Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, who was given a rockstar welcome with hundreds chanting his name feverishly, was at his articulate best as he swept hundreds of bibliophiles and movie-mad fans off their feet at the 41st edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Friday.
Khan, 57, was conferred the SIBF global icon of cinema and cultural narrative award, a nod to honour his achievements and popularity that has transcended cultural barriers.
“I dedicate this award to acid attack survivors and all those women who have shown incredible courage,” said Khan.
As he uttered every word, his fans were cheering him so loud that he had to keep reminding them to keep calm as it was a book fair and not a rock concert filled with his frenzied groupies.
The famously witty star covered some ground as he looked back on his career, his milestones, and his love for books and letters in his acceptance speech.
“I am grateful for all the love that you have showered on me every time I come here. Let me sound a bit intelligent since it’s a book fair and then do my lungi dance,” quipped Khan to a packed house who couldn’t stop shrieking his name.
He delivered on his promise as he treated the fans thronging the venue to his iconic dialogue from his hit films such as ‘Don’, ‘Baazigar’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’, after he spoke about life, culture, and everything in between.
“But on a serious note, art and culture bind humanity and defines who we are … No matter what your religion, colour, or songs that you dance to, books and art define you. It teaches you peace and compassion,” said Khan.
The actor has been on a self-imposed sabbatical as a lead hero in films since his 2018 release ‘Zero’. So, was he nervous about his upcoming films?
“This may sound pompous, but I always wake up with a child-like belief that it will all work out. At the age of 57, that belief has helped me do stunts, work 18 hours a day, and tell different kinds of stories,” said Khan. He was also a big fan of the roads of the UAE, apart from the multicultural fabric that weaves the UAE together.
“The way the UAE has embraced different cultures without imposing its own culture is impressive. And that’s what makes the UAE such a metropolitan, global city,” said Khan.
The quick interactive session also saw him talk about his greatest achievement to date.
“The way I have been able to bring up my three children is an achievement I am proud of,” said Khan. Khan and his wife have three children Aryan, Suhana, and AbRam. He also had a piece of sound advice for his fans.
“Keep an honest and gentle heart. There will be a time when you have to cheat life or the people around you, but try not to give into that one moment of weakness … What has always held me in good stead is an honest and gentle heart,” said Khan.
As soon as he said those words, the crowd erupted in deafening cheers.
Sharjah-based resident and an ardent SRK fan Mariya Azhar, 35 -- who was waiting in queue for nearly six hours before she was let in at 530pm into the Sharjah Expo ballroom -- said hearing and seeing her idol speak was one of her defining moments in her life.
“I was here since noon and I am glad because thousands couldn’t get in because they didn’t come early. It’s so exciting that I got to see my idol Shah Rukh Khan right here in our city,” said Azhar.
Sharjah resident Afreen Quraishi, 39, braved the afternoon sun and waited outdoors for four hours, before she secure a seat.
“His movies define him and the influence that he’s had on us is immense. He is the king of romance and he defined what love is ... I can’t believe he’s right in my city Sharjah,” said Quraishi.
In less than an hour, Khan had the entire crowd eating off his hands. His blend of humility, honesty, and candour had everyone impressed.
Khan, who will be seen in an action thriller ‘Pathaan’ in January next year, has appeared in more than 80 films in a career spanning over three decades. This is one of the rare public appearances of Khan in this region ever since he embarked on a self-imposed sabbatical. He was last seen in a cameo in Ranbir Kapoor-starrer ‘Brahmastra’.
The versatile actor is best known for his romantic roles in blockbuster hits including 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', 'Devdas', and 'My Name is Khan', amongst a host of other record-breaking hits.