January 7, 2010


His name is Khan. Shah Rukh Khan. And he doesn’t want people to give him any privacy. “They shouldn’t. All my life I’ve worked very hard for it,” he quips on camera. And so India’s biggest superstar has allowed his fans access to the kingsize life that he leads. At home, at work, at play... over a whole year.

Discovery Travel & Living (DTL) has been following King Khan around the world, as he shops for shoes in London with Karan Johar, cheers on his KKR team in South Africa or relaxes in his den Mannat. The result? A series called Living with a Superstar that will premiere across Asia. India gets to see it from February 26.

What did it take to get that kind of access to Shah Rukh? At the launch of the show in Mumbai on Tuesday, Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager, India, of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, gave an estimate without crunching numbers. “Shooting India’s biggest star with a 15-member crew across the world on high-definition — the 10-episode show cost us more than thrice of a whole season of Asian Diary.”

The investment now seems worth it. The first episode, previewed at the launch, accompanies SRK on vacation. So you get to see Bollywood’s Badshah playing football with kids at London’s Hyde Park, even quarrelling with son Aryan when he cheats. Or posing with Sachin Tendulkar’s wax model at Madame Tussauds like any cricket fan.

The idea sprouted over lunch when Johri met Samar Khan, who heads the TV wing of Khan’s company Red Chillies, and Raj Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Blue Mango Films, which has created some of DTL’s earlier Indian ventures. “Samar’s biggest contribution was the access. But when we broached the topic with Shah Rukh, his first reaction was ‘I am such a boring guy. I wake up in the morning, play with my kids, go to work... what kind of show will that make?’” laughs Johri. The meeting took place in July 2008. The shooting started in March 2009.

Filming a man on the move meant being ever-ready with camera. “He is very flow-oriented, very impromptu, gets switched on like a snap of a finger,” says Vikram Channa, vice-president, programming, India, and head of production, Asia-Pacific, who followed him around. Pointing to an instance in the first episode, he recalls how Shah Rukh suddenly hailed a rickshaw in London, asking the cameraman to take the second. The rest “had to huff and puff behind”.

Extra budget has to be kept ready too. “We had finalised the episodes when suddenly he said he was going to Dubai for Christmas. I had no idea where to squeeze that in but then no one has seen his Dubai house,” Channa laughs. The California trip was more organised. “We rode on the back of the (My Name is Khan) crew there,” Johri says.

Though the star enjoys greater latitude abroad compared to back home, crowd adulation follows him everywhere. “Word had leaked out where he was staying in San Francisco, and three girls had driven for two nights to catch a glimpse of him. They would sleep in the car and loiter on the pavements all day. But the very moment they went to grab a bite, SRK went out. They were so distraught that we engineered a meeting.” This is something the crew vouches for — Shah Rukh always makes time for his fans.

There is no anchor or voice-over. Shah Rukh takes the show along, with both the walk and the talk. The reason the show worked despite Gauri and the kids not being used to the camera, according to Samar Khan, is because the crew never overstepped limits. “For instance, we never shot him while he ate. And the kids could go tell Papa any time ‘We don’t want any more’.”

There are two images one is left with at the end of the screening — Papa hugging two children before he leaves for work, the younger one too busy with a video game to turn her face to him. The other is of a superstar waving to a sea of frenzied fans gathered outside his house.

Both men are called Khan. Shah Rukh Khan.


Waiting to meet King Khan at Mehboob Studios in Bandra was a tricky proposition, having just heard him declare on Living With a Superstar that “Time starts when I come in. I am never on time for my meetings and I am very proud of it...” The minutes ticked on. He was said to be locked indoors for a photoshoot with Kajol, but his customised van was there to gape at, parked next to his silver BMW, both bearing numbers ending with 555. Suddenly the van door opened. He was already inside!

On why he did the Discovery Travel & Living show...

I would never bring my family on the sets. I can never act in front of them. I say this with due respect to the women who bring their moms to the sets — I know they need the security or the feeling they have people around. I have never really told my children how I do what I do. Being a movie star is a strange part of my life that my family does not know about. My kids are not big fans of what I do. I feel this documentary could come in handy there. Also I am glad I’ve said things about my wife and my family and my sister which I cannot say to them. I am strangely formal with my family. I have still not opened my wife’s cupboard. I would not open her handbag. I knock on my kids’ door. My wife says ‘Are you mad?’ — she is a Punjabi — ‘Why are you knocking. Just enter, nah!’ But I can’t get into personal spaces. Also the show is made well. So I will look and sound better (winks).

