The phenomenon called Shah Rukh Khan first hit our screens with Fauji, way back in 1988. Ever since, it’s been a magical, inspiring and incredible story of success, determination and fights against odds. He has been entertaining us and making us proud for the past 30 years. Yes. It’s been three decades since we saw Shah Rukh on screen and fell in love. We still do.
As he awaits the release of what is likely to be his most challenging role – that of a dwarf – in a very unusual film, Zero, we got a person who knows him best, to reveal the SRK we have perhaps no access to.
Farah Khan and Shah Rukh Khan started their filmi journeys more or less at the same time and as his closest friend, has seen his journey, up, close and personal. This is Farah reminiscing and celebrating a very special man in her life – the one call Shah Rukh Khan.
Shah & Me
I call him Shah; I always have, Shah Rukh is too long and SRK is for fans and others. He normally calls me Farah but of late, he has begun to get mixed up between his daughter Suhana and me. That’s okay because I sometimes get mixed up myself and call my son Shah Rukh! There is also the similarity between Czar and Shah and they are two close and important men in my life.
Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan
I met Shah Rukh for the first time on the set of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and I was already very scared of him because I had read an interview in Stardust. It was a very bombastic and my first thought was “Oh God, this guy is so arrogant, I’m going to have a tough time.” So I went with a lot of trepidation. But it was completely different actually.
A still from 'Baazigar'
First Meeting & Impression
I met him on a road near the set; he was practising the trumpet that he plays through the film. Strangely, I felt I was meeting a college friend or someone I’ve known for very long. We became instant friends. This was in 1990 in Goa, he had just got married and he brought Gauri along too, so, during the entire shoot, we would go to the shacks at night. We were a young crowd, who all got along very well.
He was also a great help to me while shooting the songs because it was a very ‘garib’ production and I had no assistant. I had to do everything so Shah Rukh used to literally come and be my assistant. We also had no dancers so local people, who had never shot a movie before and didn’t know how to sing, were recruited. He would lie down on the floor and pinch them when they had to get up and things like that! That was part of my first impression of him.
Another part of the first impression was that I felt he was a fab dancer because he could do cartwheels, backflips and front flips. If you see the ‘Deewana’ song you will see him doing all this. Gauri was also a super dancer and I was very impressed with these two Delhites. Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa is my most favourite film with Shah Rukh, I must have seen it at least 50 times. He is absolutely endearing in it!
The December issue of Masala! is on the stands
The Star is Born
KHKN took two years to make and as the movie progressed, he became a big star with Deewana and Baazigar. He didn’t become a different person but he became insanely busy. He used to shoot all night in Mumbai, catch a morning flight to Goa for a shoot. If we were shooting on the road, he would, on the way from the airport, stop and shave, his make-up man would put make-up, he would shoot all day and take the night flight back to Mumbai to shoot again. In fact, in the middle of the mafia song (Sacchi Yeh Kahaani Hai), he got involved in controversy; he had beaten up a journalist and got arrested! We were all most amused because we didn’t have the hero of the film on set that day.
Shah Rukh, The Friend
Over the years, he has been a very good friend and has always been there for me. During my recent crisis, he would call me in the morning (and I’m not used to Shah Rukh calling 10.30 am) and inquire about my well-being.'
I may not talk to him every day but I know that if there is a crisis, he is there. I remember once he was shooting at Filmistan and I was at home in Juhu and I started crying on the phone. I was having some personal relationship stress. He kept consoling me and then one hour later, my bell rang - he had come over in the lunch break. He loves counselling and giving advice. The best advice he has given me was to get married and have kids. He was like, “Work will always be there but have babies too”.
Gauri & Me
Between Shah Rukh and Gauri, I was always more friendly with Shah Rukh because we were spending a lot of time together. We have a similar sense of humour, are both literate and well read and we would discuss books and movies. We played games on the sets and then started going for holidays together. We were a group that included Karan (Johar) and Aditya Chopra and we holidayed together.
Shah Rukh Khan with his family
There was a brief period when we were upset with each other and not talking to one another. There was always a bitter taste in my mouth as I’m sure there was in his too. I’d feel something was not right but there was not a day when I didn’t miss him. It’s like when you fight with a family member and the whole day there is a cloud over your head. If your love is strong, you let bygones be bygones because everything else is superficial. Now we can’t even remember what happened but there’s always a third party that revels in it.
Shah Rukh Khan with Farah Khan
Main Hoon Naa
When I decided to turn director, I couldn’t look beyond him. I wrote Main Hoon Naa with him in mind. I wanted to make a young movie but he said that he had recently played a college kid in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and felt he was too old to repeat it. So I wrote it backwards so that it could be young yet have him in it. Though he agreed at once, Shah Rukh being Shah Rukh, took three years to start. He is a procrastinator plus he can never say no to anybody. So he will say yes and then keep you waiting. So those three years I was very stressed, wondering if he was really going to do it!
Shah Rukh Khan with Sushmita Sen in a still from 'Main Hoon Na'
I have worked with nearly every producer as a choreographer and I can tell you that there is no producer like Shah Rukh. On his films I would be the production controller trying to control budgets but he was always trying to get better foreign technicians or equipment.
