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The other side of King Khan

Shoma A. Chatterji, TWF, Bollywood Trade News Network
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By the time this appears for readers, the Great Khan will have come back from Singapore where he went to visit the ZEE Carnival on October 11 and 12. It was easier to catch him from Changi airport in Singapore than it is to nail him down in India. Shah Rukh Khan, the unquestioned Badshah of Bollywood, opened out a side of him not easily seen in film glossies. This quote-centred profile offers a glimpse of this mega successful star, producer, television anchor and businessman, son of the late Meer Taj Mohammed Khan and Lateef Fatima, whose greatest regret in life is that his parents are no more around to share his success. Our correspondent offers us a glimpse about the same.

Did you know that Shah Rukh Khan finished reading Gregory David Roberts' 'Shantaram' much before the book hit Indian bookstores and recommended it to some of his producer friends? 'I asked them if they would want to make a film based on the book but there was no response. Now Hollywood has taken it,' says the star whose home library has a collection of more than 5000 books of which there are at least three he wants to turn into films. 'The other two I have really enjoyed are Mark Haddon's murder mystery - 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' and Yann Martel's fantasy adventure 'Life of Pi'. Right now, my reading priorities are focused on biopics about people who have led interesting lives.'

Now look who is talking. He has led and is leading one of the most interesting lives himself on planet earth. His face is an icon that represents the Indian film industry in the world. But he began small, with a bit of theatre in Delhi followed by not very significant roles in a few television serials like 'Fauji' in 1988 followed by 'Circus'. Few remember that he wooed his wife Gauri for eight years before they tied the knot 17 years ago. 'Gauri has known me for almost 25 years now and she understands me perfectly. I would not call her my pillar of strength simply because we have not known life separate from each other. What has sustained the relationship is the tremendous faith we have in each other. I have never looked inside her purse or even glanced into her wardrobe,' says Khan who turns 43 next month with an acting roster that goes beyond 60 films seven being his own productions. His roles have been a veritable rainbow of colours ranging from the psychopathic killer in DARR and ANJAAM to the star incarnate in OM SHANTI OM to the sickeningly melodramatic adopted son in KHABIE KHUSHI KABHIE GAM to the stern but determined Kabir Khan in CHAK DE. 'I am a lot like the no-nonsense hockey coach Kabir Khan in CHAK DE minus that stern stuff,' he confides.

Though he admits that the Indian film industry has a lot to learn from Hollywood 'In terms of organisation, technology and its distribution network, the stories are right here with us, in Bollywood. Our fantasies are attainable. Our fantasies are smaller. They are about having a house, perhaps a small car. We are not bothered about aliens,' obviously referring to Hollywood blockbusters like DEEP IMPACT and INDEPENDENCE DAY. And he has every right to make this statement because most of his fantasies sell extremely well both in the national and in the international market. OM SHANTI OM (2007) produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, his own production house, was the highest grossing Hindi film last year earning $45 million across the world. Some of the biggest hits in Bollywood over the past 10 years have Shah Rukh starring in them. Among these are - DIL TO PAGAL HAI (1997), KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI (1998), KABHIE KHUSHI KABHIE GAM (2001), CHAK DE (2007) and OM SHANTI OM (2007.)

He is all praise for choreographer-director Farah Khan who choreographed that famous chhaiyan chhaiyan number on top of a moving train in Mani Ratnam's DIL SE and went on to direct Shah Rukh in MAIN HOON NA (2004) and OM SHANTI OM. 'Women directors have a typical approach towards making films. They are sensitive and emotional. But Farah has gone for sheer entertainment and has the balls to make films precisely the way men make films and I respect her for that,' he says.

Things he will never do on screen are - riding a horse and kissing a girl. 'I am extremely shy of women and perhaps that is why I romance them so well when we are just playing make believe characters on screen,' is his surprising comment. 'I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the most beautiful and talented women in Indian cinema and at least half of my success goes to their credit. They have contributed to my dance numbers and to my appearance by teaching me how to look good. I am what I am because of what they have helped me to become,' says Shah Rukh with a modesty that belies the public image his publicity machinery as carefully constructed for him over the years. Incidentally, he is pairing opposite the heroine with who he has made fine screen chemistry in every film - Kajol. The shooting of Karan Johar's MY NAME IS KHAN with Kajol as his leading lady is scheduled to begin next year. He now has his sights fixed to the release of his current under-production RAB NE BANA DI JODI opposite 18-year-old model Anushka Sharma.

He hates to talk about his back problem caused by his grueling work schedules that demanded the insertion of a titanium disc into his spine for prolapsed disc in 2004. May be that is what stops him from riding a horse for his roles in films. 'What is the point of giving thousands of my fans who love and adore me so much something that they might needlessly worry about? Why should I burden them with a little pain I should be able to cope with myself?' he asks, rhetorically. He prefers to remain silent about documentaries made on his life, books written on him and the unceasing number of awards that keep flowing in. Because, in his opinion, 'None of this would have been possible without help of my co-stars.'

Do you know what Shah Rukh means? It means 'face of the king.' This is one 'king' who hosts television shows with a grace so natural that it charms you and takes you by surprise at the same time. It is the same man who tamed his unruly lock of thick black hair with a mix of homemade glue and water when he began his career in films. This is one 'king' who loves to dote on son Aryan, 11, and daughter Suhana, 8, who think 'I am the best dad in the world because they do not have much of a choice.' Shah Rukh insists that he never crosses a red light, and is a law-abiding citizen. But after this, he lights up his cigarette, unable to stick to this new law of not smoking.

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