Shah Rukh Khan’s Evolution Through The 2000s: Political Dramas, Romantic Epics, And ‘Don’


In 2023, Shah Rukh Khan finally returned to the silver screen with Pathaan after taking a break for nearly 5 years. Now, he’s all set to make more waves with Jawan and Dunki. So, in order to celebrate the year of King Khan, I did an incredibly exhausting but very satisfying rundown of all of the movies that SRK had done in the ’90s. It was not only educational for me but also for those who merely look at the past few films and try to label him as a “has been” or someone who is way past his prime. Well, his filmography and the financial success of Pathaan have proved everyone wrong. By the looks of Jawan, Khan is ready for another slam dunk. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and go on another walk down memory lane. This time I’ll be covering Shah Rukh Khan’s movies from the 2000s, starting with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and ending with Billu Barber. Some of my opinions align with those of the general populace, while others are a little “controversial.” So, brace yourselves.

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000)

Given the state of journalism in India, this film should be shown to every self-proclaimed journalist and to those who have lost their way despite having a degree in journalism. It’s an over-the-top satire. So, the tone is something that you have to get used to. Once you do, though, you’ll realize how Aziz Mirza differentiated between nationalism and patriotism back then. Juhi Chawla and Shahrukh are undoubtedly amazing together, and that final walk with the tricolor flag is one for the history books.

Hey Ram (2000)

This is one of the most discomforting movies of all time as it grapples with how religious fanaticism was birthed after the Partition in 1947—and why it was responsible for the death of M.K. Gandhi. Kamal Haasan is the star of the film. But it’s Shah Rukh Khan’s Amjad Ali Khan who brings him back to normalcy, thereby making him the heart of the film. And while Haasan alternated between English and Tamil, Shah Rukh Khan jumped back and forth between English, Tamil, and Hindi. No, his dialogues weren’t dubbed by a Tamil-speaking voice actor. He did it himself. That’s called dedication, folks.

Josh (2000)

When I say that this is the superior West Side Story feature film remake, I mean it. It can seem ironic, but I am being serious. Along with Shah Rukh Khan, the movie also stars Aishwarya Rai, Sushant Singh, Chandrachur Singh and others who give some of the best performances. Back when it was released, all of us wanted to be Max, dress like Max, talk like Max, and be as cool as Max. Somewhere inside, we still want to. “Hum To Dil Se Haare,” “Hai Mera Dil,” Mere Khayalon Ki Malika,” “Apun Bola,” “Sailaru Sailare, and “Zinda Hai Hum To” are some of the best songs of all time, and all of them are in this film. What does the Steven Spielberg film have in comparison? Nothing, I say nothing!

Mohabbatein (2000)

Calling it a “copy” of Dead Poets Society is a massive disservice to the film. I’ll rather label it as a Bollywood-style upgrade because, apart from a teacher who inspires his students, what are the similarities between them? Shah Rukh Khan’s character, Raj Aryan Malhotra, is there to take revenge against Amitabh Bachchan’s Narayan Shankar for being the cause of Shankar’s daughter’s death, Megha, who was the love of Raj’s life. He throws a sledgehammer at Narayan’s brand of conservatism and advises youngsters to be curious. Yes, the movie is extremely raunchy. There’s a good dose of tradition to balance it out, if that helps. Manmohan Singh’s cinematography is simply brilliant. Jatin-Lalit’s music is an all-timer. And then there’s the character design of Shah’s Raj, which everyone tried to copy back in the day.

One 2 Ka 4 (2001)

Unlike a lot of film industries, Bollywood isn’t famous for being critical of its state police for partaking in police brutality and extrajudicial justice. That said, this is one of the rare examples that look into the corruption festering in the profession while highlighting the very relevant reason behind it, i.e., low salaries. There’s a lot of John Woo-inspired action. Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla are as amazing as they usually are. Additionally, the film has some amazing cinematography, thanks to S. Kumar, which is something that you don’t get to see in Indian or Bollywood cop dramas anymore. It’s worth a watch.

