The Musical Reign of Shah Rukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone enact Besharam rang in Pathaan. Photo: Yash Raj Films

Shah Rukh Khan, born November 2, is probably the youngest and last of our “musical” heroes—a tall list led by Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand amd Raj Kapoor, followed by Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra, Rishi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna and even Amitabh Bachchan besides Salman Khan.

The definition of a “musical” hero? Well, he is is someone who has, organically or by design, starred in the maximum number of hit and (if not hit) exceptional musicals. He is also a hero who inspires multiple composers, lyricists and filmmakers to come up with great songs in a variety of romantic situations in films of multiple genres.

Here, in chronology, we show the music that spotlights Shah Rukh Khan, spanning a variety of composers like Anu Malik (who shares his birth-date and has also done two exceptional SRK productions) and Jatin-Lalit along with Nadeem-Shravan, Anand-Milind, Rajesh Roshan, Vishal-Shekhar, Pritam and others. Interestingly, SRK’s  home production, the musical crime drama, Om Shanti Om, had music by Vishak-Shekhar with a retro song arranged by Pyarelal for them, and a cameo appearance (besides by Pyarelal in the end-credits song) of Bappi Lahiri. Historically, it is perhaps the only film in which three major music entities have been seen together!

SRK might have signed Dil Aashna Hai first, but the movie that went on floors before any other was Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, the first of his multiple hits with Jatin-Lalit, whose record with him probably betters anyone else.

The exceptional score of veteran producer G.P. Sippy’s last musical ace was top-lined on the popular front by Loveria, Dil hai mera deewana and the title-track. But the best song was undoubtedly Tu mere saath saath aasman se aage chal (few know that Aasmaan Se Aagey was the film’s original title!) and Kehti hai dil ki lagi and Thaam thaam thaam also sparkled.

However, as (good) luck would have it, SRK’s first release was Nadeem-Shravan’s Deewana, which commercially and musically proved a super-hit. Though dominated by Rishi Kapoor’s songs (he played a singer in the romantic triangle), the two Shah Rukh songs by Vinod Rathod, Aisi deewangi and Koi na koi chahiye, were also huge hits.

The next ace was Shah Rukh’s true-blue breakthrough film, Baazigar, with music by Anu Malik. The songs, voiced by Vinod Rathod (Chhupana bhi nahin aata and Ae mere humsafar) and Kumar Sanu (the title-track and Yeh kaali kaali ankhen) have since become cult classics.

In the same year, just as SRK had the Anu-Sanu combinations of O meri neend churane wale and Iss pyar se meri taraf na dekho from Chamatkar, we have the standout Sanu classic, Ek haseen nigah ka, in composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar’s Maya Memsaab.

With Darr¸ admittedly not a strong musical, it was the twin Udit Narayan chartbusters, Jadoo teri nazar and Tu mere saamne that catapulted this score to become a bestselling album. Similarly in 1994, it was Anand-Milind’s Badi mushkil hai sung by Abhijeet that rocked the charts from Anjaam, somehow cementing a bond with SRK that lasted for long, and had Abhijeet in grumbling mode when Shah Rukh stopped using his voice, for reasons connected more with composers than him!

In 1994, Jatin-Lalit also unleashed their second ace of a SRK score, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, studded with beauties like Aana mere pyar ko and Dil hai mera deewana, once again in an all-popular album. The team was consolidated with the 1995 mega-blockbuster, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, whose chartbusters sung by Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu and Abhijeet are only too famous for me to spend space here!

The super-selling Karan Arjun soundtrack by Rajesh Roshan was led by Jaati hoon main, Suraj kab door gagan se, Jai Maa Kali and Bhangra pale, the last being an ensemble number and the only song Mohammed Aziz sang for SRK. For what it was worth, Laxmikant-Pyarelal also delivered their only hit with him in the only film they did with SRK, the song Duniya yeh duniya very good in Trimurti.

In 1997, Shah Rukh inspired three diverse composers and filmmakers to design great songs for him: Yash Chopra with Uttam Singh in Dil To Pagal Hai, Subhash Ghai with Nadeem-Shravan in Pardes, and Aziz Mirza and Jatin-Lalit, the Raju… team, in Yes Boss. Again, the songs are too well-known to be discussed here.

In quite a few films, the leading voices in the 1990s—Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu and Abhijeet—shared the playback for Shah Rukh together, with any two also of them doing his songs in other films. 1998 saw all three again in  Duplicate, an understated Anu Malik musical full of delectable songs like Mere mehboob mere sanam (Udit), Katthai aankhon wali (Kumar Sanu) and Ladna jhagadna (Abhijeet).

But the cult score again was Jatin-Lalit’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.  In the same year, A.R. Rahman delivered Dil Se… with the Sukhwinder Singh charttopper, Chal chhaiyya chhaiyya and Udit’s classic, Ae ajnabee besides Sonu Nigam’s Satrangi re.

In 1999, a weak year for the star with only one flop release in Baadshah, music label Venus’ third production with him after Baazigar and Yes Boss, Anu made Abhijeet the actor’s exclusive voice in an assortment of funky and romantic songs like Main to hoon pagal, Woh ladki jo sabse alag hai, Hum to deewane hue as well as the title-track. Shah Rukh made his first vocal appearance in the first of these.

But Shah Rukh turned full-fledged singer with Anu’s next film, Josh¸ singing Apun bola tu meri Laila with Hema Sardesai. In that year, he turned producer as well with Jatin-Lalit’s Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Banke tera jogi, sung by Sonu Nigam and Abhijeet’s I am the best led the charts along with Udit’s title-song. In Mohabbatein, his only song, Jatin-Lalit’s Udit Narayan-rendered Humko hamin se chura lo dominated the hit songs of the film.

2001 saw Anu Malik enter SRK’s production house with what is arguably Shah Rukh’s finest musical with him—Asoka The Great. Each song in this B.C. era film was a priceless gem, including those filmed on the superstar— Shaan’s O re kaanchi, Abhijeet’s Roshni se bhare bhare and Raat ka nasha.

Jatin-Lalit scored a whopper again with Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… aided by other hits from Sandesh Shandilya and Aadesh Shrivastava in the same film. This one needs no detailing again.

Ismail Darbar’s Devdas, Jatin-Lalit’s and Aadesh Shrivastava’s Chalte Chalte and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Kal Ho Naa Ho were the other popular soundtracks also dominated by Shah Rukh. Anu Malik’s Main Hoon Na, A.R. Rahman’s Swades and Veer-Zaraa (with unused tunes of Madan Mohan) were newer additions.

The later films of import were contemporary enough—Chak De! India, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Om Shanti Om, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and the last, the 2015 Dilwale—and everyone knows about their songs. But here again, there is one film that deserves mention for the excellence rather than popularity (which some tracks did enjoy)—M.M. Kreem’s Paheli. This SRK home production boasted of exquisite creations like Sonu’s Dheere jalna, Hariharan’s Khaali hai and more songs, including Sukhwinder Singh’s Phir raat kati.

With sporadic but far-from-timeless songs in subsequent films like Happy New Year, Don, Don 2 and more, the SRK record struck a very low zone in subsequent films, and Vishal-Shekhar’s currently endemic Pathaan song, Besharam rang was probably the only song that reached anywhere near Shah Rukh’s past musical levels in popularity if not quality.

It is high time then, that SRK restores his musical reign even as he has regained commercial ground with Pathaan and Jawan. Hoepfully, Pritam’s Dunki will begin the happy innings.





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