier to comment in the hindsight because at the end of it all, Shah Rukh did give Bollywood his annual hit. However, no one, whether trade, audience or Salman himself would have expected a certain Dabangg to make the kind of impact that it eventually did. It turned into a blockbuster, a 100 crore plus earner and the biggest of all, an event that resulted in Salman Khan suddenly becoming a darling of the masses. An argument here? Shah Rukh has always laughed it all away, rightly so, whenever approached with the question of his throne being challenged by an actor once his film becomes a hit. On being questioned if his days were numbered after Hrithik Roshan arrived like a hurricane with Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Shah Rukh laughed it all away. Later when Akshay had a golden run for a couple of years in a row, Shah Rukh wasn’t much flustered. Even the arrival of young brigade like Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and Imran Khan didn’t seem much of a challenge.
However, Salman isn’t someone whom Shah Rukh can ignore. After all he is someone who belongs to the same age group as him. In fact Salman is a couple of years senior to him as well since his Maine Pyaar Kiya came before Deewana. Salman by no means is a fly by night operator who has delivered his blockbuster but would be uncertain about tomorrow. Of course given the fact that he works in 3-4 films a year, Salman will have his occasional flop just as it happens with all actors who work in multiple films. However, there is always a chance of that one Dabangg to balance the entire equation. Same holds good for Akshay Kumar whose Tees Maar Khan (incidentally and ironically with Shah Rukh’s ‘hit’ director Farah Khan) is looking all set to smash and perhaps create new records. Aamir being Aamir could well be waiting to go for a kill and though his next big film (if one leaves aside Dhobhi Ghat which is an offbeat affair) isn’t expected to release before 2012, it would be massive for sure. Clearly, the pressure is on Shah Rukh to have something massive rolling for him in 2011. What does the future entail? Even if Shah Rukh is reading this piece, he may well be seen giving out that faint smile. After all at the end of it all, he has a Ra.One and a Don 2 in the pipeline. While the principal shooting of Ra.One is almost over, Don 2 is ready to go on floors in quick time. Both are big films by all means and have the trappings of a blockbuster. Really, Shah Rukh has something really huge in the pipeline that he would be looking at nourishing over a period of time. However, here lies a slight hitch. Ra.One, his first release in 2011, cannot afford to be ‘just a hit’. It isn’t a film that can top the 80-90 crores collections that Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Om Shanti Om earned. It isn’t a film where Shah Rukh Khan can break the barrier of 100 crores and just be content with that.
Of course a sci-fi film comes with its own limitations when it comes to audience’s acceptability but then in the time period when Aamir has crossed 200 crores (3 Idiots), Salman is reaching 150 crores (Dabangg) and Akshay is looking at doing something similar with Tees Maar Khan, Ra.One can’t afford to relax. This is where the pressure sets in. Neither Aamir nor Salman were staring at such massive numbers while making their films. They were pressure free and were basically having fun without an end target in mind. However, situation of Shah Rukh Khan is akin to a batsman who knows that he has to score a double century (and not just a century) to save a match. Clearly, he is the one who is batting second and as is the known fact in the game of cricket – ‘Chasing a target is mostly far tougher than setting one’. The target is set for Shah Rukh. It is him who has to now plan his innings, know when to get into power play and then go ahead and hit the six. Bollywood is of course willing to cheer for him; all he has to do now is to stay safe yet play aggressive with Ra.One! Would he manage to do that?