Shah Rukh Khan - Man Behind The Mask
My parents met in strange circumstances. My mother was injured in a car accident and needed blood. My father, who happened to be in the hospital at that time, gave her blood. That is how they fell in love. And though he was about eleven years older, her family consented to their marriage because he had saved her life.
I was born at a time when my parents were not doing too well financially. But they did not discriminate between my sister Shehnaz and me, though I think my sister was closer to them because she is six years older than I. As a child I acted in the Ramleela, and wrote short stories and shers, which my father made me recite. I remember there was this aunt who once wore horrendous pink lipstick. I composed a corny poem in praise of her lipstick. I think she was secretly pleased. I would imitate actress Mumtaz, and so many other people. Iím doing that even today, only now Iím being paid for it!
My parents always let me do my own thing. They only wanted me to do well in my studies, which I did. I could sleep at any time, go out at any time. But if I beat up another child, my father saw to it that I dealt with the childís father myself. It made me realise that parents arenít mere figures of authority, they are friends.
Then my father fell ill with cancer. We lost everything we had in the eight months of his illness. A single injection would cost around Rs 5,000, and we had to organise 23 injections in ten days. My mother worked day and night to raise the money. After my fatherís death in 1981 she revived his business and ran it efficiently.
She never turned down any of my demands. When I began to go to college, I said I wanted a car. The next day, she bought me a car. She did not force me to take over our business either. When I told her I wanted to join films, she did not stop me. In fact she encouraged me. I wanted to do my M.A. in film-making. She urged me to enrol in the National School of Drama (NSD), which I did. I remember I used to do very badly in Hindi at school. I would get zero on ten. And she would say, "If you get ten on ten, Iíll take you for a film." From that day I topped the class in Hindi every single time. I remember the first film she took me to was Dev Anandís Joshilay. I have inherited my sense of humour from my father. Once this South Indian lady came over and complained to my father, "Your son troubles my daughter." He
looked at her and said, "If she is aspretty as you are, and if I was as young as my son is, Iíd probably do the same thing." She began laughing. He had said it so gently and nicely, without being offensive at all.
When my father died, I didnít cry. I was one of the pall-bearers. But I felt cheated despite the fact that he had prepared me for his death. My motherís death made me realise that nothing is permanent. I cried a lot. And now nothing shocks me. That is why I donít give a damn about anything. If I can live without her then I can live without stardom, moneyÖanything.
She had been ill. Her blood had become infected. But she was on the road to recovery when she died. Suddenly. Just like dad. It was very painful. The first time I prayed to God was when she lay dying. But she died all the same. I still believe sheís there somewhere and looks after me. Otherwise I would not have had all that I have. She is my STD line to God because there is nothing in this world that I want and havenít got. Whenever Iím very happy I cry because I canít share my happiness with her.
But I do share my feelings with my sister Shehnaz who lives with me. She is naÔve and sweet, but can also behave quite spoilt sometimes! I see distinct traits of my father and mother in Shehnaz. She has her fits of anger. So I keep telling her, "You are just like mummy." My sister was an outgoing person earlier, but she has become very quiet and reticent after our parentsí demise.
My mother wasnít even against my relationship with Gauri. But Gauriís parents were dead against our marriage. So for six years we carried on our relationship in a clandestine manner. Once I even went to her birthday party incognito. I used the name I was given in my first TV serial, Fauji, Abhimanyu. But when they got to know who I was, all hell broke loose!
Gauri would say, "Shah Rukh, you donít know my parents. You take things so lightly." And I would console her and say that things would turn out all right in the end. Iíd tell her that 10 years down the line weíd laugh about the trying times. And thatís just what we do today.
Our wedding took place in strange circumstances. We rang up Gauriís parents from her auntís place and claimed that we were already married. Pandemonium broke loose and their house almost went into mourning. I went to meet her family feeling really guilty. But when I spoke to them they realised that they had to accept our relationship. Finally, they relented and we decided to go ahead with the formal ceremonies. I really identify with this feeling when I do a film like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
I could understand their apprehension. Imagine her announcing that she wants to marry this rough-looking guy who belongs to the wrong religion, has the wrong attitude and works in the wrong profession. There wasnít a thing going for me Anyway, we had to have a registered wedding because ours was an intercaste marriage. There was a problem because some Muslim organisations thought that I shouldnít get married to a Hindu. They organised morchas outside my house. Of course, we did not let that get in the way of our happiness. We wanted our marriage ceremony to be short and sweet but Gauriís parents wanted a Hindu wedding too. I relented thinking that you only marry once! We had few guests from the film industry, just Rajiv Mehra, Vivek Vaswani, Aziz Mirza and G.P. Sippy. Juhi and her mom had a party for us when we came to Mumbai. At the wedding ceremony, I stood on my toes and wouldnít let Gauri place the garland around my neck! This was my only chance to see a wedding so closely (I attend very few functions), so I asked the pandit to explain everything. The ritual went on for hours.
When it was time for the bidaai Gauri sat in the car and began crying. Soon her mother started crying, and her father and brother followed. Then, in all seriousness, I said that if they were all feeling so bad they could keep her at home, and Iíd come and see her regularly!
