Shah Rukh faces a crisis of heroines
Shah Rukh Khan and Sushmita Sen look exciting together in "Main Hoon Na", but a huge question still hangs over the actor's career - who can be his ideal on-screen match?
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Every hero needs the right leading lady. Ashok Kumar worked the best with Meena Kumari.
Even Mehmood needed Shubha Khote, and then Aruna Irani, to be effectively comic. Once these giggly actresses galloped out, Mehmood's career went for a toss.
In the 1950s, Raj Kapoor had his Nargis. Though he tried with many other heroines, from Vyjayanthimala Bali in "Sangam" to Saira Banu in "Diwana", the bonding with Nargis remained unique and invaluable.
Likewise, Dev Anand had Waheeda Rehman and later Hema Malini.
Dilip Kumar was fabulous with Madhubala, Vyjayanthimala and to an extent Nargis, but his attempts to pair with Meena Kumari were taken tepidly.
Fast forward to Rajesh Khanna, whose superstardom would've been seriously strained if it weren't for Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz. Their presence added an aura of completeness to Khanna's career.
No star, no matter how big, can function in a vacuum. Not even Amitabh Bachchan whose awesome presence was perpetually complemented by the presence of Jaya Bhaduri, Rekha, Rakhee and to a lesser extent, Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman.
Even Dhamendra's image would not have sizzled if he hadn't romanced Hema Malini on screen. Even a Biswajeet needed his Mala Sinha to set the screen on fire.
Shah Rukh met his match in Kajol. Perhaps spunk is the prerequisite for his leading lady.
Together they scorched the screen in five bumper-to-bumper hits, from "Baazigar" and "Karan Arjun" to "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge", "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" and "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham".
But then Kajol got married to Ajay Devgan - incidentally a not so hot pair on screen, but that's another story - leaving behind a big question mark on who would star opposite Shah Rukh.
For a while he pulled along with good friend Juhi Chawla. But their pair induced a cold hard stare in that wonderful flop "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani".
The natural choice as a replacement was Aishwarya Rai with whom he clicked in "Josh", "Mohabbatein" and, of course, "Devdas".
She and Shah Rukh happily signed on to do his home production "Chalte Chalte". But the film couldn't progress beyond the first few days because of problems over Salman Khan, who was then Aishwarya's boyfriend. Shah Rukh publicly vowed never to work with Aishwarya again.
He and she have stuck to their guns, leaving the coast clear for Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta.
For a while, after they looked so dynamic together in "Asoka", Kareena Kapoor seemed like a natural successor to Kajol as a co-star.
But Kareena acted pricey and was replaced by Preity in "Kal Ho Na Ho".
Now Preity is not only doing Yash Chopra's very hush-hush India-Pakistan love story set during the 1980s with Shah Rukh, but will most probably also feature in the next Karan Johar opus - a period film spanning almost a century.
Rani Mukherjee has also inched past the formidable Aishwarya-Kareena duo to lodge herself firmly in the Yash Chopra-Karan Johar camp.
This means we shall get to see lots and lots of Preity and Rani in Shah Rukh-starrers. But how much of them can we take? Shah Rukh faces a serious identity crisis in his career.
He can neither turn back to reclaim Kajol nor can he move forward with, say, the young Soha Khan or any of the other new girls. He does not seem to make a great pair with Gayatri Joshi in Ashutosh Gowariker's "Swades" that Shah Rukh is shooting right now.
Eleven years ago, the actor made his sensational entry with Divya Bharti in "Deewana" and "Dil Ashna Hai". Had she not plunged to her death, she'd have been doing a lot of films with him.