Raees shows Shah Rukh Khan has come full circle in modelling his career on Amitabh Bachchan's
Look closely and you will see that Shah Rukh Khan's Raees Alam is a hat tip to Amitabh Bachchan's Sikandar from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, the gait an acknowledgment of Vijay's from Deewar and Trishul, the ethos a salute to Kaalia and Agneepath
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but like George Bernard Shaw observed, it also is the sincerest form of learning.
With the release of Raees, a film that is also a throwback to the larger-than-life hero versus villain Hindi films of the 1970s and 1980s, Shah Rukh Khan may have come a full circle in modeling his career on the lines of Amitabh Bachchan. The imagery of Raaes and also the film’s narrative have evoked memories of the standard Salim-Javed, Kader Khan, Prayag Raj, and Satish Bhatnagar scripts that came to define popular Hindi films. Moreover, the unapologetic in-your-face juxtaposition of the character that Khan played with the ones that Bachchan portrayed in these films is a near declaration on Shah Rukh Khan’s part that he has finally embraced the ‘Angry Young Man’ facet of Bachchan’s filmography.
Right from Shah Rukh Khan’s entry in Raees on a motorcycle that rekindles the memories of a 70s’ hero emerging on the screen to the manner in which his character is fashioned — everything is a reprisal of the archetypal Hindi filmy hero. Look closely and you will see that the name ‘Raees’ is a hat tip to Sikandar from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, the gait an acknowledgment of Vijay's from Deewar and Trishul, the ethos a salute to Kaalia and Agneepath.
If there were any doubts about this concurrence then the scene in the Raees where Raees Alam (Khan) bashes an insensitive businessman ends the argument: Raees beating a factory owner for not paying the wages in a drive-in is intercut with images from Kaala Patthar on the screen where Vijay (Bachchan) is doing the same to Dhanraj Puri (Prem Chopra), the cold-hearted coal mine owner. There is barely any difference between the moods of both scenes too and this single scene in many ways sums up the overt affinity that Raees has with the classical Amitabh Bachchan-esque character.
For the last few years, there has been a conscious effort to revive the typical Hindi film hero that existed a quarter of a century ago. Since Dabangg every top-notch star has been seeking to invent a character that is a reversion of that — Aamir Khan (Ghajini), Akshay Kumar (Rowdy Rathore), Ajay Devgn (Singham, Action Jackson), Hrithik Roshan (Agneepath), Ranbir Kapoor (Besharam), Ranveer Singh (Gunday) and it was only a matter of time before someone went into full retro mode to explore the concept beyond just the leading man.
In that aspect, Shah Rukh Khan would always be the ideal choice for he has famously aped Bachchan’s moves and manners both directly and indirectly. Right at the initial stages of his career, Khan’s anti-hero turn with both Baazigar and Darr were right up Bachchan’s Parwana alley and then, of course, the remake of Don. Bachchan’s slight romantic deviation in the form of Kabhi Kabhie is also comparable to Khan’s Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The difference is that Khan post-Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, opted to move away from the universe of films such as Karan Arjun and Ram Jaane to embark on the romance genre with Dil To Pagal Hai, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, etc.
It is not like Khan completely shied away from action genre but his choices were slightly removed from the ‘Angry Young Man’ template that willy-nilly seeped into most action films of the period. When compared to a Sunny Deol in Ghayal or Ghatak: Lethal (1996), or Akshay Kumar in Mohra (1994), Ashaant (1993) or Ajay Devgn in Phool Aur Kaante (1991) and Vijaypath (1994) Khan’s action turn in Trimurti (1995), Chaahat (1996) and Koyla (1997) was a contrast to the Salim-Javed cosmos. Even the one film where his anti-hero was truly scary and singularly unique — Anjaam (1994) — his character was nothing like the kinds anyone had ever portrayed in popular Hindi films.
Intriguingly enough, after two-and-a-half decades in the business and creating his own legacy, Khan now finds himself orbiting the one character that almost every major actor who followed Amitabh Bachchan couldn’t escape. Post-1975, Deewar cemented the 'Angry Young Man' and every subsequent male star — in order to stake claim to the number one spot when it came to trade and the audiences — had to fit himself in that mould. It was only with the success of Meri Jung (1985) and Arjun (1985), followed by Naam (1986) that Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt were seen as the next after Bachchan. The two Khans before Shah Rukh — Salman and Aamir — changed this and finally Shah Rukh himself altered the way things functioned with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.
There is no doubt that Shah Rukh Khan has crafted his own brand and made it big enough, perhaps even larger in some way, to take on the myth of Bachchan. But the trouble is that he appears to be crossroads where maybe he is at a loss to create characters that can break the shackles of his Rahuls and the Rajs. Unlike Akshay Kumar, Aamir, and even Salman to some extent, Shah Rukh’s biggest calling card has been one specific character (read ‘Raj’ and ‘Rahul’) and he has never truly explored any other with as stupendous a success. The former have all dabbled with out-and-out comedy films and action films besides the average thali-like Hindi film, but Khan very rarely managed to be comfortable (in anything) besides a particular kind of film he became famous for.
Possibly this is the reason why of late, Khan is attempting to go back to the drawing board and come up with something that is evergreen and can be merged with his brand of endearing screen presence. The obvious result, therefore, the full-blown homage to the Angry Young Man via Raees that has already got fans and followers of King Khan to smile, sigh and ask for more. Hardly surprising, considering that the other option — a self-tribute (read Fan) — fell woefully short.
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