The Industry Khans – and The Best Actor Award Goes to….

The film industry is peopled with Khans – who wield clout and inspire devotion from legions of fans the world over. For the past couple of decades it is only the Khans who have been any kind of serious contender for the top leading men of the Hindi film industry, in terms of being powerful, influential, successful at the box office and also in terms of sheer histrionic talent.

So which of the Khans; Shah Rukh, Aamir, Salman or Saif (let’s not bother with some of the lesser Khans; their performance has been patchy at best and endorsing third rate products such as paan masalas is not an indicator of acting success) is actually the best actor? Let us do this logically, taking the different components of acting talent and then looking at how each of the four – Aamir, Saif, Salman or Shah Rukh stack up. And let us examine all that matters to the film going public in India and assign points on each count so as to arrive at a reasoned conclusion.

1.       Ability to portray a character faithfully – This means being able to get into the skin of the part being played and render it accurately.  Is the actor able to physically alter himself, change his speech, mannerisms, hair, clothes and looks to suit the movie and character’s requirement. Cleary Aamir does this best with all the many different avatars he has donned – he prepares for each film and gives it his all. Saif has reinvented himself to a lesser degree, going from chocolate box romantic hero, to comedy actor to action star in films like Qurbaan. To be sure Shah Rukh developed some enviable abs for Om Shanti Om, but let’s face it, he wouldn’t even grow his hair for a  period film like Asoka. Only for Swades and Chak De! India did he display a willingness to stop being SRK long enough to be what the role required. As for Salman Khan, a few hair style experiments to hide a receding hairline aside, it is not clear what goes into his preparation for a new role.

Points – Aamir – 4 Saif – 3 SRK – 2 Salman – 1

2.       Good looks – beauty (or lack thereof) has to lie in the eyes of the beholder, and rating the men here is fraught with peril, I am well aware. However for classic good looks, my vote goes to Salman, for dashing sophistication and suavity it has to be Saif, for boyish charm it is Aamir and (don’t kill me) lastly SRK, whom he himself admits, is not conventionally good-looking.  And of late the years have not been kind to SRK, who is looking more sunken eyed and hollow cheeked than ever before; the term Smoker’s Face springs to mind…

Points –  Salman– 4 Saif – 3 Aamir – 2 SRK – 1

3.         Ability to connect to an audience – on this, no question, SRK scores highest with Salman being close second. There is an indefinable link that SRK has with movie viewers that endears him to an extent that even though KKR is perpetually at the bottom of the IPL points table, it his personal charisma that makes it the most popular team nevertheless. No one other than SRK could be considered to fill the shoes of Amitabh Bachchan for Kaun Banega Corepati; such is his matchless brand value; and his is the face we see in the most number of adverts. Salman as well, in spite of his many run-ins with the law, commands a fan following and loyalty that is almost inexplicable. Aamir’s fan following is perhaps of a more cerebral kind, and Saif probably appeals most to the Page 3 types.

Points – SRK – 4 Salman– 3 Aamir – 2 Saif – 1

4.       Comic timing – I am going to go out on a limb and give this one to Saif. He has probably been responsible for more laugh out loud movie moments than any of the others. His movies such as Yeh Dillagi, Main Khiladi Tu Anadi, Dil chahta Hia, Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste and many others were actually hugely watchable because of this. Salman has surprised from time to time with his comic timing – remember his hilarious rendition of Prem in Andaaz Apna Apna and his effortless charm in his recent blockbuster Dabangg? Aamir and SRK have perhaps less willingness or ability to display their comic talent.

Points – Saif – 4 Salman – 3 Aamir– 2 SRK – 1

5.       Ability to emote – for sheer dramatic flair for melodrama, a the quintessential Hindi film requirement this one would have to go to Salman for the most over the top displays of emotion; be it love, exhilaration, anger, grief or whatever. He is followed by SRK of the uniquely lined brow and the liquid melting eyes and trembling full lips. The emotional restraint showed by Aamir and the penchant he has for subtly underplaying his roles is usually considered by our film viewing junta as being somehow expressionless and Saif perhaps displays a similarly lamentable lack of over-the-topness as well. Subtlety is, after all, rather lost on us.

