"SRK takes on more versatile and dynamic roles. Salman less so."
Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are two humongous names in the fascinating world of Bollywood.
For over three decades, they have both been entertaining and enthralling millions with their films.
Salman and SRK have starred in multiple films together, either as leads or in cameo appearances.
In their personal lives, the actors share a warm relationship. However, this was not always the case.
Their equation has been marred with animosity and rivalry at times.
On the other hand, there have been occasions where they have professed friendship and respect for one another.
On September 7, 2023, the SRK-starrer Jawan was released, shattering box office records.
Meanwhile, Salman has not had such a marvellous run at the movies.
So has the success of Jawan delivered a blow to Salman’s fame?
DESIblitz delves deep into this. Join us as we explore the impact of Jawan on Salman Khan.
Collaborations, Fallouts & Make-ups
Salman is SRK’s professional senior in Bollywood. He entered the film industry in 1988 with Biwi Ho Toh Aisi. He hit stardom a year later with Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989).
Three years later, SRK debuted with Deewana (1992). He subsequently found success as an anti-hero in Baazigar (1993). The film was incidentally offered to Salman first.
Salman states that if he had done the film, SRK would not have been able to purchase his famous ‘Mannat’ bungalow. Salman also adds that he is happy for SRK:
“If I had done Baazigar, then there would be no ‘Mannat’ standing in Bandstand today.
“I’m very happy for Shah Rukh and his success.”
The two stars appeared together for the first time in Karan Arjun (1995). The film is a classic of Indian cinema.
In the movie, Salman and SRK essay the roles of brothers. When one discusses their onscreen collaborations, Karan Arjun is the most famous.
They share an electric chemistry in the film that contributed massively to its success.
The pair went on to star in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam (2002).
2002 was the year in which the friends first drifted apart. SRK was cast opposite Aishwarya Rai in Chalte Chalte (2003). The former ‘Miss World’ was dating Salman at the time.
Allegedly, Salman became suspicious about a possible relationship between SRK and Aishwarya. He gatecrashed the sets and started a commotion.
He was even disorderly with SRK when the latter attempted to calm him down.
This began ongoing speculation of a feud between Salman and the Deewana star. Meanwhile, SRK replaced Aishwarya with Rani Mukherji in Chalte Chalte.
The biggest fallout occurred on July 16, 2008. It was at the birthday party of Salman’s then-girlfriend Katrina Kaif.
SRK attended the bash where a drunk Salman allegedly tried to pick a fight with him.
The situation escalated and the party abruptly ended.
However, SRK maintains his respect for Salman:
“I respect [Salman] a lot. We are very easy with each other. There is a lot of love in our hearts.”
During a 2013 appearance on ‘Koffee With Karan’, Salman spoke about how he does not tolerate anyone bad-mouthing SRK:
“When people think they can come and bitch about [SRK] and they can earn brownie points from me, they are very wrong. Because I hate that.”
Since the incident, SRK has performed a cameo appearance in Salman’s Tubelight (2017), while Salman appeared in a song in SRK’s Zero (2018).
This signifies the level of respect the two superstars have for each other.
Salman’s Cameo in Pathaan (2023)
After a hiatus of over four years, SRK made a huge career comeback with Siddharth Anand’s Pathaan.
With a worldwide revenue of over Rs. 1,000 Crore (£96 million), the film is one of Bollywood’s highest-grossing movies ever.
In the movie, SRK plays the titular character. As the film is part of the ‘Spy Universe’ franchise of Yash Raj Films, the premise also encompasses the world of Ek Tha Tiger (2011).
Ek Tha Tiger is headlined by Salman, who portrays Avinash Singh ‘Tiger’ Rathore.
Salman makes a cameo appearance in Pathaan which showcases Tiger landing on a train to rescue Pathaan.
The fight scene involving Salman and SRK is a highlight of the film.
When this scene was played in cinemas, the auditoriums exploded with energy and applause.
Salman praises the talents of Siddharth and producer Aditya Chopra, as well as expressing happiness for the Pathaan team:
“Given how closely Adi has known Shah Rukh and me, he truly managed to capture how we are as personalities in the scenes.
“This is why people are loving us on screen.
“Also, the way Siddharth executed the sequence and presented us was just brilliant.
“I’m happy for Shah Rukh and YRF for all the records that Pathaan is achieving.
“It is a huge win for Indian cinema that we are able to bring people back to the theatres after the pandemic.”
SRK simultaneously recognises the excitement of fans upon seeing him and Salman together onscreen. He adds that he missed working with Salman:
“I know it was a long wait for fans to see us like this on screen and I’m glad that we have delivered a film that they are thoroughly enjoying.
“Besides this, it’s too much fun with [Salman] on sets. I had missed being with him on screen.”
There is no denying SRK’s recognition of Salman Khan’s star value. It is this screen presence that played a large role in the historic success of Pathaan.
