Month of SRK: Shahrukh’s Life Story in 5 Sections

I am writing this at work from memory, I don’t have my King of Bollywood (the book, not the person, the person is obviously always with me in my heart) with me, so forgive errors! Forgive, but correct, I will doublecheck and fix if I have to. Also, GOOD LORD this is long!!!!! Sorry about that.

  1. Family Background

Shahrukh’s father Meer was born in Peshawar in 1928. Peshawar is also where Dilip Kumar, and Raj Kapoor, were born. It is a region with a large Pushtan/Pathan population, the ethnic group that populates present day Afganistan. It is also a region where Urdu is the common language, men from this region will be pale and tall and sharp featured with excellent Urdu/Hindi pronunciation. Thus, Hindi film movie stars.

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Meer’s family were bamboo merchants, modestly well off. Meer was the youngest son and the spoiled child, while his brothers did not finish high school he was sent to college. This was in the middle of the freedom struggle and the whole family was heavily involved in the movement. As a teenager, Meer was jailed multiple times along with his brothers. Finally his family became concerned it was affecting his studies and they sent him away to Delhi to study law when he was 18. When he was 19, the Partition came down. Meer’s family were labeled as “pro-Hindu” by the new government, his older brother was jailed for 9 years. Meer himself was told he could not return to Peshawar (now in Pakistan) ever. And in Delhi, he was surrounded by riots. His friends started sleeping in a circle around his bed, ready to protect him if the death squads came for him.

Meanwhile in the south, Fatima Ahmed, was born to an old Hyderabadi Muslim family. The Hyderabadi Muslim community is strong, and strongly connected to the north Indian Muslim culture (which is not true of all south Indian Muslim communities). Fatima was raised speaking Urdu. Fatima’s father was a respected government engineer who was transferred from Hyderabad to Bangalore when she was a child. Fatima never finished high school, was educated at home, but was spoiled by her family in other ways, considered the most beautiful of their children. When she 16, she traveled to Delhi with her father and was in a car accident near India Gate. A young man drinking with his friend in a cafe near by rushed to pull her from the car, take her to the hospital, and donate blood. And that is how Fatima and Meer met.

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Meer at the time was 30 and unemployed. He had successfully finished law school, but then had a hard time finding a profession that suited him. He tried many things, including traveling to Bombay to try to get work as a film extra before giving up and returning to Delhi. His friends from law school had moved on in life, several of them becoming powerful figures in the new Indian government. Meer took free meals and a place to sleep from his friends when they offered, but would never accept a government favor, a job or a contract. He fell in love with Fatima at first sight but knew it would be hard to convince her family to let them marry. Luckily, fate intervened. Fatima’s mother back in Bangalore had just given birth to another child, and there were complications. Meer immediately hoped on a train to Bangalore and saved her life with a blood transfusion. A year later Fatima and Meer were married. His Hindu best friend, a rising political star, hosted their reception in Delhi. A year after their wedding, their first child, a daughter named Shehnaz, was born. 5 years later, their second child, a son Shah Rukh.

Fatima had no brothers. She and Meer and their children remained close to her parents while they were living, but her sisters were never that close to her or her family. 30 years after he had been banished, Meer was finally able to return to Peshawar and see his family again. Only to find that the distance was too great, they saw him as the “rich” “lucky” one from India and were more concerned with what they could get from him than what they could give. It broke his heart. And so now Fatima and Meer’s two children have no extended family. Just each other and the new family they have made.

2. Childhood

When Shahrukh was born, his father was 37 and his mother was 24. They had been married 6 years and life was not easy. Meer started many business (a transport company, a chain of restaurants, a canteen at the National School of Drama, a law practice, a gas station) but somehow none of them ever really made any money. Meer was too honest, too humble, too happy to have that burning fire for success. And meanwhile Fatima’s parents continued to be successful and stable down in Bangalore. So Shahrukh was sent to live with them.