Points – Salman– 4 SRK – 3 Aamir – 2 Saif – 1

6.       Romantic  capability – no contest here, SRK has played the lovelorn hero more often and more effectively than anyone else. The stalker in Darr and Anjaam, the besotted but upright Raj in that epitome of all romantic films, DDLJ, the willingness- to- die- for- love kind of passion in Dil Se, the doomed tragic lover in Devdas, the angst ridden, conflicted lover in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna he has run the gamut of the Hindi film romantic hero in all his different roles. Saif does the romantic hero with élan and a believable flair; Aamir did his share of romantic films in the beginning of his career and even did a commendable job of playing the lover in Fanaa; and Salman has also done some good romantic hero portrayals in his own macho way rather than the more traditional hearts and flower way.

Points – SRK – 4 Saif – 3 Aamir – 2 Salman – 1

7.       Dancing ability – In any other part of the world this is not a required skill for an actor; in India it is a must. For energy and actual dancing ability, it is probably SRK who leads here, conquering a bad back and emerging triumphant. Salman follows for sheer exuberance and in-your-face audacity when dancing; and he has the dubious distinction of doing the most dance numbers shirtless as well – extra points for that! It has reportedly been a long and torturous process to become a dancer for Saif Ali Khan, a man possessing little if any natural dancing ability and with whom the choreographers famously had the toughest time. Given this singular lack of dancing talent, the man made huge strides to the point where you could call him not just OK, but good! No stellar feints of Aamir’s with his dancing shoes come immediately to mind, so you cannot really rate the man very high there.

Points – SRK – 4 Salman – 3 Saif – 2 Aamir – 1

8.       Uniqueness / Persona / Acting Style – Aamir is the most distinct and different and unique in each of his movies.  Salman Khan probably brings the most of his personality to his acting and unique he most certainly is. For the sheer numbers of devotees his personal style has, there is perhaps no equal. SRK’s trademark stammer, his furrowed brow and his emotional pout also make for a very memorable albeit not terribly varied style of acting. Saif’s immense likeability, his astute ability to be self effacing and hence funny, give him as much uniqueness as any of the others. In this one thing, I would rate all of the Khans on par – they are, each very unique and hugely entertaining for that.

Points – Aamir – 4 Saif – 4 Salman – 4 SRK – 4 (in alphabetical order)

9.       Versatility – No questions, it is Aamir who is the most versatile – it is he who can as easily play the buffoon in Andaz Apna Apna as the upright policeman in Sarfarosh, the terrorist in Fanaa as convincingly as the revolutionary in Mangal Pandey, the gregarious engineering student in 3 Idiots as plausibly as the lonely artist in Dhobi Ghaat.  For versatility I would rank Saif next, he tends to blend into his roles with rather more authenticity. Salman Khan is rather deeply entrenched into his action-man slot, and (again don’t kill me) SRK, with the same 5 expressions continues to play SRK, regardless of whether he plays King Ashok, or does a Pepsi commercial – Versatility? Not so much I’m afraid.

Points – Aamir – 4 Saif – 3 Salman – 2 SRK – 1

10.   Star Quality – It is this indefinable, intrinsic quality that defines fame, success, and box office sales. In terms of being a bankable star, no one probably comes close to SRK. Even non mainstream filmmakers want to work with him for his sheer star power; a bigger brand than SRK doesn’t exist in India. He can sell you anything from hi-definition TVs, to soft drinks, to fairness creams and all of India doesn’t seem to mind. For sheer multitudes of fans and devotees, Salman probably comes next – he can be as badly behaved as he wants, be the dumper or the dumpee as he desires, his fans stand stoically and stolidly behind him; even as he struts in and out of prison in his trademark bicep displaying form fitting Ganjee and tight blue jeans. Aamir’s star power probably rivals anyone else’s but he deliberately limits himself by doing only one film at a time and then concentrating upon it to the exclusion of all else. As for Saif, he can be termed more a niche actor and less star.

Points – SRK – 4 Salman – 3 Aamir – 2 Saif – 1

And now at the end of my rambling and wholly unscientific methodology to arrive at the best Khan in Bollywood, I have to conclude that the Best Actor is really anyone that WE the audience want! Neither awards nor accolades of any kind nor even box office collections will determine who the best actor of them all is. That can only be determined by each individual who sits in that movie theater and reacts to a lovely story well told, to heart wrenching dialogues, crying when the heroine does and laughing when the hero does, who involves himself in the movies, sates himself in a pretend emotion and immerses himself in a make believe world that is wrought for us by men and women as they weave their cinematic magic – the magic of the movies!

It doesn’t matter who the best Khan of them all is, the best Khan is anyone that we want to be the best Khan – it is subjective, instinctive and wholly illogical – no one ever said that we had to be logical about the movies that we like!