Salman’s Career Fluctuations
Although Salman Khan adds fire and shine to Pathaan, one cannot dismiss the star’s decline.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Salman starred in Dabangg 3 (2019). The film is the third instalment of the Dabangg series.
Dabangg (2010) was a blockbuster at the box office. Salman features as the rough and tough cop Inspector Chulbul Pandey, becoming one of Bollywood’s most iconic police characters.
Dabangg 2 followed, which was also a huge money-spinner.
However, Dabangg 3 was panned by critics for its screenplay and direction.
Amid the pandemic, Salman’s Radhe (2021) was released digitally due to the closure of theatres. It received over 4.2 million views on ZEE5.
Radhe thus became the most-watched OTT (over-the-top) film on the day of its release.
Despite this, the film was a critical disaster. Anupama Chopra, from ‘Film Companion’ criticises the lack of craft in the film:
“The Salman Khan starrer is so free of craft that it hurts.
“Prabhudeva delivers yet another loud, numbing, pointless paean to the cult of Salman Khan.”
Sushri Sahu, from ‘Mashable’ brands the film ‘porn’:
“The film, in fact, looks like a brochure to sell Khan’s already popular brand. It is out-and-out ‘bhai’ porn.”
Salman also found little success with Antim: The Final Truth (2021). It cashed in Rs. 59 Crore (£6 million). This amount is a far cry from some of Salman’s previous work.
In 2023, Salman made his solo big-screen return in the much-publicised Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan. He plays Bhaijaan in the film – a nod to his popular nickname.
Unfortunately, the movie was a critical and commercial failure. Sukanya Verma, from ‘Rediff’ compares the film to Salman’s fluctuations:
“Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ka Jaan is exactly the sort of hack job that happens when a superstar in denial misconstrues career fatigue as a challenge that needs to be fought off with more career fatigue.”
She is also critical of the lack of presence of the supporting cast:
“As for its sprawling cast, you’ll hear more from them in movie promotions than the actual movie.”
Such criticisms are hardly encouraging. The early 2020s were indeed a rough patch for Salman.
SRK’s Mighty Comeback
Pre-Covid, SRK was going through what was perhaps the roughest patch of his career.
After Happy New Year (2014), he appeared in a spate of box office flops. These included Dilwale (2015), Fan (2016) and Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017).
Meanwhile, Salman was shining with the success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) and Sultan (2016) in these years.
This resulted in galvanised debates as to whether SRK had lost his stardom.
After the debacle of Zero, SRK embarked on a hiatus from Bollywood. Pathaan was his mighty comeback vehicle.
Energetic, bold and daring, Pathaan is the antidote for SRK fans who grew sick of the consecutive failures.
If Pathaan was not enough, SRK underscores his restored stardom with Jawan. He shines in a dual role as Azaad Rathore and Vikram Rathore in the film.
Two of the highest grossers of 2023 belong to SRK.
With SRK’s return to filmdom basking in glory, one could be forgiven for assuming that Salman Khan is under threat, given his aforementioned decline.
Jawan was the 10th film of SRK to establish a new opening box office record. This was higher than Salman’s nine films at that point in time.
SRK is also set to appear in Dunki, which is helmed by ace director Rajkumar Hirani.
Rajkumar’s impressive track record includes Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006), 3 Idiots (2009) and Sanju (2018).
Hence, fans are waiting with bated breath to see him collaborate with SRK. This anticipation could indicate another bumper opening.
Box office figures always rule the roost and decide the fate of a film. Salman discloses that he values the audience more than critical acclaim:
“My validation comes from the box office collections, that the people have liked or not liked a film.
“It doesn’t make a difference if someone (a critic) has given it so many stars (ratings) or ridiculed the film.”
The feelings of Salman illustrate the importance of high box office numbers.
SRK has undoubtedly achieved them with Pathaan and Jawan.
The Strength of South Indian Stars
Jawan features Vijay Sethupathi as the antagonist Kalee Gaikwad. Vijay is one of South India’s top film stars.
While promoting Laal Singh Chaddha (2022), Aamir Khan delves into the rising popularity of South Indian cinema on OTT platforms:
“When people could not go to theatres, they were consuming entertainment at home through OTT and other platforms.
“As a result, all of us ended up seeing content from other languages.
“The Hindi audience had started watching films from the South and enjoying them.”
These recollections suggest the intangible hold that South Indian cinema possesses.
Reviewing Jawan, Swathi P Ajith, showers praise on Vijay, commenting on his chilling onscreen persona:
“Vijay Sethupathi undeniably commands a formidable presence in the film, providing the perfect antagonist to match Shah Rukh’s power-packed performance.”
There is no doubting the fact that Vijay is a scene-stealer in Jawan.
Conversely, Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan stars Telegu superstar Venkatesh (Gundamaneni ‘Rowdy Anna’ Balakrishna).
