Songs maketh the Indian movie star, and Shah Rukh Khan has been lucky to get some choice cuts in his 30-year career. It helps that his is an expressive face and he is a nimble dancer. Some of the most enduring images of Khan from the movies, including his head-tilted-and-hands-stretched pose, are snapshots from his songs. Here are 20 that put the Shah in Shah Rukh Khan.
Koi Na Koi Chahiye, Deewana (1992)
He enters into the cinematic imagination biking up a storm on the streets of Mumbai to search for a lover to live and die for, the song says. Has there been a clearer statement of purpose by a star in a debut film?
Baazigar title track (1993)
A horse replaces the bike, and Shah Rukh Khan is no longer just a wannabe loverboy. He is Prince Charming, sealed and confirmed. The song imagines Khan in multiple guises as the perfect lover, which includes images that would go on to define his persona in subsequent years. He is introduced playing the violin against a vast expanse. Later in the song, he bears his chest to reveal the name of his lover inked on it.
Aana Mere Pyaar Ko Na Tum, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994)
One of the strongest assets of Shah Rukh Khan as a romantic hero is his ability to make a total fool of himself and demand attention when not commanding it. That’s in full display here as he makes a switch from being the international man of mystery in Baazigar O Baazigar to a goofy boy-next-door. His winsome charm gets half the town, including the cops who arrested him a few shots earlier, to join him in his mission to woo Anna.
Jaati Hoon Main, Jaldi Hai Kya, Karan Arjun (1995)
Lots of movement in the hay happens here with Kajol, arguably his best on-screen partner. Khan alternates between being a serious lover and a boyishly cheerful one who jumps from one end of the screen to another, making the barn his kingdom and Kajol the princess willingly trapped with him.
Tujhe Dekha, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Khan cuts down on the jumping Jack routine and sobers up to do justice to the quintessential Yash Raj Films locations. With his arms stretched out on either side, Shah Rukh Khan says, come, world, I will love you all. The box-office receipts prove that the world believed him.
Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai, Yes Boss (1997)
Shah Rukh Khan has a reputation for self-deprecation. It’s like he is so aware of his effect on the room so he has to undercut it with a joke. That’s what happens here as Khan sings, I want to grab the moon and the stars and shine on the entire world, and then coyly adds, that’s just a little dream I have.
Keeping Khan’s super-success story of the 1990s in mind, this might be the quintessential SRK song.
Do Dil Mil Rahe Hai, Pardes (1997)
Khan works best when he hasn’t got the girl yet. This song was a fresh riff on Khan’s romantic hero image. Up until then, he had commanded the violin, and more extensively, the saxophone, in song after song, signalling a particular brand of a bombastic lover. Here he has only an acoustic guitar to back up the blues of his unrequited love. The effect is soft and pensive.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai title track (1998)
His back-brushed hair and steel chain that says COOL might suggest he’s danger, but the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai title track argues he’s just a teddy bear who eats, sleeps, drinks love. Khan is undisputed Boyfriend No 1 here, as he expertly courts both desi Betty and Veronica.
Chhaiya Chhaiya, Dil Se (1998)
Dancing on a movie train, romancing in the middle of an armed insurgency, flailing his arms like a mad man in the desert because the lovin’ is so strong, Khan does it all in Dil Se. Mani Ratnam and gang (including Santosh Sivan, AR Rahman, Farah Khan and Gulzar) find superb ways to add new dimensions to Khan’s star image in practically every song. Picking any one track as the most significant is tough.
Chaiyya Chaiyya is perhaps the most popular, given its success both here and in the West, popping up on BBC charts as one of the best songs ever, and spawning several covers.
Apun Bola, Josh (2000)
Shah Rukh Khan is back on the streets of Goa to find love. This time, because he is a local toughie with a reputation to maintain, he has to balance his braveheart declarations of love with the cool his leather jacket and sunglasses deserve. This creates a series of funny moments, such as the one in which Khan’s crush (Priya Gill) breaks his violin on his head.
