Dubai: When Justin Bieber landed in India after the Dubai leg of his world tour last month, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s personal bodyguard, Shera, hit the headlines for taking charge of the pop sensation’s security.
And when Khan played the role of a bodyguard in a movie of the same name in 2011 and came to the UAE for promotional events, his bodyguard in the UAE was an Indian expat, Manayil Fasal.
Manayil Fasal with the late Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during his visit to the UAE. Courtesy: Manayil Fasal
Fasal, who has been working as a VVIP security guard in the UAE for 25 years, said it was an unforgettable experience working with Khan.
Khan is not the only movie star Fasal has worked for in the UAE. Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, two other Bollywood superstars, as well as A-list stars from Mumbai such as Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, and South Indian megastars Mohanlal, Mammootty, Kamal Haasan, Vikram, Chiranjeevi have all been attended to by Fasal. Add to this, top Indian politicians, ministers, diplomats, cricketers, governors, artistes, singers, dancers, writers, poets — the list is long.
Rubbing shoulders with the stars, Fasal never misses a chance to get photographed with the celebrities he works for.
“Those pictures are my biggest treasure,” he told Gulf News.
I have some pictures which show how different both the celebrities and I look over a gap of 20-25 years. Had I not kept those photos, I wouldn’t have been able to compare.”
- Manayil Fasal, VVIP bodyguard
“I have some pictures which show how different both the celebrities and I look over a gap of 20-25 years. Had I not kept those old photos safe, I wouldn’t have been able to compare them with the latest pictures. It’s interesting [to see the changes time has wrought],” said Fasal.
Being a Malayalee himself, Fasal has provided security to famous personalities from the Indian state of Kerala. On such occasions, he slips into the uniform of the Kerala Police.
“There are a large number of Malayalees here and they can easily identify me when I am in a Kerala cop’s attire. That outfit gave me the name ‘Fasal Police’ among my community here and stars from Kerala.”
The last time he was seen in that attire was when Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited the UAE in December last year.
Manayil Fasal with Salman Khan and (below) Sonam Kapoor during their visits to the UAE. Courtesy: Manayil Fasal
Talking of his affinity for this job, Fasal said, “It was my wish to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather who was a policeman in my hometown Mahe, when it was ruled by the French. But I couldn’t make it,” said Fasal, who was brought to the UAE by his uncle in 1992.
“My uncle, Manayil Mohammad, was the chief security officer at Expo Centre Sharjah those days. Though I switched my jobs and finally started working as a PRO, it was my passion to be a security guard for celebrities. Slowly, I began progressing along that path.”
A Karate and Kalaripayattu (a martial arts form of Kerala) expert, Fasal keeps himself fit with regular exercise.
The tips and tricks his uncle taught him stand him in good stead while on duty. “He was my guru. He coached me on what to look for when guarding celebrities.”
“I can’t take anything for granted. My eyes need to watch every inch of the venue,” noted Fasal, who has also done small roles in three Malayalam films after he went to provide security at their shooting locations in the UAE.
Surveilling the venue for ‘soft spots’ [easy access to celebrities], assigning bouncers to strategic positions and keeping an eye out for disruptive elements are primary tasks for Fasal who accompanies VIPs from the time they arrive till they leave.
He recalled that he once prevented a man from throwing tomatoes at an actor. “Thankfully, nothing more serious has ever happened.”
Courage, confidence, commanding power, presence of mind, quick decision-making skills, and a stern but friendly nature are what he believes a good bodyguard should possess.
It is never a good thing to risk taking VIPs through crowds, Fasal said. “I have had to change the route of guests’ entry sometimes to avoid commotion.”
His actual job is as a PRO with a building materials trading group but Fasal has special permission from Dubai Police to work as a security guard at events. Of his innumerable experiences, one of the most cherished is providing security for former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
“I still get goose bumps remembering those moments. When he arrived at Expo Centre Sharjah, he shook my hand and asked me, ‘How are you?’ Many people thought I was among his personal security team.”
Malayalam megastar Mohanlal is Fasal’s favourite star. “He is friendly and soft-spoken. Once, when on his detail, I nearly tipped over and it was he who came to my rescue,” said Fasal.
His unfulfilled wish so far is not having escorted Amitabh Bachchan. “I hope I can escort him one day.”
Who would be the one person he would choose to escort if he had a security company of his own?
“Barack Obama. I admire him a lot.”
He is thrilled at the prospect of his son Fawaz, 21, becoming a celebrity. “He is now acting in Mamootty’s movie ‘Masterpiece’. I hope he will become a star and I can escort him as a father one day.”