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Can Shah Rukh Khan save Bollywood, just like the 90s?

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Bollywood- The identity of Hindi Cinema, the portmanteau of “Bombay” and “Hollywood”, basically the Hindi counterpart of Hollywood is waning. And it needs a saviour. And it needs them now.

The past few years have not been the best for Bollywood. Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely and unfortunate demise only stoked the fire which had already been ignited earlier- the nepotism debate. While this was just a little spark when Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan came into the limelight, they delivered more than a few hits to prove their point, to prove that they are capable, and that they deserve it. However, with Karan Johar particularly launching star kids like Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Ananya Panday, Tiger Shroff, etc, whilst a lot of deserving talent was being underappreciated in Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sushant Singh Rajput, Vicky Kaushal, Rajkummar Rao, there was anger in the industry, which fuelled the emotions of the public. Sushant’s death ultimately lead the crowd’s anger loose and all of this culminated in #BoycottBollywood trending on Twitter.

This anger did subside in due course of time though. However, Bollywood failed to atone itself in this period- the Indian audience could not be entertained by them, the entire purpose of its was defeated, and we saw 2022 emerge as the year of #BoycottBollywood. One can argue that Bollywood itself was not at fault this time, but opinions are divided. This is because many believe that failing to gain appreciation from people puts Bollywood in just as much of a guilty position as it would have been had it been at fault. This makes it justified for Bollywood to receive the flak it is facing right now. What this means, is that basically Bollywood has been failing to produce movies which appeal to the large Indian audience, which can bind them together, which can make them laugh, cry, love, and hate together as a nation.

This, however, is not the first time that Bollywood has faced such a long period of dilemma. It has happened previously in the 90s, and also in the early 2000s. Each of the previous times, there has been either one or a couple of Bollywood blockbuster movies which regain people’s faith in Bollywood and help it support its cause. And every one of those times, there has been one person at the centre of it all. The one person who has acted as the saviour of Bollywood. The one person who, not just Bollywood, but the entire nation has fondly called “King Khan”.

Be it DDLJ in 1995, or the twin hits of Om Shanti Om and Chak De! India in 2007. SRK has come up with unprecedented and unexpected hits for the Indian audience whenever Bollywood was in dire need of it. And the audience responded. They cried for him, they felt happy for him, they got angry for him. He made them laugh, he made them feel the nerves of the country as one. He united them as a nation. He reinstated, upto some extent, people’s faith and the belief in Bollywood as not only a source of entertainment, but also a thread to bind the nation into one- an important tool for ensuring unity in diversity. And people believed. The lovers of Bollywood believed. The admirers of Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar et al believed.

And Bollywood was saved. But here we are again where Bollywood is in dire need of a Messiah. And the question which everyone is asking is, will SRK once again be able to weave his magic with Pathaan and save Bollywood again like he did in the 90s and the early 2000s? Or will the expectations of people be trampled upon once again?

Well, one can only wait and watch….

Aayushmaan Jha
BTech (Electrical Engineering) IIT Mandi

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