An oft-repeated adage in showbiz is ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ but sometimes the acting doesn’t end on the big screen. It seeps into real life. In the decades that Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan have been in the limelight, their relationship status has changed multiple times. The three Khans have been BFFs, frenemies and bitter enemies (and everything in between).
If photos from Salman and Shah Rukh’s dawn cycle ride earlier this week is anything to go by, it’s clear that these two A-listers have rediscovered their bromance. Though that hasn’t always been the case. Not so long ago the duo couldn’t stand to even hear the other’s name mentioned. Aamir and Salman, on the other hand, after a shaky start have been friends for some years now but the relationship is not without some cracks. Aamir and Shah Rukh have never developed a relationship but that’s never stopped them from playing nice for the camera when required.
Shah Rukh and Salman became friends in their early days. Even before they worked together in Rakesh Roshan’s potboiler Karan Arjun (1995), Shah Rukh was a regular at Galaxy Apartments. Shooting Karan Arjun outside Jaipur only helped cement their friendship. “Shah Rukh and I had blast shooting this film. After pack up we would drive down to Delhi to party all night. We were staying at the Maharaja Palace in Samode and the rooms were tiny. We used to be in-and-out of each other’s rooms. Once, some friends, including the late model Jessica Lal, had come from Delhi to visit us. Jessica stayed in Shah Rukh’s room so he shifted into my room for a few days. We used to have one telephone line there, which was hogged by Mamta Kulkarni or Rakesh Roshan, so Shah Rukh and I used to drive 40 kms to call our respective wife and girlfriends,” Salman told me in an interview a few years ago.
After Karan Arjun, these two friends didn’t do any more films as leads but were always willing to lend their support with cameos. Salman had an extended cameo in Shah Rukh’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and Shah Rukh returned the favour in Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (2000). Salman also made an appearance in the title track of Shah Rukh’s home production Om Shanti Om (2007) even though the film went on to famously clash with his own Saawariya at the box office that Diwali.
Even as the who-is-the-bigger-Khan games continued, Shah Rukh and Salman’s friendship was a constant. A small bump came when Salman created a bit of ruckus with then-girlfriend Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on the sets of Shah Rukh’s home production Chalte Chalte. In a bid to avoid any more unnecessary drama, Shah Rukh quickly replaced Aishwarya with Rani Mukerji.
And, then came the big split of 2008! A war of words between Salman and Shah Rukh at Katrina Kaif’s birthday party at Olive on the night of 16 July 2008 resulted in a five-year-long feud that divided the industry and their fans. Since the duo very publicly ended their cold war at politician Baba Siddiqui’s iftaar party in 2013, the two friends have supported each other’s films on social media, partied and now, even cycled together.
It was during these five years of cold war that Salman gravitated towards Aamir.
There were multiple Twitter exchanges praising each other’s films and late night dinners at each other’s homes. Salman even gifted Aamir two portraits of the actor as Ghajini in 2008.
The duo weren’t always very fond of each other. In the 1994 cult film Andaz Apna Apna, Aamir and Salman’s on-screen avatar Amar and Prem might have shared ‘chai from the same pyaali’; off-screen they found it difficult to work with each other. Aamir was fed up of Salman’s tardiness while the latter believed that his co-actor has endeared himself to director Raj Kumar Santoshi to get better dialogues. Old-timers recall days on the set when Salman’s entourage would comb through scenes to count how many jokes both the actors had. Santoshi managed to finish the film’s shoot without any major feud but its dismal performance at the box office meant that the actors went their separate ways and never worked together again.
Since last year, there have been rumours about a rift between this duo after a party at Aamir’s where he is said to have given acting tips to Salman. The Sultan actor apparently stormed out Aamir’s home leaving him in tears. Though publicly, both actors have denied any strain on their relationship, there has also been talk about Aamir’s unease about the fact that both their releases this year are about wrestling.
A day after Shah Rukh and Salman went cycling, Aamir, at the press conference to launch the Dangal poster, was asked about Salman’s rape remark and the actor minced no words, calling it ‘unfortunate and rather insensitive’.
Interestingly, Shah Rukh refused to offer an opinion last week saying that he was ‘not qualified to sit in judgment’.
As for Shah Rukh and Aamir, these two Khans have never worked together but the first time their paths intersected was when the latter decided to not do Yash Chopra’s Darr (1993). Uncomfortable with playing a negative character, Aamir made way for Shah Rukh and that’s when the rivalry between the two Khans started. The two have often taken jabs at each other in public. The infamous instance was when Aamir wrote ‘Shahrukh is licking my feet and I am feeding him biscuits every now and then’ in his blog. He later clarified that Shahrukh is the name of his caretaker’s dog but the damage was already done.
It’s not secret that Bollywood can be a difficult place to maintain any relationship and friendships between actors who are also rivals can be tricky at best. In this world of movie magic and make-believe, it would be naive to expect anything to be permanent or even real.