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Aamir: The new King Khan?

Aamir seems to have eclipsed Shah Rukh and Salman. Saibal Chatterjee discusses the actor's rise in Bollywood.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 19:50 IST

Since the run-up to the release of Ketan Mehta’s period film Mangal Pandey – The Rising last year, Aamir Khan hasn’t been out of the news for a single week. He has been a constant presence both in the multiplexes (because of his films) and on the pages of frontline newspapers (because of his views).

Indeed, Aamir is everywhere these days. The television channels can’t seem to get enough of him. Having edged Shah Rukh and Salman out of the spotlight a bit, he seems to have emerged as the reigning Khan of Bollywood.

What has strengthened Aamir’s position further is the fact that his last three releases – Mangal Pandey, Rang De Basanti and Fanaa – have all made giant waves in one way or another, besides fetching him widespread critical applause. That’s Aamir’s apparent USP – he has a nose for box office winners.

So has Aamir Khan finally proved beyond an iota of doubt that he is the biggest of the Bollywood superstar Khans? He probably has because he combines the aura of a star and the skills of an actor in a way that neither Shahrukh nor Salman does? He picks and chooses his roles and films with care, works on one project at a time, and gives it all he has. The results are there for all to see.

Aamir Khan - The man of the moment

Any attempt to place the Khan crown on Aamir’s head would be fraught with the risk of vehement contradiction as long as Shah Rukh Khan continues to rule the Bollywood roost. There can be no denying that Shah Rukh is a megastar in the classic mould – an actor who can pull crowds to the theatre, no matter what he does on the screen. Be it

Kal Ho Na Ho, Main Hoon Na, Chalte Chalte

or

Devdas,

Shah Rukh is a huge draw as much on the domestic commercial circuit as in the overseas NRI market.

With the overseas success of Rang De Basanti and Fanaa, Aamir has, of course, caught up with Shah Rukh. Moreover, thanks to Lagaan, Aamir has a following among non-Indian filmgoers in the US and Europe, something that neither Shah Rukh nor Salman can claim.

Salman’s first international film, Marigold, co-starring Hollywood’s Ali Larter, is ready for release. The question is: is Marigold the sort of film that will help Salman acquire a serious global profile?

Shah Rukh is a star first – he always plays himself on the screen. But he has style and charisma, and despite his limited acting repertoire, he has a way of connecting with filmgoers. Shah Rukh has strong screen presence and an uncommon ability to turn the tackiest of situations into the most enjoyable of moments. That is why Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is such an eagerly awaited film.

Salman is a non-actor; he is even a tad gawky. It is his insouciant swagger and glamour quotient, even if they run counter to the role he is called upon to play, that makes him a box office powerhouse. He is a star whose films never fail to take bumper openings, although his last major release, Priyadarshan’s Kyon Ki left many questions about his status unanswered. With a string of big-ticket releases up ahead, Salman continues to be in the race, although in terms of brand equity, he isn’t quite in the Aamir or Shah Rukh league.

The debate will probably be settled to a certain extent when Shah Rukh’s next film makes it to the theatres in a few months from now. If Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna can put Rang De Basanti and Fanaa  in the shade, Aamir might have to make way once again for the man who is widely known as King Khan. Until then, he holds the title.