It’s not clear how long Shahrukh was there. He knows he returned to Delhi at age 5, but was he with his grandparents from birth to 5? Or 2 to 5, or 1 to 5? It’s possible Shahrukh himself is not clear on that point. 5 is very young, how many details can he remember? Even his sister would have only been ten when he returned. But what is clear is that, for some reason his parents preferred for him to live with his maternal grandparents as a small child and they brought him back when he was 5.

From 5 to 14, Shahrukh had a generally average happy childhood. Money was always short, but his parents still managed to maintain the basics that made the family “middle-class” rather than “poor”. Shahrukh and his sister were sent to the best local schools and then local colleges. Not the overseas education that the very rich were achieving in this era, but the best of the solidly middle-class education. They lived in middle-class neighborhoods, small apartments but in nice areas. And they enjoyed extra-curriculars, sports and theater and all the rest. But after the money was spent on those necessities, there wasn’t a lot left over for anything else. Food was sometimes a little short on the table. Vacations were unheard of, even movie tickets were too much of a luxury. And I suspect there was a bit of free-floating anxiety about if they could make rent that month, or pay the grocer, or buy new clothes. But Shahrukh’s parents loved their kids and loved spending time with them. They made their home a happy home and their kids feel secure, and safe, and loved.

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Shahrukh was close to his parents during this time, in the way you would expect. A small family with no other relatives near by, and Shahrukh was 5 years distant and a gender away from his only sibling. He used to massage his mother’s feet, and go out for the day and sit in a bench and watch traffic go by with his father. His sister was going to school ahead of him, and then college, bright and popular and successful.

And then when Shahrukh was 14, it all fell apart. It started with the long anticipated trip to Peshawar. Shahrukh went with his father, it was a father son kind of trip, to meet his relatives for the first time and learn about his heritage. And it was heartbreaking. Shahrukh watched his father become sadder and sadder as the trip continued. Finally on the way back to India, standing in the no man’s land between the two borders, his father broke down crying, saying that this is where he belongs, between two countries, no home at all. Shahrukh watched his father cry, and I think something broke inside him in that moment.

A few months later, his father came home and announced he had cancer, and somehow in Shahrukh’s mind, it was all tied up together. That trip poisoned his father on the inside, killed him somehow. And then it reached out and took his sister too. The day she returned home from college to find her father’s body laid out, she fainted and hit the floor so hard the glasses sitting on the table shattered. She was never the same again, that was the start of her illness at age 19 and the bright happy popular young woman was gone.

When his father started to die, they had to rush to find a driver and a car to take them to the hospital (Fatima never learned to drive), and then he died. Shahrukh and his mother left the hospital in shock and reached the parking lot to find the car there, but the man who had driven them over gone. Shahrukh got behind the wheel and started the car. His mother asked him when he learned how to drive, he told her “Today.” That was the end of his childhood.

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3. Gauri

Shahrukh carried his father’s death and his sister’s illness always with him, but he was also strangely innocent and naive in a lot of ways despite his tragedies. At age 19, he was finishing high school and went to one of his first boy-girl parties. The girls sat on one side of the room and giggled and the boys sat on the other side and stared. And finally, Shahrukh got his courage up to cross the room and ask one of the girls to dance. And then to meet him the next day at the swimming pool for a coke date. He rode a bike with his friend, she met them there with her cousin, they split a coke and talked for 5 minutes, and then they were “dating”.

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Shahrukh tells that story a lot, along with a few other stories. Like how years later Gauri wanted to take a break and went to Bombay, and Shahrukh took money from his mother and followed her with his friends, finally finding her magically on a beach. Or how he won over her whole family one by one until they agreed to their marriage. But what he doesn’t talk about, what would be hard to talk about in simple soundbites, is that whole sweep of 7 years from the coke date to the wedding.

When they met, “dating” was a childish game that didn’t really mean anything. Gauri kept going to high school, and freely roaming the city and meeting up with Shahrukh. They spent a lot of time at his apartment with his mother around giving them snacks. Gauri lived in a combined family, her father and uncle sharing a house, Gauri growing up surrounded by cousins and parents. They were middle-class, like Shahrukh’s family, and liberal middle-class, their daughter could wear short skirts and jeans and roam about and get a fashion degree. When Shahrukh and Gauri were “dating”, a silly boy-girl thing that was coke dates and bicycles and laughing with his mother, it was perfectly harmless and acceptable for people of their place in society. Gauri wouldn’t tell her parents about it necessarily (Shahrukh was in a different position being male, and older, and with no family besides his mother to have an opinion), but if they had found out, they wouldn’t have been horrified, just a little angry.