Subhash K Jha, from ‘Times of India’ observes the disappointment of Venkatesh fans upon seeing him in the film:
“Venkatesh is a supporting actor in the film. His fans haven’t appreciated this one bit. In Andhra, Venkatesh’s fans presumed he would have an equal role in the film.
“They won’t tolerate him being sidelined. The role had to match Venkatesh’s stature.”
In comparison, SRK ensured that some of his scenes in Jawan were cut to accommodate more screen time for Vijay.
He therefore capitalised on the stardom of the Vikram Vedha (2017) star.
It is indeed a smart strategy from both Salman Khan and SRK to involve South Indian stars in their home productions.
However, it is also vital to justify their presence to fuel the potential of the film.
While SRK and Redchillies have done that well with Vijay in Jawan, the team of Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan seems to have left Venkatesh’s potential unfulfilled.
External Factors Affecting Salman’s Decline
After the tragic demise of Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14, 2020, a tidal wave of hatred erupted towards the Indian film industry.
Sushant’s death was blamed on nepotism and partiality.
Big banners and affluent stars came under fire for fuelling a ‘hate campaign’ against Sushant. Such people included Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt and Aditya Chopra.
As such, ‘#BoycottBollywood’ began to trend on X (formerly Twitter). Many high-profile films and their actors faced the brunt of the movement.
Salman Khan was no exception.
Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan was not spared from the backlash.
At that time, Shushant Singh was the one who was getting reach in North like Prabhas in South. But overrated Salman Khan Destroyed His career so no I'm as a fan of Prabhas and Sushant #BoycottKisiKaBhaiKisiKiJaan #JusticeForSushant?SinghRajput #BoycottBollywood
Let's trend! pic.twitter.com/CWU0mJPNzI
— ???????— ?????? (@Why_Rattan) April 21, 2023
One user on X wrote:
“At that time, Sushant Singh was the one who was getting reach in North like Prabhas in South.
“But overrated Salman Khan destroyed his career so no, I’m as a fan of Prabhas and Sushant.
“#BoycottKisiKaBhaiKisiKiJaan #JusticeForSushantSinghRajputSinghRajput #BoycottBollywood.
Writing on X, Rashmi Samant alluded to Salman’s 2002 court case involving dangerous driving. He crashed his vehicle into a bakery and one person sleeping on the road died in the incident.
Salman was acquitted in December 2015, due to a lack of evidence.
Bollywood is a very toxic industry that epitomizes the worst in society. The actors have normalized terrorism, homicide, murders, assault etc. Everybody knows what Salman Khan got away with, but all of Bollywood had his back.#BoycottBollywood
— Rashmi Samant (@RashmiDVS) August 3, 2022
“Bollywood is a very toxic industry that epitomises the worst in society. The actors have normalised terrorism, homicide, murders, assault etc.
“Everybody knows what Salman Khan got away with, but all of Bollywood had his back. #BoycottBollywood.”
These thoughts denote that Salman’s pull as a star has decreased due to the movement.
Death Threats and Audience Views
During a 2023 interview on Aap Ki Adalat, Salman candidly speaks about his fear of death threats he received.
He shares that he is vulnerable and scared:
“I am going everywhere with full security. I know whatever is going to happen will happen no matter what you do.
“It is not that I will start roaming freely. It is not like that. Now there are so many Sheras around me, so many guns are going around with me that I am myself scared these days.”
The Mumbai police gave special protection to Salman following the threats.
However, it seems that a portion of the audience has also begun to lose faith in the Radhe star.
Laila*, a British Asian from Birmingham, who has grown up watching Salman Khan and SRK, shares that SRK is more versatile:
“I feel SRK takes on more versatile and dynamic roles, even as continues to also do similar roles to 15 years ago. Salman less so.”
She also comments that Salman seems unwilling to evolve as a performer:
“[Salman] doesn’t seem to want to evolve in the roles he plays for the most part. He is generally doing what he did 15 years ago.
“Playing the hero, taking his shirt off and getting the heroine.
“When he goes outside of his comfort zone, he does shine but he rarely seems to.”
These impressions indicate Salman’s decline from a first-hand audience perspective.
For decades, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have been two of Bollywood’s most bankable stars.
Both have been at different rungs of the stardom ladder at different times.
Their interpersonal arc has also been a rollercoaster of friendship and stress.
SRK is riding high with the success of Jawan while Salman has not had such a smooth run at the box office.
Jawan has impacted Salman in terms of competition. If he is to get back to the top spot, he will have to improve the quality of his films.
However, one can assume that with the release of Tiger 3, Salman does have the potential to come back fighting.
Salman and SRK are set to star together in the upcoming Tiger vs. Pathaan. Fans are waiting eagerly for this full-fledged extravaganza dripping with star power.
One cannot deny the staggering bodies of work of which both stars can be proud.
For his strong filmography, Salman will always have a strong fanbase that will always root for him.