Born on March 14, 1965, Aamir Khan celebrates his 51st birthday today. But the journey hasn’t been easy for the Bollywood superstar. After a swashbuckling leading man debut in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT) in 1988, and in Ketan Mehta’s Holi before that, Aamir starred in some flop films, some of which were run-of-the-mill and others were arty films. That’s when he decided to get choosy and dedicate his time for only one film per year. And that gamble paid off, as Aamir Khan today is one of the biggest cinema superstars India has ever produced. Over the years, the actor-filmmaker has shown us his range and that he can get into the heart of any character to play it convincingly.

Here are top seven unusual films of the superstar to watch on his special day!

1. Raakh (1989)

Released after QSQT, Raakh has Aamir Khan in a very intense role, poles apart from his cute loverboy in his first film. Aamir was a lover in Raakh too, but a disturbed one. His muse Neeta, played by Supriya Pathak, is raped by a local ganglord Karmali. Aamir, who plays Amir, eventually murders Karmali and his gang members, with the help of a cop (Pankaj Kapur).

Although audiences couldn’t accept Aamir in this kind of a role, he did receive a National Film Award for it – the Special Jury Award. Raakh was honoured with two more National Awards – Best Supporting Actor for Pankaj Kapur and Best Editing for A Sreekar Prasad. Cinemotagraphy by the ace Santosh Sivan added to creating an aura around the dark film directed by Aditya Bhattacharya. Aamir’s sister Nuzhat Khan and Aditya had written the film.

Raakh was re-released in 2009 and a few years later, Aditya had announced that he wanted to make a sequel to the film. But it hasn’t come through yet. Before watching Raakh, be warned that this intense film is for adults only.

2. Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat – Mumbai Diaries

This film, directed by Aamir Khan’s wife Kiran Rao, has three parallel stories that has its characters meeting somewhere or the other. Aamir Khan is Arun the artist who moves into a new house and finds some tapes in there that reveal the suicide of a married woman in there. Arun can feel the spirit of the woman and is both disturbed by it and empathetic towards the dead woman.

3. Aamir Khan in Taare Zameen Par

TZP was Aamir’s directorial debut. He plays a dyslexic arts teacher in the film who spots dyslexia in a student, Eshaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary). Aamir makes an entry into the film just before the interval through a song. He does not hog the limelight and keeps the focus on the topic of dyslexia and Eshaan’s struggle with it. This was a directorial debut that made audiences cry – especially in the climax when Eshaan breaks down seeing his ‘Sir’ paint his portrait.

4. Aamir Khan in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

This film with the philosophy of ‘The winner takes it all’ was based on a lesser known Hollywood film, but the way director Mansoor Khan adapted it to the Indian milieu was superb. And he brought out the best performances from all, including his first cousin Aamir Khan, whom he first directed in QSQT. Aamir played Sanju aka Sanjaylal, a lower-middle class school boy with aspirations of being rich. The spoilt brat comes of age and takes on the responsibility of winning the local school tourney, when his champion brother is beat up by competitors from another school.

5. Aamir Khan in PK

Aamir plays an alien – yes, an alien – in PK who loses his way on Earth after his spaceship lands in India. Nicknamed PK, this alien is totally in awe of the human world. Eventually, he challenges the religious norms of society and exposes a godman, taking the help of a journalist (Anushka Sharma). Although the Rajkumar Hirani film was criticised for showing the Hindu religion’s superstitions and blind faith, the fact is that it shed light on such happenings in all religions practiced in India. A must watch.

6. Aamir Khan in Rang De Basanti

We can’t speak enough about this film that caused a revolution of sorts in India in the years following its release in 2006. Aamir Khan plays DJ aka Daljeet in Rang De Basanti, who also is freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad in a parallel documentary within the film. DJ and his friends are still in college despite passing out, and take on the corrupt system when their Air Force pilot friend (R Madhavan) dies in an air crash. The group of friends is inspired by the Indian freedom fighters they are essaying in the documentary, and end up sacrificing their lives for their cause.

7. Aamir Khan in 1947 Earth

Aamir played a character with grey shades in this Deepa Mehta film based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel Ice Candy Man (aka Cracking India). Aamir plays the title role in this Partition saga, and was extremely impressive as the ice-candy man. (ALSO SEE: Top 7 heroines of Aamir Khan)

We restricted our list to seven unusual films of Aamir Khan, some of which are commercial hits. Apart from these, there are many other pathbreaking or hatke movies of this genius actor-filmmaker, like Lagaan, Rangeela, Dil Chahta Hai, Sarfarosh, 3 Idiots, Ghulam, Raja Hindustani, Andaz Apna Apna, Fanaa, Aatank Hee Aatank and Jawaani Zindabad. A salute to the superstar on his birthday!