What’s different is that the silly boy-girl thing somehow didn’t die away. Instead it changed and grew as they changed and grew. They started fighting, a lot. Shahrukh was terrified of losing Gauri, especially as his mother grew sicker and sicker and so did his sister. He would follow her, yell at her, torment her. Gauri would back away, increasing his fears, until she came back because she had to come back. And eventually (as he grew up and so did she), he would simply tell her what he was feeling and break her heart. Gauri loved him as well, so much that she was torn up by everything he was going through. Maybe if his mother hadn’t been sick, if his sister hadn’t been as well, if he hadn’t needed her so much, maybe their relationship would have died away. But personally, I don’t think so. I think if Shahrukh had been in a happy stable place, it still would have turned into marriage, just maybe in a different less dramatic way. This is a couple that just fits together.

Shahrukh started working as an actor before he finished grad school. His mother was running a sweet shop and working as a magistrate (thanks to Meer’s old political connections) to make ends meet. Shahrukh got the role in the locally filmed TV serial Fauji and that turned into a job offer for two more serials filmed in Bombay. Which turned into three film offers. Shahrukh was living in an extra room in Bombay in the house of one of his producers, working 20 hour days. And every night he would run out to the phone booth on the corner and call his dying mother in Delhi. And then his girlfriend. They were apart for months and they both knew it couldn’t keep going like this. Long distance was too painful. Lots of fights, Shahrukh could give up his dreams and move back home and they could keep secretly meeting. Gauri could run away from home and secretly marry him in Bombay. Or they could break up. And in the end, they chose the fourth impossible option. Break the news to Gauri’s family that she has been in an intense secret relationship for 7 years with a boy they have literally never even heard of. And then ask for their blessing for her to marry him and move thousands of miles away.

Shahrukh tells the story as him winning over Gauri’s family, like he is a lone hero doing it all by himself. But if you read between the lines, it was Gauri who arranged it. Gauri had Shahrukh meet her “cool aunt” first, surprise them at a lunch at a restaurant. The aunt was, indeed, very cool and immediately supportive. And then Gauri invited him for a big general house party, they managed to pull her father aside and get him alone and Shahrukh explained who he was and that he wanted to marry his daughter. Gauri’s father was shocked and furious at this total stranger announcing he had been in love with his daughter for 7 years and was going to marry her, and ordered him out of the house immediately. Gauri’s mother walked in during all of this and got all excited about seeing the young actor from “Fauji” at their party, and very confused as to why he was leaving so suddenly. That was just the start of the drama. From Shahrukh’s side, the stories he tells, Gauri’s brother came to his house and showed him a gun and warned him away. Her father ordered him out of the house. It’s all very scary, but he kept going and trying. We don’t know Gauri’s side, we don’t know what she told her family or threatened them with. But I have to imagine that her influence with the people who loved her was far greater than anything Shahrukh, this stranger, could have offered or threatened. And it was Gauri who told Shahrukh what to do, how to win them over. Their marriage, with the blessing of her family, is as much or more a tribute to her love than his.

They were married, with full glory and triumph. Again, these were two very liberal Delhi families in a liberal kind of social group. A cross-religious marriage was unusual but not unheard of in their social group. Especially with Gauri’s family giving full public support, arranging a Hindu ceremony (legally meaningless though it was) of blessing after the legal registrar marriage, this was an occasion of celebration not shame. Shahrukh looks nervous and responsible, Gauri is glowing. For whatever reasons, reasons we can’t know, this is exactly what she wanted in life. Marriage to a strange sad lonely poor boy who clung to her like she was the only thing that mattered on earth. She was 21, he was 26.