Ishq Kamina, Shakti: The Power (2002)
Khan’s career took off only when he took a break from playing mean dudes and aced being saccharine Romeos. When he slowly returned to embrace his dark side in the 2000s, playing goon-like roles in Josh or Shakti: The Power, it was a relief. After the ghee-soaked romance of Mohabbatein, Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan absolutely let go in this cracker of a song from Anu Malik, a master in making songs for roguish loafers.
Kal Ho Naa Ho title track (2003)
Such is the power of Shah Rukh Khan’s outstretched arms that he turns New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge into a symbol of love. In this exquisitely shot song, Khan lets his eyes and walk do the talking. That’s the sign of a star at his peak.
Tumse Milke Dil Ka Hai Jo Haal, Main Hoon Na (2004)
Shah Rukh Khan’s lone attempt at a qawwali song should have had more of him, but the parallel romance involving his on-screen brother takes up valuable time in the song. Farah Khan’s choreography and direction make the song seem like the Technicolour dreams Khan’s romantic heroes could be seeing. Among the funniest self-referential bits is in the beginning, when violinists pop up for a character who’s just realised he has fallen in love. This is how you know you are in Shah Rukh Khan’s world.
Swades title track (2004)
Khan may have become a star of the world, but his heart beats for India, AR Rahman-Javed Akhtar’s excellent song suggests. Because the song is so sombre, and its direction required Shah Rukh Khan to just be, the sequence falters when he goes out of his way to get all teary-eyed and purposeful.
Don title track (2006)
In 1999, Shah Rukh Khan starred in a fun Abbas-Mastan romp Badshah, in which he had to declare in the title track, “I am a lover, I am killer, I am in everyone’s hearts”. That song was a test drive for the Don title track, which embraces his mean side. The track is also a hat tip to Khan’s image as a king of the good times.
Chak De! India title track (2007)
Shah Rukh Khan has creases on his face and a stubble. He isn’t smiling. Is this a tipping point?
Once again, he just is. The song speeds past him as background score and he doesn’t notice. It is one of the rare Shah Rukh Khan songs that has found a life of its own separate from the film.
Dard-E-Disco, Om Shanti Om (2007)
After Dil Se, this is another film whose songs shade Shah Rukh Khan’s star image from various angles. There’s the sweeping snow-globe romance of Main Agar Kahoon, the baroque storytelling of Dastaan-E-Om Shanti Om, and the panoramic tribute to Hindi cinema in Dhoom Tana.
Dard-e-Disco wins simply for its sheer popularity. Director-choreographer Farah Khan’s idea was to objectify Shah Rukh Khan, and she does it in her signature kitschy-cool style.
Haule Haule, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
Shah Rukh Khan’s Surinder Sahni is one of his best and most underrated characters. Surinder is spectacularly boring, but Khan makes him a delight in this song, one of the best from Salim-Sulaiman and lyricist Jaideep Sahni.
Once again, Khan demonstrates what a smooth dancer he is as he floats from one end of the frame to the other with magical ease. All the while, his face carries a sad Mickey Mouse look, which is vital to the part.
Jabra Fan, Fan (2015)
It’s not entirely correct that Shah Rukh Khan did not have a strong enough Shah Rukh Khan song in seven years. Challa from Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) counts, but it’s yet another riff on Do Dil Mil Rehe Hain.
So it’s great when Khan goes back to good old Delhi and discovers the lost spring in his steps in Jabra Fan. The make-up makes him look two decades younger, as does his spirit while he dances in unabashed self-love.
Safar, Jab Harry Met Sejal
What does Shah Rukh Khan feel when he looks back on his life? We don’t know, but he might look like he does in Safar: introspective, silent, brooding.
Safar is the best part of Imtiaz Ali’s movie. It comes right in the beginning, with the rest of the running time devoted to Khan undoing the grimness of these brilliant six minutes of music put together by Pritam, Arijit Singh and Irshad Kamil.