When a fan girl met Shah Rukh Khan for the first time and fell in love (again)
If you're meeting Shah Rukh Khan for the first time in the 28 years of your existence, there's a strange, unshakeable smile that will perch itself on your lips.
It is also common knowledge that if you're going to meet/interview/work with Shah Rukh Khan, you will have to wait. He is known to be (precisely) two hours (and fashionably) late.
And so, wait we did.
Many years into a fractured relationship (the details of which will remain unsaid), Firstpost finally got an interview with the badshaah himself (excuse the '90s lingo; meeting him has brought out the adolescent in me). So even after waiting for him for eight excruciatingly long hours, the smile didn't disappear from my face.
Heck, I'm still smiling.
The first hour
When we first entered Mehboob Studios in Bandra, Mumbai to shoot a promotional interview with Shah Rukh Khan for his film Raees — with chairs, tables and excitement in tow — the first person we ran into was his son, AbRam.
There was a horde of people around him, and yet, he managed to wrap everyone present there around his fingers (he must get it from his father). Journalists and PR personnel were transfixed by this little boy, with his shiny silver sneakers and an unmistakable SRK nose.
When a journalist went up to shake hands with him, his nanny was wary. The bodyguards around him stiffened, and rushed to make a human chain around Shah Rukh's vanity van. AbRam, oblivious about all this security, ran from under all the adults, towards the journalist, but was caught by nanny in time.
"I mad at you," he told her in a baby voice. He then screamed (which I am guessing in toddler language means a tantrum). She smiled at him, as if to say, "if you only you knew what was going on".
Two hours later
AbRam spent the next few hours casually running around, and demanding that people play with him (everyone did). At 8 pm sharp, (when we were still waiting for a 10 minute slot with Shah Rukh) he was packed off in a car with five bags of toys. It was like AbRam was everyone's son that day, and Mehboob Studios his playground.
Meanwhile, Shah Rukh Khan and the director of Raees, Rahul Dholakia were oscillating between looking stressed and being perfectly civil to the media.
Producer and co-owner of Excel Entertainment, Ritesh Sidhwani was also skulking about. There were three halls booked for media interactions with SRK, and he jumped between all three stealthily. You could never tell when he entered and exited, when he changed clothes, or when he finished or began interviews. He's a machine.
A pinch was needed every now and then to remind myself that this is the same man from the movies. This is a face you've been seeing on TV and on the big screen for close to three decades now.
My eyes forever followed/searched for him, mesmerised by how his body language is so normal, and so composed. The realisation that Shah Rukh Khan is actually a human being really dawned on me this day.
He was courteous, funny, polite, professional — basically everything you have ever heard/seen about him, and then some.
Four hours later
A journalist from a leading newspaper complained about having to wait for so long, while munching sandwiches (they'll make you wait half a day, but your stomachs won't be empty).
People would become distracted every time Shah Rukh's car entered or exited the vicinity (you'd know because of the 555 number plate, his signature). Some people were even taking selfies around it. Every time his vanity van door opened slightly, we would get a peek of him speaking to print journalists.
A bunch of TV journalists were rehearsing their lines — "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, chacha and chachis, dada and dadis, let's rock and roll!" — and it was my entertainment during dinner . Someone was doing push-ups to pump themselves up. Another group of journalists was discussing entertainment news.
"Did you see Deepika on Ellen?"
"What is this Shama Sikander on ya!"
"Give me some goss on Harshvardhan?" asked one, and another responded, "you don't want to know, man."
Six hours later
With our set up ready, our tea mugs cold and yawns by the dozen, the wait was still on. Bets were being placed on when the interview would finally happen. Someone would say, "Two hours from now," and another would laugh and say, "Two? Make it four".
If you managed to gather the energy to ask Shah Rukh's team how much longer he would be, you'd get a stock response (one that is said in rotation no matter what time of the day it is), "45 minutes more, I promise".
Promises are meant to be broken, I suppose.
"Look at everyone. Someone is asleep, someone is Snap-chatting to pass time, someone else is yawning. But the minute Shah Rukh enters this room, everyone's collective energy will rise. He has that affect on you," recalled a photographer, who has been around for many years.
At this point, given I hadn't met him yet and it was well past midnight, I was beginning to think Shah Rukh Khan is an urban legend, whose spirit meanders in Mehboob Studio.
Eight hours later
I was woken up by someone playing the Raees trailer on their phone: "Aa raha hoon main". It was truly a cinematic moment, because Shah Rukh Khan finally arrived.
He had five shoots before ours, but because it was on the same floor, we got to watch. The photographer was right because the collective energy level in the room had risen palpably, even though Shah Rukh himself looked terribly tired. He spoke softly, but intelligently. He was completely blank during the intervals between questions and when the camera wasn't on him.
But when it was, he was magical. His face would light up, he would notice the smallest things, reply wittily, and remember names.
He ended every interview with "thank you for waiting for me" (somebody tell this man he is Shah Rukh Khan).
The Firstpost interview
Our interview began to roll at 2 am.
We had already determined not to ask him hackneyed questions, and hoped he wouldn't remember that Firstpost hasn't been very kind to him in our pieces (the newsroom loves him, but not necessarily some of his songs/movies, and we don't police opinions).
Here's the thing, though: Shah Rukh Khan remembers everything.
On being asked if he's as romantic as his characters on screen (wishful thinking), he said, "No absolutely not. I'm nothing like Raj, or Rahul. When someone I know comes on set when I am shooting, I ask them to look away because this is not me. In fact, you should talk to the women in my team. They all make fun of me because I'm so formal, even though I know them for years."
Midway through the interview, our host Renil Abraham and SRK were discussing modern day abbreviations ("I have never used LOL," he claimed). "It's probably the most macho thing I'll say, but men don't use emoticons."
SRK then went on to claim: "I am Love; I really believe this. You can go tell everyone you met met Love today." (Makes so much sense, no?)
We then made him play a game where he had to read out the lyrics of The Chainsmokers' 'Closer' in the style of Raees, and he did, with his signature "Amijaan kehti thi" dialogue.
This is exactly the kind of candid interview we were looking for and — no surprises — SRK delivered.
He then said, "I must thank Firstpost for this refreshing interview at 2:30 in the morning. I forgive you guys for publishing nonsense about me." (Watch out for the full interview on our website soon.)
You'd think this would have been the moment of the evening, but it gets better.
Fan girl moment
Soon after the interview, we grouped up to click a photo with Shah Rukh (a common practice for everyone present).
"Come," he said, gesturing for me to go stand next to him. Up until this point, I had not made so much as eye contact with him.
We shook hands, and then he said, "You're Swetha, right?"
I nodded in awe, completely bewildered with how he, Shah Rukh Khan, knew my name. (I have multiple theories but that's not important right now.)
"This is the best day of my life," I told him. He smiled at me, and said, "That's sweet, thank you."
This picture — apart from being splashed on every social media site I'm on — is etched in my memory. I finally have my own Shah Rukh Khan story.
Published Date: Jan 20, 2017 14:10 PM | Updated Date: Jan 20, 2017 14:12 PM