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After marriage, they moved to Bombay, living in one room together while Shahrukh worked crazy hours trying to get his career started. He brought Gauri along as much as possible, on location shoots or just hanging around sets, included her in ad campaigns, invited her to industry events. He asked her to pick out his costumes for her too, gave her a real reason to be around so much. It was the only way they could be together, for her to join his life. It was a kind of miserable life for Gauri, going from a beloved 21 year old with family and friends and a city she loved, to living in one room running around after her husband because he was the only person she knew in the whole city. And yet in all the photos, there she is smiling. Happy just to be with him.

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4. Bombay Family

When Shahrukh started working in Bombay, he had a dying mother, a sick sister, and a miserable girlfriend waiting for him in Delhi. And in Bombay he had a producer who had promised to help him find a place to live and steady work. Shahrukh clung to that first producer, lived rent free in an old apartment the family had, went over to his house for dinner most nights. He clung to everyone who was kind to him in those early years. Once Gauri joined him, he clung even more because now he was trying to build a family for both of them.

Shahrukh remained faithful and loyal until now to those first few friends, Aziz Mirza and Ashutosh Gowariker and Kundan Shah and a few others. But it was after that, after a year when he had begun to find his footing and had brought a wife to join him, that he found his true lifelong family in Bombay. He had to know who he was first, before he could reach out and find the people who would truly love him for that, not just pity him.

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Shahrukh helping Aziz Mirza at Kundun Shah’s funeral, over 20 years after the pair of them had directed him in one of his first TV serials.

Salman Khan was one of the first. Not because they were working together or Shahrukh was a rival or anything like that. But because Shahrukh and Gauri were lonely young people in the film fraternity and the Khan family felt responsible. They invited them over for dinner, board game nights, long lovely evenings where they could feel warm and loved. Decades later, the little baby girl they played with on those evenings got married, and Shahrukh went over the night before her wedding to kiss her head and give her the blessing of a big brother.

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And then Yash Chopra, lovely Yashji who was always smiling and kind and understanding. And who saw something in this strange new actor that made him offer him a great role in a great film. Maybe they would have remained warm and caring co-workers and no more, but on the set of Darr Shahrukh and Aditya Chopra discovered each other. Shahrukh and Aditya somehow went right into the heart of each other. Two intense strange young man who found a perfect pair. Yashji and Pamela, they weren’t used to their odd son Adi making friends, they brought Shahrukh right into their family after that shoot. Shahrukh worked with Yashji and Adi 5 more times after that, but it wasn’t just about the work. When Yashji lay dying in his hospital bed, Shahrukh was in the room with him, his third son.

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There’s Juhi too, also on that first film with Yashji. Shahrukh doesn’t talk a lot in public about his connection with Juhi, just says they are friends and tells stories about being shy with her on the first movie. But 5 years later they were filming Duplicate together in Prague when Juhi’s mother was randomly killed in front of her in a car accident. Shahrukh stood by her, cheered her up, supported her. And a few years after that, he made her his business partner in his production house, and made her brother their first CEO. And then her brother, only in his 40s, suddenly had a stroke and fell into a coma, a coma which lasted for years. Again Shahrukh was quietly there, up to the funeral, supporting Juhi. It’s an interesting friendship, it doesn’t seem to include their families, or even other friends. You don’t see Juhi and Karan Johar and Ranbir Kapoor hanging out, or Shahrukh with Juhi’s husband and children. And yet in the hardest times of Juhi’s life, it has been Shahrukh who is there holding her up. And Juhi is the one Shahrukh chose to make his partner in business, the one who owns half of what he owns.

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And finally, Karan. After Adi, Shahrukh’s first real friend in the film industry and in Bombay. He assisted on DDLJ, Adi’s first movie, and met Shahrukh on set. He met Gauri too, she came for the location shooting like she always did and Karan showed her around. By the end of the shoot, Shahrukh made Karan promise he would direct and would direct Shahrukh. Karan made Kuch Kuch Hota Hai with Shahrukh and somehow, by the end of that shoot, they had one of those magical rare relationships that cannot be defined and yet also cannot be killed. Shahrukh was Karan’s muse, he inspired him. And he was also his big brother, the husband of Karan’s new best friend Gauri, and eventually Karan’s co-parent as well. Shahrukh’s first child was born while preparing for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Karan was there from the start. As the kids grew up, Karan was there to pick them up and drop them at school, to calm Gauri down when she worried too much, to buy Shahrukh clothes when Gauri couldn’t any more, to really be the family they didn’t have.

