While the entire year seems to have been building up to the massive clash between perhaps the two biggest Hindi films of 2015 – Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani and Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale – this weekend is more notable for the return of the magical on-screen pairing of Shah Rukh Khan with Kajol. My Name Is Khan was five long years ago, and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was almost 15 years ago.
Both of them made their Bollywood debut in 1992 (Shah Rukh in Deewana and Kajol in Bekhudi).
Here, we rank the SRK-Kajol pairing in ascending order of the chemistry they’ve shared in their six movies together:
6. My Name Is Khan (2010)
This is not to say that this is their worst film together. It was a remarkable, gutsy risk by both Shah Rukh Khan and its director Karan Johar. Shah Rukh’s portrayal of Asperger’s divided ranks, but there was no denying the fact that, for once, he wasn’t Shah Rukh Khan in a film about him. His ‘different’ chemistry with Kajol in the film is actually part of the plot, and down to the highly unlikely companionship peppered by slightly more mature performances than their previous ‘younger’ associations. Kajol overdid the melodrama in this film though, especially after they lost their child, and the ‘best actress’ award that she won was a bit hard to fathom. In any case, their return to screen together after nine years was lauded by fans, who also recognized that they were older, wiser and perhaps more skilled in the acting department.
5. Karan Arjun (1995)
Probably my least favorite of their films, the unabashedly potboiler-ish movie about the reincarnation of two brothers has outlived its usefulness, especially due to the real-life rift between the two once-inseparable Khans. Shah Rukh’s romance track with Kajol, who plays the wealthy daughter of the villainous Ranjeet, is given equal footing as the perplexing chemistry shared by Salman Khan and, wait for it, Mamta Kulkarni. Shockingly, Kulkarni stood out in this film for her very suggestive Mujhko Ranaji Maaf Karna “item” song, and stole the show from a subdued Kajol-SRK pairing, whose only magic moment came during the Jaati Hu Main song, where they roll around in a haystack in a stable near his horses to denote passionate love. Fortunately, this ‘blockbuster’ released in January 1995, nine months before their next – and perhaps most iconic – pairing ever, in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.
4. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)
Karan Johar’s second film after Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was a multi-starrer, and despite that, Shah Rukh Khan’s marriage to Kajol in this movie formed the crux of the family melodrama. They transition from the young rich-boy-falls-for-poor-girl phase in Chandni Chowk to the 10-years-later Raichand house in London, where they’re already parents but retain that bickering magic between them. Kajol is remarkable as the crude Delhi lower-middle-class woman, and this is the maximum amount of improvisation and natural chemistry they’ve shared on-screen in all their years. The London part is especially intriguing to watch, as by now, Shah Rukh’s Rahul Raichand is already used to his wife’s loud, cackling, desi ways; this is at once endearing and relatable.
3. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
This is probably the love triangle that sealed their jodi as perhaps the most iconic and loved in modern-day Hindi cinema. It was their fourth hit in a row, and they could do nothing wrong by now. Invariably, though, until My Name Is Khan, it was Kajol who took the risks and played the more eclectic character – as demonstrated here, where she transitions from college tomboy (that haircut, hairband, and basketball) who thrives on her “Rahul is a cheater” chant to a beautiful, elegant ‘bhartiya nari’ 10 years later. They also share their best moment as a couple when Rahul, a single father, is reunited with her at a summer camp after she walked out of college years ago, and doesn’t know how to react. It was also Rani Mukerjee’s big breakthrough in the same year as Ghulam.
2. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995)
Hot on the heels of Karan Arjun, DDLJ became Hindi cinema’s most loved love story over the next two decades. This was also Shah Rukh’s first all-out romantic lover-boy role. Raj Malhotra was perhaps the most timeless and much-needed ‘bachelor’ character at a time when Bollywood was still struggling to break out of the action-angry-romance trifecta. His Eurotrip with Kajol’s Simran became stuff of legends, and inspired many a single Indian man and woman to take trains across Europe in search of an invisible soulmate. That Raj eventually turned out to be a respectful, good Indian boy who would never do anything without the ‘elders’ consent, was down to his upbringing by perhaps the most colorful, coolest father in Hindi films – Anupam Kher, as Dharamwir Malhotra. A far cry from the imposter preaching tolerance these days.
1. Baazigar (1993)
This was Shah Rukh Khan’s first-ever Filmfare award for ‘Best Actor’, and deservedly so. The scruffy-haired boy dared to play the antagonist in two other films (Darr and Anjaam), but walked the fine balance between lover and revenge-driven murderer – something that Varun Dhawan attempted to pull off in the consistently dark and brutal Badlapur in 2015. His twin act of Ajay Sharma and Vicky Malhotra, along with the iconic ‘swiveling chair’ scene with Madan Chopra, even introduced fans to the tall, fair and leggy Shilpa Shetty, and the unconventional-looking Kajol, who eventually turned out to his leading lady, and the actress who actually broke down in the famous ‘maa’ climax, where Shah Rukh dies in the arms of Rakhee Gulzar. Their earliest film together remains, even today, their most haunting and stage-setting collaboration together.