Lights, camera, action…and a social message! A dexterous package of emotion, drama, humor, and of course, flamboyant dancing with actors flawlessly lip syncing on, often unnecessary, over the top songs. In India, we call it typical Bollywood "masala movie" (a mix of different spices). And with this ultimate recipe, the multi-billion-dollar Hindi film industry has won millions of fans worldwide.
As an Indian (who's grown up living in the dream world of Bollywood), a lot of my foreign friends often seek my advice on must-see Indian films. To make things simpler, I generally divide Bollywood movies in two parts, "Khan movies" and "non-Khan movies." In this article, I am going to stick to the first category.
There are three "King Khans" of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan. Each has his own set of crazy, die-hard fans. These fans can easily be found in every corner of the world, deeply engrossed in serious arguments to prove why "their" Khan is better than the other two Khans (I swear I never got into such an argument).
Apart from their surname, the Khan trio bears an uncanny resemblance in their age and year of debut. Aamir is 54 years old and both Shah Rukh and Salman are 53. Salman and Aamir made their mainstream debuts in the late 1980s and Shah Rukh arrived on the big screen in the early '90s. They have spent almost three decades in India's Tinseltown, where stardom remains transient for many.
Aamir, who's proved his might with back-to-back successes like "3 Idiots" and "Dangal," is no stranger in China. Meanwhile, the other two Khans, who enjoy a large fan following in Europe, Russia and the U.S., are now beginning to win many Chinese hearts. This year, Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Zero" will be screened at the closing ceremony of the Beijing International Film Festival, and the superstar himself will be attending the China-India co-production Dialogue Forum at the festival.
But before you watch their new flicks, here's a list of some must-watch classic "Khan movies."
Aamir Khan aka Mr. Perfectionist
Qayamat Se QayamatTak (From Doom till Doom) (1988)
Aamir entered into the landscape of mainstream Hindi cinema with this film over 30 years back and it made him an overnight superstar. Introduced as a chocolate boy, Aamir changed the template of Hindi film heroes with this film. It is largely seen as an Indian version of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where a boy and a girl fall irrevocably in love while their families are the bitterest of enemies. Famous film historian Guatam Chintamani in his book titled "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak: The Film That Revived Hindi Cinema" calls the movie "a wild card that turned the tide in Bollywood."
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (He who wins is the conqueror) (1992)
The coming-of-age Aamir movie is a college love triangle drama where a rich brat and a poor chap try to woo a girl and the rivalry comes down to a college bicycle race. The movie wonderfully expresses the old themes of love, friendship and sacrifice.
Andaz Apna Apna (Everyone has their own style) (1994)
The laugh-riot has not one but two Khans, starring both Aamir and Salman. The movie was a commercial flop, but in the last 20 years the movie has turned into a classic whose charm only increases with each viewing. The plot revolves around two "losers" trying to woo a multimillionaire woman but end up running into a local gangster.
Lagaan (Tax) (2001)
Set in 1893 when India was under British rule, the story revolves around a village that protests an unprecedented land tax on farmers. The British officers challenged villagers seeking relief from the tax to a cricket match, putting the latter at a disadvantage because it was a game for rich white men at the time. The movie was India's Oscar entry in 2002. The Guardian called it a "lavish epic, a gorgeous love story, and a rollicking adventure yarn."
Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) (2007)
This is a heart-wrenching story of an eight-year-old who suffers from dyslexia and is under constant pressure from his parents and teachers to perform well in his studies. Famous Indian film critic Rajeev Masand on his official website posted: Taare Zameen Par is an accomplished effort – it's that rare film that carries an important message and tells a sensitive story, all within the Bollywood-movie format.
Shah Rukh Khan aka The King Khan
Baazigar (The Ultimate Winner) (1993)
The super hit thriller drama is one of the most memorable movies of King Khan, in which he plays the character of a serial killer seeking revenge of his father's death. The film is a complete package of action, emotion and humor.
Darr (Fear) (1993)
Shah Rukh plays Rahul who's obsessively in love with a girl called "K-k-k-k-Kiran" (the trademark way in which he stutters her name). While Kiran is engaged to someone else, Rahul wouldn't take no for an answer. The psycho drama is engaging and haunting at the same time.
Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The Brave Hearted Will Take the Bride) (1995)
It's one movie which won Shah Rukh millions of fans in Russia, Europe and the United States. The romantic melodrama is the longest-running film in the history of Indian cinema, completing nearly 1,000 consecutive screenings in a Mumbai theater 25 years since its release. Famous American film critic Roger Ebert called the movie a "phenomenon" on his official website.
Chak de India (Go for it India!) (2007)
The movie is known for one of the finest performances by Shah Rukh, who plays India's women's hockey team coach Kabir Khan. The movie deals with issues like gender bias, class distinction, regional chauvinism and ultra-patriotism. A New York Times review said: "The film's greatest merit is its commentary on sexism in India. As it should, Chak De! India gives the women, in the closing credits, the last word."
My Name is Khan (2010)
The film narrates the story of an Indian Muslim who suffers from Asperger's syndrome and is mistakenly arrested as a suspected terrorist in Los Angeles after the 9/11 attacks. The film documents his journey to meet the U.S. president to deliver this message: "My name is Khan, I am not a terrorist." A review in the Hollywood reporter said, "Without any gimmickry, Khan captures the nervous ticks and emotional barriers that an afflicted individual must battle against daily."
Salman Khan aka Bodybuilder Khan
Maine Pyar Kiya (I fell in love) (1989)
One of the biggest commercial successes of those times, the film is packaged with larger-than-life sets, colorful outfits, melodious songs and the message of "true love triumphs against all odds."
Karan Arjun (1995)
A fantasy thriller starring Salman and Shah Rukh as brothers, namely Karan and Arjun, is the story of faith, family bond, reincarnation and revenge. The movie has some evergreen action sequences by the "Bodybuilder Khan."
Hum Dil De Chuke Saman (I have given my heart) (1999)
The musical romantic drama narrates the tragic love story of a half-Italian-half-Indian musician Sameer (played by Salman) and a rich spoiled-brat Indian girl Nandini (played by former Miss World Aishwarya Rai). This movie will make you cry, so keep the tissues ready!