We all dream. Dreams have hope, and hope has a part of your life clinging to it. You sleep with those dreams, and wake up with those hopes. They become a part of your existence.
May 30, 2016. It was late evening, and I had just reached home from office. As I settled with a glass of mango juice, my phone rang. A lady from the other side announced she’s from a Public Relations company and there’s an event happening the next day, which I should visit. As a journalist, such calls are routine, so I kept nodding and sipping the juice. Then she said something, which made me gulp all of it at once. “Sir, Shah Rukh Khan will be there”. My eyes wide, and with the excitement carefully contained, I told her that I shall pitch the idea and let her know. I really wished the editors approve, and thankfully they did.
May 31, 2016: Shah Rukh Khan was supposed to come at 3 PM, but the track record suggested he wouldn’t be there anytime before 4-4.30. He walked in around 5.30 PM. My wide eyes locked on him, forgetting to blink, and in solidarity, the heart skipped a beat or two.
I was standing in the front row of the media section. Even after standing so close, will he be able to see me, I wondered? But, he HAS seen me already.
| FLASHBACK |
April 2016: Shah Rukh Khan’s first release of the year, FAN, was lined up for release. He was to follow it up with Raees, which has now been postponed to 2017. One of the promotional interviews for FAN was slotted with my office colleague Rohit Khilnani. Before Rohit could go for the interview, my co-SRKFan in office, Urmi and I decided to make a small tribute. We shot a quick video of us dancing on the ‘Jabra Fan’ song from the movie, and sent it across to Rohit. We kept our fingers crossed, hoping SRK gets to see the video.
He did. And thanked us too by taking our names. SRK seeing me, and appreciating the fandom was a big boost. Achievement unlocked.
SRK debuted in 1992. I was born that year, and ever since I was a kid, I used to throw out my jackets in air, like ‘SRK does in his songs.’ I was a fan of his before I even knew myself properly. I am 24 now, and it has been madness, deep-craze, deeper-love and pure respect for this man ever since. In a way, SRK found his feet in the industry around the same time I learned to walk on my feet. Connect? Possible. Exaggeration? Tu Nahin Samjhega.
I came close to meeting him at different events in Delhi, but fate had other plans.
This time, SRK was there on stage for around 20 minutes, interacting with the public and press. He took a few questions too.
Should I ask him something? I had buffered the FAN tribute video, to remind him of the video. It was there on the phone, but will he talk? Most importantly, will we get to meet? I have talked to him once. He had given me a longish response too, and we have hugged.
| FLASHBACK |
It was 2012. Chennai Express was close to release. And I was closer to a long-cherished dream. Yes, it was Shah Rukh Khan.
A friend was interning with a news channel. Chennai Express had them as its media partner. A special show was planned. My friend called me for the show, to sit among the audience.
I was super-duper-hyper-excited, to say it in very few words. I went into the studios. Couldn’t find a seat. But, I was asked to sit on the floor, near to the place where SRK was expected to sit. I silently thanked everyone for taking up all the seats.
The bouncers warned that no body should touch SRK as he has had an arm operation. We all nodded. The camera went on stand-by. Prannoy Roy walked in. He said something, a slightly longish monologue.
Right on the cue, the door opens behind the studios. Just in my line of sight. Straight ahead. There was a mirror partially hidden behind the shoulder of a man in a black blazer and black trousers. Reflecting in the mirror was a part of his face, a part of SRK’s face.
My eyes welled up. Tears were there. Unknowingly. Uncontrollably. He started to walk in. And became grander through the gallery.
15 minutes into the chat, Prannoy Roy opened the discussion to audience. Mr. Roy asked, “Anyone from SRK’s alma mater?” I raised my hand faster than light could ever travel. A boy from Hansraj was asked to put his question. And then somebody else followed. And then “And yes, you now.”
Mr. Roy was looking at me. Shah Rukh Khan was looking at me. It all froze for a moment. There was silence. I couldn’t figure out what to say. All ‘practiced lines’ went blank. SRK smiled. I put a random question to him, which was already asked by someone earlier, but I was too busy to notice. SRK answered that for 15 long minutes. All the while looking straight into my eyes. Talking to me. And I was nodding, jerking my head, smile bursting at the corners, heart doing a mad-jig, and ears unavailable to act properly. I was just happy to be there.
At the end of the show, SRK called everyone for a hug. We all looked at the bouncers. I was sitting the closest. I jumped and went for a hug. I remembered that I took in my little camera (which was not allowed by the way). I wanted to run and fetch the camera, but then all the people were on stage, shaking hands, sharing hugs, and I remembered I was holding SRK’s wrist. Would I ever get an opportunity to be this close? Does a photograph matters at this stage? I held on to his hand. Taking in all the warmth of his hand and the fragrance of his perfume.
The stage was soon cleared. SRK went back to the gallery he emerged from. I replayed it all in my mind. I still do. Goosebumps are a beautiful feeling.
‘What’s wrong in living it all over again?,’ I wondered.
As soon as the main event wrapped up SRK was whisked away by the staff. As the crowd dispersed, I rang up the PR person and asked her to arrange an interview with SRK. She asked me to wait for a while. I was getting anxious – personally and professionally. I had promised to get bytes for the office, and after this long wait, I ain’t going back empty handed. It was a complicated juggle between fandom and professionalism.
“You go next”, the PR said.
Selfie stick, DSLR, mic, headphones, smartphones. Check. This has to be it.
Sadly, it couldn’t be ‘it’. And it was a failed interview, which got messed up because of a group interview with questions asked to be ‘strictly about the event’. Dejection. And then the staff requested us to vacate as soon as the last question was asked. I pulled out my phone, opened the camera, and pierced through the media ring. I was stopped by SRK’s personal staff and the event managers. I looked them in their eyes and blurted a well practiced line I kept for this one moment.
“I have waited 20 years of my life for this moment. You cannot ruin this for me.” They backed off, and even suggested me to handover my phone so they could click. “We’ll take a selfie,” I smiled.
I went and stood next to Shah Rukh Khan. The man smiled, he saw the phone, took it instead, and we looked into my phone. SRK was taking a selfie with me. My phone’s camera UI confused him a little.
Click. Video mode. Swipe. Back camera.
“Ye kya ho raha hai?,” SRK quipped.
“Arey ek minute…” I told him, stretching my hand to guide him.
“No wait, I figured. Smile,” SRK, the photographer was ready. I wasn’t.
Stuff dreams are made of. And I was living it.
Why is this fascination? I don’t have a very clear answer. I was dancing on his songs, even before I knew what movies are, and the whole star-fan relationship. It goes beyond the charm of his movies. It has never been because of his movies, but the person he comes out to be. I don’t know him personally, but I genuinely feel he’s the most wisest mind in the industry right now. His choice of films, notwithstanding, of course. There are many examples of the man’s generosity. Here’s a first person account from the same day as the selfie.
While the interviews wrapped up, and SRK was all set to rush to the airport to catch his flight, two camera-persons from a little-known, local media outlet asked his staff for a photograph. They refused and escorted SRK outside. While I was wrapping up the equipment, I saw SRK come back. He posed with the two, said something with a smile and ran out.
When you see your star doing this, you feel assured that you can count on your investment, and keep counting the years as they come. For there’ll be many. InshaAllah.