From seasons past: A look at the biggest Bollywood Diwali releases of all-time

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The Khans of Bollywood – Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman – are front runners when it comes to cashing in on the festival footfall in cinemas. The three actors usually divide the top seasonal slots among themselves: Salman rules Eid Al Fitr, Aamir takes Christmas and SRK dominates Diwali.

This year, however, the solo Bollywood release on Diwali is Rajshri Productions' Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, starring Salman and Sonam Kapoor. Said to be based on Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, it is Salman's fourth film with director Sooraj Barjatya, and their first together in 16 years. In keeping with the Rajshri tradition, Salman's character, Prem, is a sensitive, family-­driven hero, but this time with dark shades.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is Khan's sixth Diwali release and his second with Rajshri Productions after Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999). His other Diwali releases were Kyon Ki (2005), Jaan-E-Mann (2006), Saawariya (2007) and Main Aurr Mrs Khanna (2009).

Khan is riding high on the enormous success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Ahead of the film's release, we look at other Bollywood blockbusters released on Diwali over the years.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo opens in cinemas on Thursday, November 12

1. Baazigar, 1993

Bollywood's reprisal of A Kiss Before Dying had Kajol and Shilpa Shetty, and it was the first film where SRK played the anti-hero who commits three murders.

Despite portraying a baddy, SRK's chemistry with Kajol hit a nerve and marked the beginning of a series of films that sealed their title as Bollywood's best on-screen couple. Baazigar earned Khan and music director Anu Malik their first Filmfare Award.

2. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, 1995

Shah Rukh Khan played the bratty Raj Malhotra in DDLJ only to appease producer Yash Chopra. Khan never believed in romantic films and when he heard the script, he could not identify with the character he was about to present to the world. On his insistence, DDLJ had some action thrown in towards the end, much to the chagrin of both the producer and the director (Aditya Chopra). He is also said to have added his unique style of humour to the film. Karan Johar, who was called upon to work as an assistant director for DDLJ, also created costumes and appeared in a minor role.

3. Raja Hindustani, 1996

The romantic drama was a surprise blockbuster that gave Karisma Kapoor’s career a much-needed boost. Clearly, her gain was Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s and Juhi Chawla’s loss – both had turned down the role. Aamir Khan bagged his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his performance as a poor cabbie who falls in love with a rich girl. The film’s music score won composers Nadeem and Shravan an award and went on to become chartbusters.

4. Dil To Pagal Hai, 1997

One of the finest musicals by Yash Chopra, DTPH won seven Filmfare awards, three National Awards and gave a boost to Madhuri Dixit’s sagging career. Karisma Kapoor, who played the effervescent Nisha, won three different awards for supporting actress. Uttam Singh’s music won him his first Filmfare award and marked his entry in the industry.

5. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, 1998

Karan Johar's directorial debut, featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukerji, became such a huge hit that it was recommended by Time magazine as one of the top five Bollywood movies that should be made available on Netflix. When Johar wrote the story, he had Twinkle Khanna in mind for Tina's role, but she was just one among the many actresses to turn down the role. Aditya Chopra recommended Rani Mukerji, and history was written – Chopra and Mukerji got married two years ago and are expecting their first child. Salman Khan has a minor role in the film.

6. Hum Saath-Saath Hain, 1999

Salman Khan’s third film with Barjatya gave him another chance to prove himself as the cultured and value-driven Prem. A typically maudlin Barjatya drama, HSSH was more like a feature on family functions and long dance sequences. Incidentally, it was during the film’s schedule in Jodhpur that Salman went hunting for endangered black bucks. The legal case against him is still unresolved.

7. Fashion, 2008

Few women-orientated films were made back in the day when Priyanka Chopra decided to do Fashion. She recently admitted to being called "silly" for picking up the role, which she thought gave her an opportunity to showcase the gamut of emotions and experiences that a small-town-girl-turned-showstopper goes through. Chopra apparently wore 137 different costumes in Fashion, which resurrected her career after a series of flops.

8. Jab Tak Hai Jaan, 2012

After his 2004 Veer Zaara, Yash Chopra returned to direction for his last film with SRK. But before he could film the final song with Khan and Katrina Kaif in Switzerland, he fell sick and died. The film was released just the way Chopra had left it.

9. Krrish 3, 2013

Producer and director Rakesh Roshan's Koi Mil Gaya franchise released its third film in 2013, with Hrithik Roshan back in the lead, and outdid the first two with its spectacular visual effects. What made a bigger impression were its sci-fi characters, Kaal (Vivek Oberoi) and the shape-shifting Kaya (Kangana Ranaut), who had a meatier role than the film's leading lady, Priyanka Chopra. Rumour has it that Vivek Oberoi – whose metal costume weighed 28 kilograms – was chosen for the role after SRK and Ajay Devgn turned it down.

When it comes to lighting up the big screen, Shah Rukh Khan is the king of Diwali

Shah Rukh Khan's love affair with Diwali began with Baazigar (1993), his eighth film and the first in which he took on a negative role. It was an audacious move for an actor who was still establishing himself, especially when top stars such as Anil Kapoor and Salman Khan had turned down the role. Baazigar was a super hit, leading Khan to portray an anti-hero in a couple of other films, including Darr (1993) and Anjaam (1994).

His next blockbuster, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), a Yash Raj Films production, established him as a romantic hero and went on to become India's longest-running movie in cinemas, beating Amitabh Bachchan's 1975 hit Sholay. Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), a romantic drama from Yash Raj studios that had Khan star alongside two female leads, brought him more acclaim. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai followed in 1998, by which time Khan was already considered a hardcore romantic star. YRF's Mohabbatein, a tragedy co-starring Bachchan, was released in 2000, with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Khan's love interest. And in 2004, Veer Zaara, brought festive revellers by the hundreds to cinemas, and was one of those rare films with a love story set across the Indo-Pak border.

Farhan Akhtar's thriller Don: The Chase Begins was a 2006 Diwali release. It was a bolder, smarter retelling of Bachchan's 1978 blockbuster of the same name, which led critics to compare the two biggest superstars of Bollywood (and went on to cause a strain in their relationship).

Farah Khan's super hit Om Shanti Om came on Diwali 2007, for which Khan hit the gym and famously displayed his six-pack in the song Dard-e-Disco. Four years later, Khan's superhero flick Ra.One (2011) was critically panned but a commercial success. It joined the elite 100 crore club, as did Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), his 10th Diwali hit and Yash Chopra's last film.

Then Farah Khan's heist-comedy Happy New Year! released in 2014. Critics wrote off Khan's career, but the film went on to become his fifth 100-crore grosser.

His next film, Dilwale, for which Khan reunited with Kajol after five years, is due out on December 18. It is perhaps the most-awaited film of the year.

artslife@thenational.ae