It was better late than never for the thousands of screaming fans who got a chance to rub shoulders with their beloved Bollywood idol, Shah Rukh Khan, in Dubai on Saturday at the Vox Cinemas at the City Centre Deira.
Khan turned up at least three hours late for a fan interaction as a part of promoting his new film Jab Harry Met Sejal, a romantic comedy, which releases in the UAE on August 3. But all was forgotten as Khan, 52, literally danced his way into their hearts by shaking a leg to the hit number, Beech Beech Mein, from his new film.
At 4.17pm, Khan who was scheduled to make an appearance in front of the cinemas at 1pm, also patiently took selfies and shook hands with his fans who were pushing against the barricades without a thought to their safety. The charming superstar’s advice?
“For children, please arrange bottles of water — all the kids and grown-ups, please have water before you leave... Always be happy and healthy,” said Khan, blowing kisses to his legion of followers.
The sight that greeted Khan and Sharma was pure pandemonium as sweaty fans of all ages and nationalities pushed against the barricades and screeched his name to gain his attention. A pair of German fans said they’d camped at the mall from 10am. Another fan, from Pakistan, even left his job interview with a telecommunication company to meet his idol.
Meanwhile, the press conference after the fan interaction was a controlled affair in a pre-determined question-and-answer format that required approval before it made it to the actors, unwittingly reducing it to a smarmy fan-boy exercise led by vanilla questions.
Directed by Imtiaz Ali, Jab Harry Met Sejal is about a couple who discover love as they travel through six countries in Europe in search of a lost ring.
“I don’t want to give away too much. But the line that says ‘what you seek is seeking you’ tells you that there’s a bit of soul-searching in this film and it’s about a man who isn’t sure about what he is looking for,” said Khan, who plays an Indian-native tourist guide in Europe.
One of his clients, Sejal played by Sharma, loses her engagement ring and enlists his help and expertise in to help her find it. They traipse around Europe in search of the ring and ends up on a journey of mutual self-discovery.
The actor, who is also the tourism ambassador for Dubai, said that if given a chance he would take the fictional character Sejal, a Gujarati woman in search of her lost ring, to a desert safari, his home in Dubai’s Palm Jumeriah where he would cook her a meal, a fancy dinner-date at the Japanese restaurant, Nobu, and the Music Hall nightclub if the movie was set against the UAE background.
Jab Harry Met Sejal has director Imtiaz Ali’s stamp all over it: a couple of lost souls who embark on exotic travel, adventure and some healthy self-discovery.
“Imtiaz’s film has an amazing dichotomy. They deal with complex internal emotions … Imtiaz’s films have grey areas in relationships, love and personalities,” said Khan.
Between the pair, it’s Sharma who’s bitten by wanderlust. She loves travelling solo and feels that travel opens minds and expands horizons.
For Khan, he isn’t much of a traveler and his adventures have been limited to staying in plush hotel rooms during filming in exotic locations. But after the experience of filming Jab Harry Met Sejal in several European countries, he’s now a convert.
“Imtiaz has a familial way of making films. We moved from one European city to another, filmed a lot and ate dinners at night together. It was a personal experience in that sense,” said Khan.
In turn, Sharma who was last seen with Shah Rukh Khan in the blockbuster Jab Tak Hai Jaan is warming up to Khan as an actor and a human being.
“Yes, I am more at ease now. But the fact is that Shah Rukh Khan from my first film to this one has treated me the same. He has been consistently good to me. He’s the most giving of actor. My respect for him keeps increasing because he takes care of everybody,” said Sharma.