Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Dear Zindagi.Red Chillies Entertainment/ Twitter

Shah Rukh Khan has always been tagged as the underrated actor, whose acting skills are yet to be used fully by the directors he has worked with so far. Until last year, he appeared content being part of mediocre action-comedy/commercial films that would get him box office returns. But something has changed for Khan lately. It could be his desire to be a part of least five good films.

Earlier this year, the actor stepped out of his superstardom to embrace a very earthy character (Gaurav Chandana) in Maneesh Sharma's Fan. Even though the film didn't shine at the ticket window, many were able to see the actor in Khan that had been trapped for years underneath all the commercial hokum that Bollywood swears by.

Months later, he does a Dear Zindagi, in which he is a shrink, advising Alia Bhatt's character Kaira that life is beautiful, even with all of its little imperfections. Critics, although sitting on the fence about the conversational tone of the narrative, cannot stop hailing the star for showing a willingness to experiment, for taking a step back and playing his age.

Is Khan reinventing himself? Is this a conscious effort towards bringing back the actor who won hearts with a simple yet impactful performance as the lanky army personnel Abhimanyu Rai in Fauji 28 years ago? Attesting this should be the projects he will be seen portraying over the next few years.

In January, Khan returns on celluloid as a Gujarat-based bootlegger who transitions into a politician. It's a grey character and will be interesting to witness him play a full-fledged antagonist after a quite a few years. For this one, he is working with Rahul Dholakia, who is known for making parallel cinema – Parzania and such.

Khan has wrapped up the Euro schedule of Imtiaz Ali's tentatively-titled film The Ring. In this one, he plays a tourist guide. Although it is a love story, Khan made it clear that the story suits his age. Anushka Sharma has reunited with Khan after four years and it is their third film together after Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. A quick analysis of Ali's movies will tell you that he is not the one who believes in making his actors run around trees and break into impromptu song-dance sequence. His love stories are subtle and almost, always has a message embedded.

Khan is yet to begin Aanand L Rai's project, which will see him play a dwarf. The senior actor is particularly excited about kick-starting this one because it relies heavily on VFX. Rai's films are known for its rustic charm. Therefore, Khan will have to shed the larger-than-life image for this one, which shouldn't take much effort considering he is now in a phase where he doesn't do what is not expected of him.