If there’s a true rags-to-riches story in Bollywood, it undoubtedly belongs to Shah Rukh Khan. Born to a non-filmi, middle class family, SRK has gone from strength-to-strength in his career that has spanned decades. Millions of hopefuls who dream of making it big in Showbiz look up to him for inspiration, because he is proof that in an industry fraught with nepotism, it’s possible to carve a niche for yourself without the proverbial “Godfather.” Over the years, Shah Rukh has also occasionally strayed from his comfort zone of playing Romeo atop snow-clad mountains to eccentric characters. Some of them even had health problems and impairments that added to their distinctness. Even in his latest movie Zero, the star plays a character who is vertically challenged. So on the star’s 53rd birthday, we explore the myriad health conditions he helped bring attention to, both positive and negative.
1 Stammering in Darr
One of SRK’s most-mimicked roles is from Darr where he played the antagonist Rahul, a stalker obsessed with Juhi Chawla’s character Kiran. While declaring his love for her, he famously stammers: “I love you… K-K-K-K-Kiran.” The line became an instant hit and one of the most defining moments in the film. It also became one of Shah Rukh’s iconic lines, which became identifiable with the actor himself. Sachin Tendulkar Wishes Shah Rukh Khan on His 53rd Birthday; The Tweet Will Make You Fall in Love With 'Raj and Rahul' All Over Again!
But not everyone was impressed. According to media reports, the filmmakers were sued by the Indian Stammering Association for making a mockery out of the speech impairment. They argued that SRK’s caricature-ish portrayal of stammering made people who stutter subject to ridicule.
2 Muteness in Koyla
In the 1997 movie Koyla, Shah Rukh Khan plays a mute man Shankar, who falls in love with Madhuri Dixit’s character Gauri. The two are being hunted down by the evil Raja, played by the late Amrish Puri, and are constantly on the run. Shah Rukh Khan Gets a Special Birthday Gift From Bauua Singh in the Form of His Own Twitter Emoji.
As the movie proceeds, Shankar is rescued by a healer who “cures” his mutism. He discovers that his muteness was caused by damaged nerves in his throat and he was not suffering from a congenital problem. A repressed memory reveals that Shankar’s muteness was caused by someone shoving hot coals down his throat when he was a kid. (Don’t look at us; we’re no doctors!).
Long story short – mute Shah Rukh starts speaking again.
3 Depression and Alcoholism in Devdas
Shah Rukh played Devdas in the eponymous 2001 movie by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The movie is about the alcohol-soaked love saga of the titular character, who drinks himself to doom. Shah Rukh played the obsessive, self-destructive Devdas, who clearly has alcoholism and depressive tendencies.
As we know, substance abuse is often seen in people who have depression. The character was created decades ago in 1917 by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. But it strikes close to home for many people struggling with depression.
4 Congenital Health Defect in Kal Ho Na Ho
Although it’s not explicitly mentioned, Shah Rukh’s character seemed to be suffering from some form of a heart disease in Kal Ho Na Ho. In the 2003 movie, Shah Rukh altruistically hides his love for Preity Zinta’s character because he’s suffering from a terminal heart condition. (There’s a heart attack in the plotline) But the movie doesn’t delve too deep into it. He could be suffering from a congenital heart defect.
5 Asperger’s Syndrome in My Name is Khan
One of Shah Rukh’s most memorable roles is as Rizwan Khan from My Name is Khan. In the film, he is said to have Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Throughout the movie, Rizwan struggles to socialise and to fit in.
Unlike his Darr debacle, Shah Rukh received accolades for his nuanced performance. The movie struck a chord with many who live with the condition. He apparently also researched for his role extensively, trying to get into the skin of someone with Asperger’s.
6 Retrograde Amnesia in Jab Tak Hain Jaan
Shah Rukh introduced India to the unpronounceable “retrograde amnesia” in Jab Tak Hain Jaan. He plays Samar Anand, a major in the Indian army who’s a whiz at defusing bombs. He also happens to be battling retrograde amnesia, a type of memory disorder triggered by trauma. And as a result, he can only remember incidents that took place before his accident. Although the Indian audience weren’t new to yaadasht khona, they were acquainted with its medical name for the first time.
7 Dwarfism in Zero
In his upcoming 2018 movie Zero, Shah Rukh battles another physical condition, dwarfism. He plays the diminutive Bauaa Singh who is vertically challenged. His co-star Anushka Sharma plays a character who has ALS.
Vertically challenged is a euphemism used often in the context of someone who is of short stature. And someone like Shah Rukh playing the part will help, at least in part, to take away some of the stigma associated with the condition.
As we can see, SRK’s portrayal of health conditions in movies were equal parts hits and misses. But more importantly, it takes an actor of a great calibre to do portray health impairments and physical deformities on screen. And that’s undoubtedly Shah Rukh. Happy birthday to the King Khan once again!