Dear Shah Rukh, when I interviewed you for my television show, I deliberately did not tell you that you were my favourite Khan. Favourite because you came from Delhi, broke the television glass ceiling and became the “King of Bollywood” and also because no girl could ever resist the dimpled charm of “Rahul”.
In the interview, which was fixed at the last minute, I came late and you were already in the studio, looking a tad tetchy and irritated. I had literally run from the car park and seeing me out of breath, you relented. The dimples peeped out and you quipped, “Darling, relax. At least you can say you made Shah Rukh Khan wait”.
When I asked a couple of political questions, you looked at me quizzically but, then proceeded to give full answers, pulling no punches.
You also told me about your father and said with immense pride that he was a freedom fighter who would take the kid Shah Rukh on outings in Delhi and tell you the story of India's freedom struggle. You said that Mandi House, where actors congregate at the theatres, made you decide to be an actor.
You made me smile and then said, “see even you have dimples”. I was left to mutter, “nowhere in your league, Shah Rukh. Nowhere in your league”.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
In the break time, you started a conversation, a real one, not one staged to promote whatever film it was you had starred in, and said that after losing both your parents so young, you felt sure that nothing in life could ever be so tragic again.
I keep remembering our conversation when one of the worst nightmares that a parent can imagine is happening to you. Aryan, your older son and doppelganger, is presently paying a huge price for the fame he commands.
What could be worse than wanting to go and comfort your child, put your arms around him and reassure him but because you don’t want a feral media circus to erupt, you sit at home while outside countless TV cameras and the paparazzi wait to pounce.
Your home “Mannat”, emblematic of your mega success, is today a luxury prison that you can’t leave as the media mob turns night into day with their camera lights to just catch a glimpse of you and your wife.
As events unravel, the case against Aryan seems shambolic, yet he is still in custody. As a doting father you ensured that your three children lacked for nothing. Being a hostage to fame was clearly not in the script. After all even superstars have feelings.
Vulnerable because of last name
I am not even remotely pretending to be objective here, my dear readers of SWAT Analysis. I have covered the way the three Khan superstars feel vulnerable because of their last names. How bigoted have we become as Indians when we see our fellow Indians as only being representatives of another faith?
I have seen and documented the attacks, calls for not watching movies, economic boycott and threats to drop them as brand ambassadors of commercials. Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan both spoke of growing intolerance and then the trolls proved their point.
But this is not that column. This is an ode to one of India’s best movie stars, who prevailed and made it to the top on sheer talent. It was a fairy tale till it suddenly wasn’t.
All of us yearn for a more innocent India where superstars were free to share their opinions and talk about human foibles. Where a movie called “My name is Khan” was made and proved to be a mega-hit.
The trinity of the three Khans was a bit of magic that doesn’t seem possible again. Age is catching up with them. Yet we see no challengers for our affection as an audience. We don’t like generic cookie cutter actors. We like to know our superstars. Their trials and tribulations and eventual triumph. It works both in the movies and in real life.
Hang in there, Shah Rukh Khan. This too shall pass.