Shahrukh has said over and over that Karan is even more Gauri’s friend than his. And I think that is true, and that is why Karan is so special to him. The one person in Bombay who is allowed into the very center of his life. Gauri was lonely and out of place in Bombay, Karan made her feel safe and happy and like she belonged. He still does that for her, he is the one Shahrukh calls when Gauri needs someone to cheer her up, he is the one there to help Gauri say good-bye when her kids leave for boarding school, and Gauri is the one there with Karan when his mother goes into the hospital. They are all lonely people, the three of them, an orphan, a woman pulled away from her home and family, and an only child who never thought he could have a family of his own. And so they filled each other’s gaps, gave each other the love and belonging and acceptance they couldn’t get anywhere else. That’s a strong thing, and a real thing, and it is one of the central parts you have to understand in order to understand Shahrukh. In his life, there is Gauri, there are his children, there is his sister, and then there is Karan. In Karan’s life, there is his mother, there is his children, and then there are Shahrukh and Gauri and their children. Everything else, everyone else, comes behind.

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5. Children

Shahrukh and Gauri were married for 7 years before they had children. That’s a long time in Indian culture. Shahrukh has said that at one point Gauri claimed to never want children. I can believe it. Gauri isn’t the usual type of woman, that’s why she wanted to marry an unusual type of man, she would be brave enough to acknowledge to herself and say out loud if motherhood wasn’t what she wanted. On the other hand, it is clear that Shahrukh always wanted children, wanted any kind of family. It doesn’t have to be said, it is obvious, that for Shahrukh having Gauri was worth giving up kids. And for Gauri, making Shahrukh happy was worth becoming a mother. It’s an everyday kind of sacrifice that millions of couples make for each other. But those 7 years tell me that Shahrukh meant his sacrifice, was happy with just Gauri for a long time. And that Gauri meant her reluctance, it took her 7 years to be ready to make that sacrifice.

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And then once Aryan was on the way, the predictable miracle occurred and all doubts disappeared and they became loving dedicated, almost obsessive, parents. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy, or an easy birth. Gauri really struggled. But then Aryan arrived, a happy healthy bouncing baby. They took him everywhere. Just as Gauri used to follow Shahrukh set to set in the early years of marriage so they could be together, now she and Aryan followed him place to place and set to set, whatever it took so he could be close to his baby. And two years after Aryan, Suhana, their daughter. The family of 4 traveled the world, babies never out of sight of their father and mother. It was a different time then, before cell phone cameras and social media. Of course, this was also the era when the mob was calling with regular death threats. Gauri and their children were constantly surrounded by bodyguards and police protection. But they were also able to play with friends in the yard, have school plays, just be kids so long as their famous parents weren’t around. They went to regular Bombay private schools, the same type that Shahrukh went to when he was a child, they had sleepovers with friends and house parties. Their parents picked them up and dropped them, sat in the audience and cheered them on at tae kwon do matches, went to their school plays. Remove the bodyguards and the mansion, and they were enjoying the same childhood their parents had.

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But slowly, everything started changing. And part of that is because of decisions Shahrukh and Gauri made as parents. They did not force their children into posed photo shoots, nor did they try to hide them away. Photographers, celebrity, it was taught to them as a fact of life. And in their childhood it was an easy fact, but it got harder as they got older. Aryan in particular, it is rare to see a photo of him smiling. Seemingly just because he hates the photographers. And it didn’t get easier as he hit his teen years. Suhana, she smiles in photos all the time, the camera loves her and she loves it. But as she hit puberty, the response to her photos became less “what a cute little girl” and more “HOT! Her boobs are enormous”. Or, “disgusting, what kind of young girl shows so much skin”. Not good things for a 14 year old to read about herself. What do you do as a parent? Do you force your son to smile? Do you put your daughter in coveralls? Or do you just let them be themselves, whatever they want to be? Shahrukh and Gauri opted for the third option but, after a certain point, it was just too hard for any teenager to be themselves when their private instagram accounts and facebook pages are hacked, when they can’t go out with their friends without photographers swarming. And so Shahrukh and Gauri did something their regular average middle-class parents never would have done, they sent their children halfway around the globe to a boarding school. A boarding school where they would be safe and free and happy in a way they couldn’t be at home. This isn’t a school that is about grades and prestige, it is a tiny little place in the middle of London that specializes in children of very very famous parents who just want to be normal.