For the first time after knowing each other for seven years we spent the night together. Before this we were always afraid of being seen together, even on a stroll. So it was an exciting feeling to know that when I awoke in the morning, sheíd be there beside me.
I love Gauri because she is honest. Also, she complements me. She teaches me to be diplomatic. She keeps telling me that I say too many things that I should not. Most people donít know me well enough so they completely misunderstand me. Itís better to keep shut. She has taught me to switch off the lights before going to bed, to eat at the proper place, to put my clothes in their proper place. She has taught me to dress well too. She has turned me from an animal to a man. And itís not my achievements she likes me for. She likes me because I make her laugh.I respect Gauri because she is a woman and the mother of my son. I want my son Aryan to be a badmaash. He should do all the wrong things by the time he is 16 so that he can sober down after that. When I have a daughter Iíll give her all the love thatís stored within me. Iíll drop her to the parties sheís invited to. When sheís with her boyfriend in the back seat of our car, Iíll be at the wheel driving her around. Of course Gauri thinks Iím quite mad when I say all this to her!My parents were my friends. So Iíll be my childrenís best buddy too.
My only regret in life is that my mother never really saw my work as an actor. She wasnít there when I won my first award. But no, she must have seen it from wherever she is now. I miss her a lot. I like to think she has become a star. So whenever I feel very sad I just go to the terrace and cry.
Shah Rukh Khanís greatest contribution to his films is his live wire energy. Even his worst film cannot be accused of being dull. Call him tiring, but never call him boring. Even on a screen which made him appear smaller-than-life, his crackling intensity in Fauji and Circus made him a star. He attracted a fan following which was unpredented for a TV star in those pre-cable TV days.
In his first film Deewana, which had a sensitive performance by Rishi Kapoor and the delicate beauty of Divya Bharati, Shah Rukh arrived after the interval and the made the screen come alive. In all, he appeared in six reels of the film, yet there was enough intensity to leave an impact and win an award
for the Ďsensational discoveryí of the year. His early films like Deewana (1992), Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992) and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na (1993) depended heavily on his nervous energy. Over his early years it became his safety mechanism. ĎWhen in doubt, overactí was his mantra. Besides his unrestrained enthusiasm, he had little star quality in those days. He was a 26-year-old boy with an awful hairstyle (jokingly nicknamed the ĎSadhana Cutí), loose, baggy trousers and crumpled shirts half tucked in. A mere shadow of the hip, Versace-clad, Generation-X icon he is today.
Just when he seemed set for stardom, he dared to do the unimaginable. He accepted the role of a revenge-obsessed killer in Baazigar (1993), which had already been rejected by Anil Kapoor and Salman Khan, and then played a psychopath in Darr (1993), which had been refused by Aamir, and a love-struck killer in Anjaam (1994).
When he signed them, producers warned him he was destroying his stardom. When the films succeeded (audiences clapped when he stabbed Sunny in Darr), they said he would be a hero again. Fortunately Shah Rukh had the intelligence not to give the audience too much of a bad thing.
In 1995, he completed the patchwork of his old films and released Guddu, Zamana Deewana, Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India and Trimurti. Although all the characters he played were positive, the films fell like ninepins at the boxoffice. Fortunately, his failures were overshadowed by the success of Rakesh Roshanís Karan Arjun at the beginning of the year and then completely forgotten after Adi Chopraís Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at the end of it.
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Shah Rukhís next film with the Yash Chopra banner after Darr, was eagerly anticipated. Shah Rukh played Raj, a pretentious underachiever who slowly evolves into a mature, committed adult through the process of winning the hand of Simran (Kajol). Inspired by Hum Aapke Hain Koun the soundtrack and the film broke records all over the country. After the stupendous success of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge almost every film he was offered was s love story. But he refused them all.
After a quiet 1996, he lined up for 1997 an action film (Koyla), a love story where he played second fiddle to the heroine (Pardes), a comedy where he was a
Psycophant (Yes Boss). Only one love story, Dil To Pagal Hai, which he had signed in 1995, was due for release that year.
Koyla was sold at an unusually high price of Rs. 2.4 crores per territory and although it was not a major success, it managed to cover its investment and ended the year as one of the top 10 commision earners of the year.
Pardes, directed by Subhash Ghai, was a woman-oriented film eschewing the usual Shah Rukh Khan scenes, he turned in a subtle and mature performance that showed that he was fine tuning his control over his nervous energy. On release, Pardes met with an average response, but after tax redemption, it picked up and went on to become another feather in his cap.
Yes Boss was directed by Aziz Mirza, his long-time friend and the director of his first film, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. A light comedy like his previous film with Mirza, it fell into a genre of cinema that few contemporary actors have successfully explored. Shah Rukh played what is colloquially known as a Ďchamchaí in the film, which went on to become a hit.
The third and biggest success of the year was Yash Chopraís Dil To Pagal Hai. Within one month, its soundtrack by Uttam Singh sold 30 lakh copies, breaking Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayengeís record as the highest selling music album of Yash Raj films. Playing Rahul, a choreographer who doesnít believe in love, Shah Rukh once again exhibited a fine balance between spontaniety and restraint. Although the film wasnít as big a hit as the historic DDLJ, it won 10 Lux Zee Cine Awards.
