As he turns 53 today, let us take a minute to talk about how birthday boy Shah Rukh Khan is the champion beta male hero, women love to love. There is something about Khan as a performer, and also his role selection, which comes across as a conscious effort to be the sensitive hero. Despite entering Bollywood in a decade defined by the toxic alpha male heroes, Khan still managed to set himself apart. It is not a small feat to be a reigning superstar for more than 25 years. That too, mostly playing romantic leads.

Despite doing action-packed films like Karan Arjun, Don, Fan, Raees, Khan’s filmography by large is defined by his softer characters, especially as a lover. No wonder why most of his fans hail him as Bollywood’s king of romance. However, Khan’s romantic hero isn’t authoritative, rebellious or violently punching villains to get through to his damsel in distress. (Okay, he played that trope in some films too.) Instead, he is sensitive, emotional, vibrant and complex. Apart from excelling at playing the romantic hero, Khan is the champion of portraying complex and sensitive characters too.

What is common in some of Khan’s most popular works like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (except for the fight sequence in the last leg of the film), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Dil to Pagal Hai?

These films normalised the notion that our desi hero can be soft, sentimental and tender too. Most of the Rajs and Rahuls he has played are metro-sexual characters, who are in touch with their emotional side. Khan was thus the perfect choice when Sanjay Leela Bhansali remade Devdas, because the actor knew what it took to play the tragic self-destructive lover. No other actor of his generation could do justice to the complexity of this titular character. Devdas is lovelorn, temperamental, angry and dejected. But above all, he is an addict with no control over either his feelings and his vice. This is hardly a character an alpha male hero can carry on his shoulders.

SOME TAKEAWAY

  • In over 25 years in Bollywood as a leading man, Shah Rukh Khan has made a conscious effort to be the sensitive hero.
  • His approach has helped normalise the idea that men do not need to be macho all the time.
  • No other actor of his generation could do justice to the complexity of the titular character in Devdas.
  • On his birthday, we would like to thank him for teaching a generation of men to be compassionate and tender towards the women they love.

But Shah Rukh showed an affinity for playing sensitive male characters very early on in his career.

In Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, he played the love-struck Sunil. Unlike any conventional hero, Sunil is manipulative yet charming. He is a failure in academics yet a talented musician. Oh,  and he is hopelessly in love with a girl, who is in love with someone else. I am sure not many male actors from the nineties would have dared to touch this script. But Khan did, and he brought his personal brand of charm and conviction to the character, which made Sunil not just likeable but relatable as well.

Since then we have seen Khan embrace the sensitive side of a male protagonist on the screen numerous times. His approach has helped normalise the idea that men do not need to be macho all the time. That a hero doesn’t always have to be dashingly handsome or aggressive to be idolised. While he has given grandeur to the idea of romance via his characters, with films like Swades, Chak De, Dil Se or Dear Zindagi he has also recast the mould of the ideal male lead, to be more accommodative of the ordinary Indian man. The one who works an ordinary job, looks like a bloke next door and can’t beat twenty goons with his bare hands.

On his birthday, we would like to thank him for teaching a generation of men to be compassionate and tender towards the women they love, amidst all the din of aggression which is force-fed to them. For normalising that men can cry when they are heartbroken. Or that singing and dancing or wearing soft colours, or expressing love doesn’t make them any less of a man.

Picture Credit: Newsd

Also Read : Women Are Not The Custodians Of Their Husband’s Behaviour

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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