The Khans of Bollywood — Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir — had a noticeably rough year as their films Zero, Race 3 and Thugs of Hindostan failed to meet audience expectations. Instead in 2018, younger actors made their mark in content-driven films like Ayushmann Khurrana (Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun), Rajkummar Rao (Stree) and Vicky Kaushal (Raazi).
ThePrint asks: Does 2018 mark the end of the reign of Khans in Bollywood?
Khans are mere background dancers in Bollywood, like they were at Isha Ambani’s wedding
Bollywood this year was ruled by the likes of Vicky Kaushal, Rajkummar Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana, with films like Raazi, Badhaai Ho and Stree crossing box office goals. The Khans have almost disappeared from the limelight except for their respective annual films. While the trailers come with expected big-budget shock value, the screenplays have no new tales to tell.
The Indian audience is quite mature now. They are tired of watching the Khans in their stereotypical roles. Other than Bhai-wannabes, nobody has any patience for the gimmicks of Salman Khan or his racing jeeps and storming helicopters. Shah Rukh Khan’s lover boy image is too far-fetched in every film, from Jab Harry Met Sejal to Zero. Perhaps the audience wants to see more of Dr Jehangir Khan from Dear Zindagi in him. Aamir Khan tried very hard to be different with Thugs of Hindostan. But his pretentious choices in films are not striking a chord with the audience anymore. As was seen at Isha Ambani’s wedding, perhaps the Khans have been reduced to mere background dancers in Bollywood as well.
The 25-year reign of the Khans won’t end in a day
Senior copy editor
A reign that lasts for 25 years doesn’t end in a day. The problem, however, for the Khans is age and that’s not something they can fight with. Indian audiences love young stars and that’s going to remain a problem for these three from hereon.
In the last five years, within the commercial parameters, all three have done varied genres, especially Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. But with the digital onslaught, particularly social media, the leeway for experiments has shrunk a lot. If you don’t get it perfectly right, say like Maneesh Sharma’s Fan, then the backlash is immense and immediate.
There is a lot to appreciate in Thugs Of Hindostan and Zero, by way of effort. But the fact that it didn’t translate into a perfect end product resulted in severely disproportionate criticism, hurting the films further.
The younger stars are knocking on the doors of superstardom, but there is still some time to go before they take over, or so the box office numbers suggest. The Khans are having a tough time at the box office but by their standards. Most young stars would still give anything to be in their place. So it’s not all over, not as yet.
If Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman come together for a film, you can imagine the queue
Senior assistant editor
The Khans are not going anywhere. Bollywood needs its heroes, and the Khans have been ‘it’ for two decades.
Yes, they haven’t been doling out hits like they used to. It is also true that the industry in the last few years has seen more un-Bollywood movies do well. But the Khans bring with them star power, true celebrity status and heft that smaller production houses and names can’t.
Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero might not be a critical success, but what it will assure movie makers is that people will come to see it — whether to judge if SRK has still got it or simply because they are fans.
That is what any of the Khans — Shah Rukh, Aamir and especially Salman — can guarantee.
Bollywood talking heads have said this was the year of Vicky Kaushal and Ayushmann Khurrana. And they are not wrong. The two heroes have given us delightful performances and shown us that Bollywood is willing to expand the scope of its movie making. To be fair, the industry has always had space for newcomers, however small that might be.
But the Khans have cumulatively become their own genre, and if the three of them were ever to star in a film together, you can be absolutely sure that that movie will have people queuing up.
2018 showed audiences want more than heroes standing in mustard fields
Gone are the days when casting actors like Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir would guarantee a hit. The charm of the Khans of Bollywood is only good enough to bring the audience to the theatre on an opening day, but not sustain the hype. Race 3, Thugs of Hindostan and now Zero, all three films got the audience to a theatre because of the Khans, but couldn’t impress them. Audience want content and storyline that resonate with them and not just some actors pulling off the same moves movie after movie.
This year we saw brilliant performances by Vicky Kaushal, Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, and the audience loved every bit of it. These actors are not afraid of playing second fiddle to women and play roles closer to reality. This year showed that the audience is no more just in awe of the Khans, and want them to do more than just stand their arms open in mustard fields.
In this new era, the Khans must decide if they want to age gracefully or remain man-children
It’s too early to tell. A bad year doesn’t necessarily undo a legacy spanning decades — which established itself, at least initially, through meaningful cinema with memorable performances.
My personal opinion of a particularly controversial Khan aside, the Shah Rukh-Salman-Aamir trio (sorry Saif) has come to define Bollywood for my generation, and quite a few preceding it — its nostalgic grounding is too strong for it to be wiped out by a misguided Thugs of Hindostan or Zero. I do believe, however, that the tide is turning. As the years pass by, the Khans must decide if they want to age gracefully in this new era, or become anachronistic man-children struggling to hold on to their youth.
With Netflix, Amazon Prime and well, the internet, our options are endless. Amidst this information overload, quality automatically gets filtered out of the quantity — there’s just so much to see, and no one has time to waste on the mediocre. The movies that have Salman Khan stamped on them still draw in the crowds, because the man has managed to tap into an almost religious reverence that makes him immune to thoughtless entertainment.
As for the rest, I think we have a few chances left in us to give.
Hindi cinema is now more content-driven than Khan-driven
2018 has made it pretty clear that Hindi cinema is now more content driven than Khan driven. Although, in the past two decades, the three Khans of Bollywood have marked a tremendous success rate in most of their films, whether the narrative made sense or not, but that trend is changing.
The year was extremely lucky for Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rajkummar Rao. They made critically acclaimed films and were appreciated by the audience. But not all of them could break it into the Rs 100-crore movie club. Ayushmann’s Badhaai Ho, Vicky’s Raazi and Rajkummar’s Stree were the only ones to enter the club.
But by the end of this year, it has become quite obvious that the Indian audience is not living in fool’s paradise anymore. While movies like Thugs of Hindostan and Race 3 managed to crossed Rs100-crore mark, they were criticised and rubbished for their content.
Apart from the silver screen, the content available on net streaming outlets also have added to the pressure on the Khans. Many of them have gone on record and confessed that this platform of digital media is quite intimidating for them.
There was a time when Bollywood was ruled by Kapoors and Kumars, and their sun set too
We millennials grew up enthralled by the Khans. They claimed the industry and millions of hearts. There was a time when just the names of the Khans or even their cameos were enough to make a film a blockbuster. However, that is changing now with Race 3, Thugs of Hindostan and Zero mostly falling flat at the box office.
A reason behind this could be the popularity of various web series and the cheap accessibility to data in the Indian market. The success of Sacred Games, Ghoul and Mirzapur is testimony to the same, and this is only the first wave.
However, one can take comfort in the fact that there was a time when Bollywood was ruled by the Kapoors and the Kumars (like the Khans in our times) and their sun set too.
Bollywood is open to professionals from various backgrounds now more than ever. Ayushmann Khurrana(Andhadhun) and Rajkummar Rao(Stree) have somewhat snatched the crown from the Khans. Twenty years ago, no one would’ve dreamt of a person like Dhanush playing a lead role in Bollywood. So don’t be surprised if in the coming years the Khans have to make way for a hero from the northeast, or a Keralite to play the lead role.