Aśoka (2001)

A genuine masterpiece when it comes to the visuals. The film is pretty cliched, narratively speaking, and the dialogue is a little off sometimes. But you can ignore all of that by looking at the cinematography by Santosh Sivan (also the director) and the editing by Sreekar Prasad. Actually, you don’t have to ignore it because you’ll be swept away by it. It’s great that historical epics have made a comeback, but they are nowhere near as poetic or indulgent as this. This is one of the most complex roles that Shah Rukh Khan has ever played, and I love it. I’ll go as far as to say that this film features one of the best performances by Kareena Kapoor Khan as well. The songs are amazing, with “Roshni Se” being the crowning jewel. There’s a portion in it where SRK and Kareena lip-sync to the song in reverse. In addition to all that, I hope Khan and Ajith Kumar will collaborate again in the future.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

I am well aware of the fact that the movie very randomly becomes about Hindu culture and Indian nationalism, but at its core, Karan Johar and Sheena Parikh are critiquing classism and how it tears apart families. Despite its conservative appearance, it is quite progressive in nature, and watching fictional parents realize that and ask for forgiveness from their children hits me emotionally. It’s also very funny, and Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol’s chemistry is off the charts. The songs still give a lot of newer, modern songs a run for their money. The technical work by Kiran Deohans and Sanjay Shukla is spectacular. And I have a simple rule: if a movie makes me weep, I’ve got to give it full marks, and this makes me sob.

Devdas (2002)

Bengalis are haunted by the existence of this take on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s famous novel, but enough time has passed for us to look past that and appreciate the artistry on display. Shah Rukh Khan is brilliant as the titular character, and so is every member of the rest of the cast. However, the production design, the costume design, the cinematography, the editing, and literally every other technical aspect of this masterpiece are mind-blowing. You can and should pause every single frame and just stare at it to appreciate every detail in it. Forget Bollywood; I don’t think any film industry makes movies like this anymore, unless it’s sci-fi or something.

Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam (2002)

One of the most frustrating movies of all time. I understand what it wants to say about jealousy in marriages, and I welcome its attempt at showing a man to be wrongfully suspicious of his wife’s activities because, in Indian movies and shows, it’s always the other way around. But, unfortunately, that’s all there is to the movie. It has no depth, the performances are quite one-note, and Gopal (Shah Rukh’s character) gets redeemed way too easily after inflicting so much trauma on Radha (Madhuri Dixit’s character). The songs are memorable. So just listen to them and move on.

Shakti (2002)

Vamsi made a remake of Not Without My Daughter, titled Anthahpuram, which is understandably brutal and gruesome. I want to know what came over him when he remade it a second time by setting it in Bihar and bringing in Nana Patekar, Karisma Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor, and Shah Rukh Khan. The viewing experience is unpleasant and pretty harrowing. Khan’s role is supportive and tragic in nature. But he does bring a sense of support and fun to the otherwise horrifying atmosphere. And then there’s that amazing song with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to heat things up a little. That said, I won’t recommend watching it unless you are fully prepared to be overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted.

Chalte Chalte (2003)

I didn’t like it, not one bit. Apart from the songs and the initial romance, this isn’t a good movie. And it’s actually sad because it’s the last Shah Rukh Khan and Aziz Mirza collaboration. The issue is that in an attempt to portray a failed marriage that’s sweet on the outside and bitter on the inside, Mirza and the writers rely on stereotypes. It’s fine to use cliches, but unless you’re commenting on them in some way or form, it’s pointless. I recommend listening to “Gumshuda” on a loop.

Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t like this highly revered Bollywood film. It’s chock full of sexist tropes, homophobia, and racism. The narrative is so simple that it’s unnecessarily pumped with subplots. It’s a good-looking film. The performances from Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Jaya Bachchan, and the rest of the cast are splendid. They are the reason why the film is so watchable and maybe rewatchable for many. All the songs are great, but “Maahi Ve” takes the cake for me because it started the sherwani-long-chunni trend even though we were tripping over them. I don’t know how SRK and Saif made it look so effortless and cool. By the way, I do think Shah Rukh and Saif should have starred in more movies together.

Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke (2004)

There is a good chance even the most hardcore Bollywood fans and/or Shah Rukh Khan fans are unaware of this movie’s existence. There’s an even better chance of nobody knowing about the film’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans. So, apparently, the movie’s shooting began in 1994. It was shut down for some reason. And then Tiwari resumed shooting in 2004 so that he could release the film in the middle of Shah Rukh’s meteoric rise to superstardom. However, Shah Rukh, Raveena, and basically everyone who was attached to the film back in the ’90s didn’t return. They refused to even provide dubbing for the parts that they had shot, thereby forcing the director to bring in voice actors who could pretend to be the actors who appeared on the screen. The end result is hilarious. Obviously, it’s not a good film, but you must watch it.

Main Hoon Na (2004)

Apart from the derivative action and over-reliance on parodying good films, this is a solid watch, especially everything that revolves around Project Milaap and self-important and duplicitous men like Brigadier Shekhar Sharma. It’s one of those rare mainstream films that show men in the army being insidious and downright discriminatory in nature for no other reason but hatred. And by pitting a villain named Raghavan against a hero named Ram, Farah Khan ends up making a pretty solid adaptation of the Ramayana. What should I say about the songs that haven’t been said before? They’re amazing! I can’t even pick a favorite because I have sung and danced to all of them. The most important point is that the film has impeccable pacing. It’s nearly 3 hours long, and you won’t even feel a second of its running time.

Veer-Zaara (2004)

Is it safe to say this is a classic? I think it’s safe to say it is. In my honest opinion, this Shah Rukh Khan-Preity Zinta romance is not just one of the best love stories of all time; it is also one of the best movies of all time. I am pretty sure if you tell me to list 10 or 5 of my favorite movies, it’s going to be on both of those lists. It’s a flawless film. What else can I say? Thinking about some of its scenes makes me cry; that’s how impactful every single second of it is. I know that countries send “important” films to award ceremonies. If I were the jury back then, I would have sent this because it embodies everything good about the Hindi film industry while sending a soulful message about India-Pakistan unity, i.e., something that has been rendered impossible due to politics and the general bigotry that exists between these two nations.

Swades (2004)

Saying that this Shah Rukh Khan film is the “NRI awakening film” is such a massive understatement. It tackles casteism and classism and draws a thick line between nationalism and patriotism. On a daily basis, we see how the image of Ram is misconstrued and twisted. Yet, this film exists to say that if we truly believe in the myth, we shouldn’t be all about discrimination and segregation. And the matter-of-fact yet soulful way in which Shah Rukh Khan puts forth all these arguments hits you and, hence, stays with you. It’s a great-looking movie with great songs and great performances, and it proves that even though smoking is harmful to one’s health, Khan should be allowed to smoke on screen because he makes it look artful.

Paheli (2005)

I feel really happy after rectifying this massive blind spot. It’s a great remake and possibly one of the best remakes of all time. Everything from the cinematography, the editing, the production design, the costume design, and the pacing—it’s all so bloody exquisite that it makes me want to cry. Rani Mukerji and Khan’s chemistry is scorching hot. The VFX and CGI are baffling and still hold up! There’s a lot of good humor. I love everything it has to say about prioritizing the needs of a woman because men really don’t know how to keep a woman happy; and those themes are only amplified by the songs. There are some great cameos. And since it isn’t appreciated enough, I’ve got to urge everyone to watch it ASAP.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)

I don’t think anybody was ready for Johar, Shibani Bathija, and Niranjan Iyengar’s hot takes on unhappy marriages and infidelity back when the film came out, and I don’t think they are ready to listen to them even now. And that says everything that needs to be said about conservative Indian societies. In my opinion, it’s one of the most mature Bollywood films, with stellar performances from Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, Abhishek Bachchan, and Preity Zinta, and it’s only hampered by its juvenile and obnoxious sense of humor. It has great cinematography, editing, and songs! And I think that people should go into it with an open mind, discard all preconceived notions, ignore the stupid jokes, and give it an honest try. Don’t listen to KANK-haters.