Luckily, I am such a tight and economical director that my films never went over budget. I must be the only director who spent his money wisely and everything is visible in the finished film. I hate shooting action and he loves action so I would meticulously plan my action scenes and then he would come and make it larger with foreign technicians. If I wanted a Jimmy Jib shot, he would call for a helicopter instead. So his shoots always became bigger, bigger, bigger.
Main Hoon Naa was a real pleasure to work on. It was a happy set. And then Om Shanti Om went one step further and became even better. Again on the sets of Happy New Year, Shah Rukh was very relaxed. He’s always at ease when shooting with me because he knows he just has to turn up and not worry about what the shot is or how will it go down. In fact, during Happy New Year, there were so many boys and they would all be in the van playing Playstation till I would scream at them and tell them to come for the shot.
Farah Khan with Shah Rukh Khan on the sets of 'Happy New Year'
The Shah Rukh Dance
On the dancing front, I did not need to reinvent it for him because I understood what he can do and what he looks good doing. But I can’t imagine anyone doing Chaiyan chaiyan like he did. He was literally on top of the engine with me screaming at him to get down. He is fearless, for a shot, he’ll do anything.
I’ve often been asked if the classic dance pose of his with his arms spread out is my invention and truly I can’t really remember but I know there is a lot of it in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa in the Deewana song so I’m taking credit for it.
Considering that Shah Rukh has had some of the best songs I have to say that he has no ear for music at all. Even for Karan’s movies he never interfered in the music. But even though he had no contribution in creating the music, for creating magic on screen, I would give him 100 per cent credit. Any song, when it is picturised on him, becomes 100 times better.
The Special Song: Om Shanti Om
Talking of music, I would credit his goodwill most of all, like 80 per cent, for getting all the actors for the title song of Om Shanti Om. It’s really sad that that was the last time the whole industry came together as a family and there were so much positivity and fun on the sets.
When shooting songs for Shah Rukh, I make sure they are the best, especially romantic songs. The last one I did was Gerua (Dilwale) with him and Kajol and though there’s not much to do when he is doing a romantic song because he is so good at it, it is also important to keep it fresh and new. Another thing about Shah Rukh is that whatever might happen in the middle of a shot, he will never leave it. Like in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Juhi had to throw paint on him which she did and it was only when the shot got over did we realize that the paint had got into his nose and mouth. On cut, he threw up and when I asked him why he hadn’t stopped the shot, he just said that he wanted to complete it. I know actors who call for cut if their hair is a little out of place.
SRK The Person
He is so good on stage, whether he is hosting or interacting with non-film people because for one, he is an excellent people’s person and he also has a ready wit and an excellent command over English. Also, being a theatre person, he is sharp and witty on stage. He is very gracious and he knows how to be funny without running you down. He will always make the other person feel nice, it’s all part of his charm.
I know he always says he is very shy but I’ve never seen him shy so I don’t know why he keeps saying so. Yes, he does get embarrassed when girls throw themselves at him, but shy? No. I am constantly besieged by people who want to meet him but the most embarrassing was when some of my school mothers came for the Ed Sheeran party, and forgetting Ed Sheeran, attacked Shah Rukh and tore his shirt! I think somewhere he also enjoys it so I also don’t stop them from doing it. When I travel abroad it’s the same.
He is more friendly with girls and loves chatting with them. He’s not your Alpha male, your aggressive macho man. He is more of a gentleman. Maybe that’s why we get along so well because he’s in touch with his feminine side and I’m in touch with my masculine side.
Shah Rukh Khan with his co-stars from 'Happy New Year'
Shah Rukh, the Philanthropist
He is a very kind person and I think he has also forgotten the kind acts he has done. He has given money for several junior artistes’ mothers’ operations to set up a children’s wing for children with cancer. In another instance, there was this foreigner driver during the Kal Ho Na Ho schedule in New York who lost his laptop and Shah Rukh went to the Apple store and bought him a new one. He is very generous and never talks about his kind deeds. The one thing that irritates him is somebody being obnoxious.
Salman Khan imitating Shah Rukh Khan!
Shah Rukh, the Father
He is a fabulous father. I used to see him with Aryan when Aryan was small and Shah Rukh was obsessed with him. He gives a lot of time to his kids. He can sit for hours with them. I see him now spend hours with AbRam, teaching him things, how to do gymnastics but Aryan was his obsession. Now I see him much more with Suhana. When she was growing up he used to say, “She’s a daughter, I don’t know how to behave with her. With Aryan, I can backslap him or tap him on his head but she’s a girl and I have to respect her privacy.” He is happiest being a father.
Shah Rukh Khan clicked with his family at their Diwali party
We have spoken a lot about his parents and he always tells me that I remind him a lot about his mother because she was also a fearless, bold lady. I’ve been with him to his mom and dad’s graves when we were once in Delhi.
I would always wish him happiness and I know what gives him maximum happiness is his kids and his work. So I wish that he gets success in both forever because that is truly what gives him happiness.