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Opinion | 25 years of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: In defence of Shah Rukh Khan's character Rahul Khanna!

As Karan Johar's directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai celebrates its silver jubilee, here's a look at the love, life, and timeless appeal of the classic starring SRK, Kajol, and Rani Mukerji.

Opinion | 25 years of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: In defence of Shah Rukh Khan's character Rahul Khanna!

Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Courtesy: Dharma Productions)

Last Updated: 08.32 AM, Oct 16, 2023


A five-year-old girl taken by her mom to watch an Archie-esque kind of film starring her favourite actor Shah Rukh Khan is a faint memory that's etched for 25 years now. My parents have taken me to theatres to watch movies since I was a toddler, but I think it's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which I vividly remember watching on the big screen on a Saturday afternoon with my mom at a single-screen theatre in the suburbs of Mumbai.

Before going to the theatres, I always had cassettes of films, and like nursery rhymes, I remembered each and every song from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai by heart, which I sang along with the stars on screen. The journey with the Karan Johar-directed movie continued after that, whether it was showing on a local cable channel or having its "world television premiere" on Sony TV. I remembered it all and watched it without fail while crying and fighting with my parents, who wanted me to move on from the film and concentrate on studies rather.

Lifelong bond with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

But 25 years later, I am glad I didn't think of "moving on" from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and my love for it has gotten deeper as the film's meaning got deeper and more relatable. At every stage of my life, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai meant something else. During my teenage years, I resonated with Kajol's character Anjali Sharma and felt that "Pehla pyaar adhoora reh gaya" is real and you will never cope with that. Then, in my 20s, I resonated more with Rahul Khanna, who made me believe blindly that "Pyaar Dosti Hai," and there's no two ways about it.


But while relating to Rahul, new opinions started formulating on the Internet, where people started claiming that he was not a good person at all. To add fuel to the fire, even Karan started calling the character a "fraud" and how the gender politics of the film got wrong. The filmmaker also claimed that the character said everything wrong in many instances. But I refuse to take these criticisms to this level against Rahul Khanna, who has certain beliefs, but that doesn't mean he is right or wrong.

Rahul Khanna: A character under scrutiny

Rahul Khanna was a one-woman man and also said, "Hum ek baar jeete hai, ek baar marte hain, shaadi bhi ek baar hoti hai, aur pyaar woh bhi ek baar hota hai." However, he was also a man in his early 30s who became a widower, a single parent to an eight-year-old girl, and thought this was how his life would be if he accidentally (from his side) met his only best friend Anjali after a decade or so. She vanishes from his life like thin air, and his initial feelings upon seeing her are not love or lust (like some people claim). I still don't believe that Rahul fell in love with Anjali just because she wore sarees.

In case you don't remember, during the song sequence, Ladki Badi Anjaani Hai, Rahul imagines Anjali from her college days and vice versa. That's when he realises that "Pyaar Dosti Hai" has been his only true friend with whom he shared the best years of his life. He said those lines in his early 20s, when he was just a boy, and had a certain kind of belief system when people were just figuring out life after all. We all say many things in our teens and tweens. But his belief wasn't wrong until he met Anjali out of nowhere, and he realised that his life is equally important and, like anyone else, he also deserves a second chance in life.

People have been slamming Rahul for Anjali going away from his life. But she chose to be a "sacrificial" person, believing that she had come in between Rahul and Tina (Rani Mukerji). On the other hand, Tina also feels that she came in between Rahul and Anjali. But what about Rahul? Do his feelings matter or what? He fell in love with Tina and confessed his feelings for her. Rahul and Anjali studied together for many years, yet he didn't fall for her, and she fell for him hard, yet she never confessed to him. It happened because of other catalysts, like Rifat Bi (Himani Shivpuri) or even Tina herself, who asks Anjali if she ever fell in love with Rahul.

Anyway, coming to Rahul, despite circumstances trying to bring Anjali and him together, courtesy of his mom (Farida Jalal) and Choti Anjali (Sana Saeed), he still doesn't confess his feelings to her, and it's an unspoken relationship between them towards the climax. Thus, Rahul becomes the same person that Anjali was a decade ago: a sacrificial man who feels that his mantra is how his life is going to be forever.

Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Courtesy: Dharma Productions)
Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Courtesy: Dharma Productions)

When Rahul and Anjali sit, and before making a wish on seeing a shooting star, he asks her if she is married or not, and instead of saying the truth that she recently got engaged, she quips, "Tum nahi mile na, isliye." Like Naina (Preity Zinta) says in Kal Ho Naa Ho, "Pehle pata hota toh pyaar karti?" when Rohit (Saif Ali Khan) asks her why didn't Aman (Shah Rukh Khan) say he was a married man. Similarly, Rahul had no idea that Anjali was in a committed relationship; more so, his daughter and mother also hid this fact from him.

Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in a still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Courtesy: Dharma Productions)
Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in a still from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Courtesy: Dharma Productions)

In many interviews, Kajol also claimed that Anjali should have chosen Aman over Rahul. But my point is that it was her decision to hide her relationship status from Rahul, and it was Aman who disclosed it. Moreover, why would Aman accept a woman in his life who he knows has never loved him? Finally, he could see that the soulmates are on the brink of getting united, and he has to let go of the person who was never his.

He even tells her, "Tum jaanti hoon, main hamesh tumhari aankhon mein woh pyaar dekhna chaha jo meri aankhon mein hai. Aur aaj mujhe woh pyaar dikhayi diya hai, lekin woh mere liye nahi. Tum pagal ho, Anjali. Tumne sirf ussi se pyaar kiya hai, jabse tumne pyaar ko samjha hai, pyaar ko jaana hai." (I know that I have always wanted to see in your eyes the love that I have in mine. And today, I have seen that love, but it's not for me. You are crazy, Anjali. You have only loved him since you understood love, since you have known love.)

Anjali left her studies because she lost her first love, and she stayed single all these years because she never moved on. So, if she gets her first love back, why will she not accept him? Rahul was nowhere at fault here; he was ready to let go of her once again, like he did when she decided to leave college and him a decade or so ago.

Flaws in love and growth

Just like the rest of us, Rahul Khanna has his flaws. In the film, he goes on a journey that is both romantic and deeply introspective. At first, Rahul is a blasé student who has yet to really explore his feelings. It's important to remember that a lot of individuals, especially young people, have a hard time figuring out how they feel and may not always react precisely to love.

Rahul and Anjali's genuine affection may blossom from platonic relationships, as demonstrated by their friendship. Because of the complexity of emotions, Rahul's delay in understanding Anjali's feelings should not be interpreted as a sign of insensitivity. We tend to miss the obvious in life, especially when it comes to emotional matters.

In addition, the development of Rahul from a carefree young man into a responsible father is a demonstration of how the movie examines love in all of its guises. We should celebrate the authenticity and likeability that Shah Rukh Khan gave to the role rather than blame him for his flaws.

Rahul Khanna is the epitome of love and also a testament to the fact that his character shows the journey of growth, understanding, and, of course, acceptance that "love" and "marriage" along with life also deserve second chances.

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