Duplicate (1998) featured Shah Rukh in a double role for the first time. In the film he played the first negative role where there was no justification for his characterís evil streak. All his earlier characters were tragically flawed protagonists who did terrible things, but Shah Rukh painstakingly added a layer of sympathy to the core of the characters.Dil Se was a commercial disaster in India but it remains one of the films
closest to Shah Rukhís heart. He still believes that if it is released ten years from now, it will fetch a ready audience.
But the year, of course, belonged to Karan Joharís Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, winner of 13 Lux Zee Cine Awards. In the film Shah Rukh once again displayed his chameleon-like ability to play diverse characters. In the first half he played a fun-loving college student and in the second a mature father. With seasoned direction by debutant Karan Johar, Shah Rukhís character Rahul stood out even against a brilliant performances by Kajol and Rani Mukherjee. As film critic Deepa Gahlot accurately sums it up: "Hindi films donít get better than this."
With its incredible success, Shah Rukh is the highest-paid Indian star ever. Today, he has over 70 crores riding on him. His own rate is touching an all-time high of 2.5 crores. As an advertising model, he was recently nominated the most desirable celebrity model, outdoing Sahin Tendulkar by a vote of 10 to 1. Heís won every popular award except the Best Actress. And a line up of films have a fine balance of the classic (Kamal Haasanís Hey! Ram) and commercial (Mansoor Khanís Josh). The production company he has formed with Juhi Chawla, ĎFilmz and Dreamzí, will debut this year with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani starring both the happening stars. And whatís more, heís taken the Hindi film international. DTPH made Rs.1.5 crores in its first week of opening in Birmingham and went on to be dubbed in French as Le Couer Rend Fou. Even Dil Se, which flopped in India, made it to the British Top Ten Films list. And Kuch Kuch Hota Hai earned $2.7m in Britain alone. It is now due for another international release with English sub-titles. As one film industry analyst put it, "Overseas, Shah Rukh Khan is God."
on his sonÖ
I hope Aryan will grow up to look like my father. He was such a handsome man! Everyone says my son looks like me but I think heís an exact replica of Gauri. He took to me instantly. Iíll tell my son to grab all the opportunities he can. He shouldnít wait for them. And when he grows up, Iíll flirt with all his girlfriends. Thatís for sure!
My son will be a pucca flirt. I think he even winked at the nurses at Breach Candy Hospital where he was born. I hope he turns out to be a pucca badmaash. Just like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. But even if he turns out to be well-behaved, thatís okay by me. Iíll be a better parent to Aryan than my parents were to me. They died a premature death and left me alone. But Iíll always be there for Aryan. He must be honest and respect elders. Thatís all I expect of him.
Kuch Hota Hai:
This was the first time I was playing a father. When I was holding the newborn in my arms I was instantly remind of the birth of my son, Aryan. But the daddy I played was very different from Aryanís. He reminded me of my dad. I guess he was more grown up. Maybe Iíll feel this way when my son is eight.
The mood of this film was silly, slapstick and endearing. Duplicate was like an animated cartoon, and itís one film Iíd love my son to watch. I didnít want to differentiate between the two characters I played on the basis of physical appearance or costume change. The way I performed the two roles made them different.
To Pagal Hai:
I think deep down every boy is like Rahul, the character I played in this film. And he reacts not like a lovelorn Devdas but a livid Rahul. I have friends who remind me of him. Still, although he was very real, the film wasnít. It was a dream created by Yash Chopra. It was not about the world we live in, it was about a world weíd like to inhabit.
Dulhania Le Jayenge:
Raj was a guy very much like me. Great fun, even when he was fighting for his love. He never lost his sense of humour or hope even in the darkest of moments. He was the model boy, refusing to elope with his girl even when her mother pleaded with him to do that! But I deliberately made him into a prankster, otherwise heíd be a drag.
Arjun was a very different character when we started the film. He was a very Ďwith ití break dancer with a little ponytail. An American yuppee with the heart of an Indian. The kind of person a girl from Agra would see for the first time and say, "Chhee!" Of course, eventually he turned out to be very different.
This was the saddest character Iíve played. The joker in the pack. Funny but sad. Never the king but not the ghulam either. The poor guy was so worried about whether he would be able to provide his girl a Mercedes or a duplex apartment that he forgot to ask her to marry him! Or maybe he was afraid to ask because he was not eligible.
Haan Kabhi Naa:
Sunil reminded me of Gauri, my wife. Like him, she lives in a rainbow-hued world, a world of love and laughter. Sunil was a loser with a golden heart. He was the most utopian character ever created for me. I knew heíd never be a success. Like Charlie Chaplinís Tramp. But his love for love would see him through.
Vicky was insane and inhuman. Like a bull in a china shop who destroys everything and hurts himself in the process too. He even destroyed his mother for whom he had planned this elaborate revenge. He could be the guy sitting next to you and not for a moment would you suspect that he was planning this to be your last rideÖ and his too.
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