Don (2006)

If you go through the list, you’ll see that Shah Rukh Khan has done a lot of roles that are considered iconic. But, in my honest opinion, the most iconic of them all is Don. He and Farhan Akhtar put some kind of special sauce into this reimagining of the character made famous by Amitabh Bachchan that simply hit all the right notes. It dials up everything that is cool, charming, and attractive about Khan to eleven and then slathers it up with so much narcissism and unhinged vibes. On top of that, everything around him has a level of sophistication that hasn’t been matched by any other Bollywood movie to this day. The performances from the supporting cast are great, with Boman Irani being the clear highlight. The songs, including the remakes, are classics. And, at the cost of sounding repetitive, no one can make smoking look cool like Shah Rukh Khan does.

Chak De! India (2007)

Barring that one transphobic joke and the yellow filter on some of the shots, this is one of the best movies of all time. The cultural impact of the film is undefeated. Even though Indian society always takes two steps forward and five steps backward, this movie tried to make us a little more progressive by talking about feminism, discrimination against the Muslim community, misogyny, internalized misogyny, the difference between patriotism and nationalism, political manipulation, and more. The title song is still played like an anthem at every sporting event and will continue to be one until the end of time. The entire supporting cast delivers in spades, while Shah Rukh Khan injects fear and melancholy into our hearts. I genuinely didn’t know he had this performance in him, and I’m sad that he didn’t go back to doing roles with such gravitas. Somebody, please give him another Kabir Khan.

Om Shanti Om (2007)

It’s a perfect film, but the re-watch actually made me realize that something like this is never going to happen again. Bollywood has become so broken as an industry and a fraternity that there’s nothing to celebrate. So many lines have been drawn between the stars that you see on the screen that they’ll never come together for an event like this. And that just makes me sad. I still remember watching that cameo-fest sequence, getting my mind blown with every appearance, and re-watching it to really soak in the fact the makers pulled it off so brilliantly. I’ll say, though, that we need a galvanizing project like this. Farah is working with Shah Rukh again. So, who knows? Maybe they’ll magically unite Bollywood against the forces that are trying to break it from the inside out.

Rab Ne Bana De Jodi (2008)

I’m very aware of the fact that people love to clown on this movie because it wants us to believe that Anushka Sharma can’t differentiate between Surinder and Raj. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t either, even though I’m very good with faces. The entire point is that Surinder has a very generic and forgettable face. Even if you look at him for days or weeks, it’s not going to stick. Raj, on the other hand, is loud and, hence, memorable. And much like Paheli, the film is talking about the union of one’s body and soul in order to be someone who is as presentable and likable as they think they are. Yes, I’m a Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi apologist, and I’ll stick to being one. In addition to that, I think all the performances in the film are amazing, with Shah Rukh Khan being the clear highlight, and the songs can be revered as classics at this point.

Billu Barber (2009)

Even though Shah Rukh Khan and Irrfan spend a major chunk of the film’s time on their characters’ respective journeys, the final confrontation really hits you in the feels. It means that the movie has done a great job of showing what Billu and Sahir used to mean to each other and how much they have missed each other’s presence. And, of course, Shah Rukh and Irrfan are amazing in that concluding scene. Yes, everything that leads up to that moment is perfect, with Budbuda serving as a great reflection of India and how we have allowed ourselves to be consumed by celebrity culture. Additionally, the film features some of the all-time best songs. I mean, if you aren’t dancing to “Love Mera Hit Hit” at least once, what are you even doing with your life?

Final Thoughts

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this is the best phase of Shah Rukh Khan’s career so far. I say “so far” because he has a lot of fuel in the tank and he still has a lot to offer. And with Pathaan in the bag and the hype for Jawan hitting new levels every day, it’s quite possible that he is about to start yet another golden period. But until then, this list of movies (yes, even the bad ones) will be revered as “Peak Shah Rukh Khan.” So, I advise you to watch them if you haven’t already. Even if you have, please give them a re-watch, and I’m sure you’ll find something new to appreciate. I’ve already mentioned in the article that I want Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan to work on a film together, and I feel that they can do so with a sequel to Main Hoon Na. I assure you, it’ll be one of the biggest legacy sequels of all time.

- Advertisement -
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This