All Images Courtesy Wikipedia

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  1. abhishek modi says

    The article simply amazing RD…will get back to you on this when I am back in town…awesome stuff..

  2. Jaskunwar Kohli says

    Good idea for comparing the four. But why didn’t you total it? Even if just for formality?
    I only disagree with one point – in Dancing ability, Salman is the only one out of the four who DOESN’T know how to dance.
    So the ranking should be:
    1) SRK
    2) Aamir
    3) Saif
    4) Salman

    • Reena Daruwalla says

      Like i said extra points for No Shirt! You are right the man cannot dance – his various thrusting movements cannot be considered dance but it is his audacity that i admire.

    • Reena Daruwalla says

      And when i totted up the points they were so surprising (and to my mind inaccurate since Aamir got the least points!) that i decided that they really dont matter

  3. says

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  4. Jaya says

    Hi Reena,

    Thanks for the detailed analysis. Kind of works – but at the end doesn’t at all! (Just like you said, impossible to draw a conclusion, ever…) I won’t hide anything and say that amongst these 4, I like SRK the most. 🙂 And I think the comparisons you made and the grounds you covered pretty much sum it all up. However, I would like to say somthing on your topic of “Versatility”. Strangely enough SRK scored a 1! The obsessed psycho in Darr/Anjaam, the boy-next-door in DDLJ, the best friend in KKHH, the perfect man in Swades, the cynic in KANK, the fierce fighter in Chak De and and the awesome super-hero in MNIK – you found the same 5 expressions in all of them? I believe that’s unfair – for this handful alone, he deserves much much better…

  5. Reena Daruwalla says

    Thanks Jaya for that spirited defence of SRK – I know that a majority of Indians agree with you 🙂

    • Maria says

      I`d like to add that SRK is the reason that hindi movies are much much more known and loved abroad India, that many of us tries to learn hindi and find out much about your culture and traditions…so my dear I`d say that majority of international hindi movies followers are agree with Jaya 🙂

      • Reena Daruwalla says

        Absolutely Maria – at one function i had to sing a song for some state guests from indonesia and it was suggested that i sing an SRK song – i agreed with some hesitation, but the minute the song started, our guests were visibly delighted and proceeded to sing right along! It was quite amazing – none of them spoke a word or Hindi yet their affection for SRK was plain to see!

  6. Reena Daruwalla says

    It is good to know that Indian films are being appreciated abroad as well; they are pretty much a religion here in our country. I suppose they are dubbed for your country? or do you watch them with subtitles?

  7. Tanni says

    “Who wrote this? Yes, Shahrukh is not kommediant! But he’s better than all the shows emotion! Best shows the character of the hero and best of all get used to the role! Etou Salman VIEWED emotions ????? Brad! Not true! This is better than Shah Rukh shows emotion! Amir Dummy – doll on the screen. Shahrukh reveals the living hero!
    And yet – a journalist let himself be working as much as working Shahrukh, just as hard and exhausting, as Shah is working on a film and Don2 Ra.Oni! Ipust while talking and discussing about the beauty of face and appearance! And Shah Rukh is the most beautiful, he has a great strong body and very attractive face! He has a special magnetism!
    In short – article – complete nonsense, bad and stupid wash.

  8. forside says

    Reena Daruwalla, where did you study to became a film critic? You try to be very smart choosing the list ot criteria, but reasoning like a baby. All what you do you gave high points for actor you like and brought under a scientific basis. And even a baby can do this.
    Have you seen all films of actors you talked about? I’m not sure with this. You mentioned only few you’ve seen or you know that Shah Rukh has the most versatile talante.
    Have you seen all performances, advertising, interviews they gave? It’ll takes many years so I’m not sure with this too. Shah Rukh is the greattest man, the kindness and emoting. You’ve just forgotten – he is a public man – he never shows you his real anger. It’s just enogh to see Kal Ho Naa Ho to see emotions he ‘s shown and the sense of humor.
    So how can you compare them with that list ot criteria you’ve chosen? It’s just your payfull opinion which is nessesary to your paper – to sold it. Every article with SRK means lots of money to your paper. And you may write an unbiased article, but wrote a dirty article – and represented that stars don’t carre of it.
    Just once stopped and think – will it pleasure to your children to read similar article you wrote about you?
    Everyone can express his own opinion, but are you ready to hear the same to your side?

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