Raees by rail: Shah Rukh Khan has a connection with trains, from DDLJ, Dil Se to Chennai Express
Whether it is the iconic shot from Main Hoon Na, his 'Chhaiya Chhaiya' act from Dil Se, or the iconic DDLJ climax, trains have always been a leitmotif in several of shah rukh khan's most successful films.
Only thirteen years ago, we were drooling over a suave Shah Rukh Khan emerging from smog, sporting cozy winter wear, with a jet black steam engine besides him in Farah Khan's Main Hoon Na.
Flash forward to 2017, the actor has created hysteria with his train journey from Mumbai to Delhi in order to promote his upcoming film, Rahul Dholakia's Raees.
Khan's presence caused a minor stampede at the Vadodara railway station leading to a casualty. This unfortunate incident enraged the activists who lashed out at the actor for boarding the August Kranti Express as a mere tool of promotion. However, this is not the first time actors have promoted their films on-board a train.
Multiple actors like Vidya Balan, Siddharth Malhotra, Katrina Kaif, Anil Kapoor and Akshay Kumar have promoted their films by breaking the fourth wall and mingling with the poeple inside a train.
While it can be argued that Khan's popularity exceeds that of any of the actors mentioned above, his long association with trains in his films cannot be contested.
Whether it is the iconic shot from Main Hoon Na or his 'Chhaiya Chhaiya' act from Mani Ratnam's Dil Se, trains have always been a leitmotif in several of his most successful films.
It is not difficult to recall when his journey with the train began. Aditya Chopra proved that Raj and Simran's bond was strong enough to outpace the speed of a train, a rather slow-moving train that is, in his debut film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge. Khan holding on to a train door and extending his hand to Kajol became not only the face of all the posters of the film but also one of the most recreated scenes on the silver screen.
Karan Johar, who was an Assistant Director on Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge took a page out of his mentor Chopra's book by using a train station as the setting of the pre-interval juncture of his directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The tables turned this time as it was Kajol who was on-board the train as Khan ran towards her. A dejected Anjali did not reach out to a hopeful Rahul, a rather appropriate way to establish an incomplete love angle.
After being inside the train and on the platform, Khan's third memorable tryst with trains was when he was atop one of them, which snaked through the scenic valleys of north India.
Choreographer Farah Khan took dance direction several notches higher when she showcased a dance number on the top of the train in 'Chhaiya Chhaiya'. Not only was the song a visually stunning experience but also the term 'Chhaiya Chhaiya' became synonymous to a joy train ride for years to come.
The most recent example of the perennial relationship of Khan and trains on celluloid was Rohit Shetty's Chennai Express. A significant portion of the film was shot inside the train unlike Khan's previous train adventures. Also, unlike the previous episodes, Khan was projected as a common man in this train journey. He was at his comical best in his attempts to escape a train compartment hijacked by a group of hefty goons.
Another instance of Shah Rukh and a rather sophisticated intra-city train experience was there in Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Missing a train was often used as a metaphor to a lost opportunity.
In this romantic drama, Khan's character did not mind missing his train in order to spend some more time with his love interest, played by Rani Mukerji. The train played a crucial role in the climax as well when Mukerji's character convinces Khan's character to disembark from the train, through a rather desperate shaking of head from across the window pane.
In yet another moment he created on a railway platform was in Yash Chopra's Veer Zara. Train was beautifully used as a metaphor of a journey coming to an end as Khan and Preity Zinta's characters walk away from each other on the platform with Lata Mangeshkar and Roop Kumar Rathod's 'Tere Liye' serenading the background.
The symbol of trains proved to be such an integral part of Khan's rise to stardom that he could not help but subconsciously include a train action sequence in his ambitious project, Anubhav Sinha's Ra.One. One of the highlights of the film was its climax when a Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)-bound local train pierces through the UNESCO World Heritage Site as Khan battles Kareena Kapoor all over the train.
Now, if Khan decided to promote Raees through a train journey, it is obvious to create quite a stir, owing to not only his popularity that cuts across borders but also his well-documented history inside, besides and even atop the train.
Also, the train journey is almost like a homecoming moment for Khan as he travels from his karmabhoomi (Mumbai) to his janmabhoomi (Delhi).
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