what next, SRK?

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Don 2 was a long romp through fast-paced chases and cars and guns, but I haven't managed to take him seriously when he's like this, because I suspect he's laughing on the inside when he's sighting alongside a pistol. He's gone serious and played a man with a conscience in one of his best films, Swades. He's played the joker — he's good at clowning, sometimes I think he's the best clown we've got in Bollywood, and that's hard to do well — in so many of his films. He's played a robot. But I've liked him best in those in which he has had the chance to romance his ladies in varied ways: both the papa-knows-best-and-I-will-take-my-dulhaniya-only-when-he-gives-his-nod, and tu-aati-hai-ya-main-aaoon-expletive-excised.

All that the first one, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, did was change the way Bollywood made love stories. But before SRK went that route, he was very, very bad. Everyone remembers him in Baazigar and Darr, but one of my favourite SRK films is the nearly-forgotten Ram Jaane, in which he plays a guy who knows only how to snatch and grab. There is no faux coyness with which he reaches for the girl whom he loves, and whom he thinks, mistakenly, loves him back. There's just pure passion, and that scene with Juhi Chawla is right up there in my SRK compendium. The only thing that matches is him in a couple of stunning sequences with Manisha Koirala in Dil Se, where he makes the yearning a tangible, palpable thing.

In some of his earlier films, you can see just how raw and unpolished he was. But with the directors, he really sparkled, like Aziz Mirza with whom he made Yes Boss, and Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, or with Kundan Shah in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, or with Yash Chopra, or with Karan Johar who converted SRK into a Bollywoodian Peter Pan, he parlayed pure charisma into his roles, and made them completely his own, deliberate stutter, conscious mannerism and all. Like some stars who coast on a few favourite gestures (the arms thrown open, embracing the world and his lady love, the leaping upon a bed which may or may not have a girl in it, the somersaults, the crooked smile), he is easy to mimic. But not even the best mimicry artists can get a handle on his high-voltage energy. That is totally Shah Rukh's own.

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