If he did the show for posterity...

I have never worked anything for prosperity or posterity as far as acting is concerned. It is all right for people to know what I do. This year was nice as there was a lot of travel. And they had the money to follow me. We were in LA, San Francisco, Dubai, South Africa, London.... Also, because I was injured, I was home. From the outside my life may seem exciting, private jet and all, but it’s very normal. I play soccer with my kids... they (Discovery) haven’t caught me doing homework with them. I didn’t want to look dumb (laughs). The kids are not often on camera because of security reasons and because they haven’t done anything to deserve it.

But it’s all right to let people know another side of me. There are words that are said about me — I have a business head, I am manipulative, I am a fantastic father.... all of those are quite untrue. I am as much of those as anyone else is. I want people to understand that. I am writing a book also which, Inshallah, I’ll finish someday. This show is the most public private part of me that has ever come out.

(Turns to Samar Khan of Red Chillies TV) You haven’t caught me taking a bath. (Samar: We have the Lux commercial for that.) (Laughs out loud.)

The real Shah Rukh...

Very few people know who I really am. Strangely a girl who has worked just 35 days with me — she is very intelligent, Anushka (of Rab Ne Bana De Jodi) — she said something which was very true... that you see a different Shah Rukh Khan every day. It’s not that I am moody in the morning or don’t talk to people. I am generally very well-mannered. But very few people know how I get hurt, how I am angry, how I get disturbed, how I compete, how I am vicious, how I am kind.... Every celebrity has that. Again, there’s that part of me which wants to go out in public and create this aura of a superstar. I, toh, live for the camera. If the camera’s not on, I don’t work (smiles).

On the family agreeing to be part of the show...

This year was the right time and the family agreed. That goes also for people like Kajol who was shooting with me. I asked if it was ok with her. Otherwise, they would be following only me.... Earlier, my daughter used to hide, my son used to walk away. But over the years they have come to accept the fact that the camera is part of our lives when they go out with Dad. If they felt so, they would say ‘Papa, I don’t want anymore’ and they would switch it (the camera) off. The guys making this documentary had to have that kind of integrity.

On revisiting his own work...

I don’t watch my films. I have kept that for when I am 97. Even on the first trial, I will walk in, have a few drinks, and go. It’s not nervousness. I thought of it, I made it and now it’s there. A film will depend on what you guys think of it, not me. Like I don’t read my interviews. I look at pictures. I have kind of trained myself not to read them. I find it strange to read what I’ve said. Mahesh Bhatt told me once “Yaar apna interview khud padho toh sabse ajeeb lagta hai.” Khud hi chauk jate hain apne hi jhooth se! And of course you guys make it much better than we are. Now that I am writing on Twitter I know how bad I am.

On spending time with children...

I love children. I don’t know if Michael Jackson was a paedophile — is that the word? — whether the case was proven, but I totally understand his love for kids. I have no friends. They are my friends. On the 13th, my wife is going to leave for a party in Goa. And I am very happy that all her friends are going to leave their children with me. They are outstandingly real. If I can get their purity of expression in my acting — that love, kindness, meanness....

On his calibre as a businessman...

Zero on 10, yaar. I am not as intelligent as people think I am. When things go right, everything goes right. My parents used to say, achha waqt aa gaya.... I believe in striking when the iron’s hot. I believe in a basic tenet of business — it has to be very retail like. Subah ko dukan kholo, raat ko shutter down karo. I have seen people like Mukeshbhai (Ambani) and Lakshmisaab (Mittal). I sit at their meetings and try to understand. They are awesome. But for me, bijli paani ka kharcha nikal jaaye — that is how you start business.



The Illusionist said...

Very good interview here.

"I am strangely formal with my family. I have still not opened my wife’s cupboard. I would not open her handbag. I knock on my kids’ door. My wife says ‘Are you mad?’ — she is a Punjabi — ‘Why are you knocking. Just enter, nah!’ But I can’t get into personal spaces."


MyNaMeIsUMAR said...

very good interview...i always like to read his interview because they r interesting
looking forward to series,it will b fun

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