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Of course there are schools like that in India too, like The Lawrence School where Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt were sent to escape their parents’ fame. The problem is, you would be safe from the media and the mob there, but not from your fellow classmates who look at you and only see your famous parents. To get away, completely away, you have to go overseas.

Aryan and Suhana grew up together, and Gauri and Shahrukh grew as parents with them. Those were the years when Gauri was a full time wife and mother, dedicated to keeping this family together. When they were remodeling their house Mannat, when they were finding their friends, when they were figuring out their lives. It was a very different kind of family that Gauri and Shahrukh’s third child AbRam arrived to.

AbRam’s birth itself brought on controversy and attacks. Rumors started that something was happening long before any official announcement. And of course the ugliest rumors started first. AbRam was the child of Shahrukh and a woman with whom he had an affair. AbRam was a last attempt to have a son (because Suhana wasn’t good enough). Or simply, AbRam was a desperate attempt to fix a falling apart marriage. The reality, in the years since his birth, seems to have been extremely simple. Shahrukh and Gauri felt their family was not complete. They went to a doctor, got advice, and found a surrogate. The surrogate gave birth to AbRam early, he was in the NICU for weeks. They finally brought him home, took care of him, helped him grow strong, and only then announced his birth.

It is the period when AbRam is in the NICU that I keep coming back to. During that time, Shahrukh gave interviews, went to parties, filmed his movies. And Gauri, presumably, spent all her time at the hospital. This is what their parenting had become, the best thing Shahrukh could do as a father and a husband was to NOT be with his sick child. To instead be out in the world, keeping the cameras away from his family. If AbRam had never left the hospital, we (the public) would never even know this child had existed. Shahrukh’s sacrifice would have let his family mourn in peace. And in fact, that may have happened more times than we know. A couple doesn’t usually turn to surrogacy until they have survived everything else they can possibly try.

Shahrukh is still making that sacrifice, but now he has AbRam to keep him company. While his wife and older children are hidden away, Shahrukh and AbRam face the press, the crowds, everything else. For most parents, those early years of childhood are when the child is most fragile. For Shahrukh, it is when the child is most protected. AbRam can’t read the gossip press online, he doesn’t know or care what people are saying about him. And who could say anything bad? There may be people with the darkness of soul to attack a 14 year old girl for wearing a short skirt, but is there anyone ugly enough to attack a little boy for what he wears, or says, or how he looks?

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“Miss-matched shoes? Fashion DON’T! Who is AbRam, thinking he is better than the rest of us 5 year olds who struggled and earned our place in kindergarten, who would never been so thoughtless as to wear shows that don’t match? Nepotism!” Okay, so I guess it is possible to be nasty about a little kid, but why would anyone want to?

Maybe that’s why Shahrukh’s children are all so strangely protective of him. Because they know how much he needs people, needs them, and how he pulls away to protect them. They will give him hugs, presents, tell him he is the best Dad. They will put up with last minute flying visits to college campuses, and let him hang out in the room while they play games with their friends all night. Last year, it was Suhana who planned out Shahrukh’s birthday weekend to get him away from work and relax. Aryan, who doesn’t want to be an actor, agreed to dub The Incredibles and later The Lion King with Shahrukh so they could spend time together.

His children are where Shahrukh finds happiness, the only place he finds true happiness I think. After his own childhood of confusion and tragedy, here is a second chance to live a life of hope and freedom and security through the eyes of his own three children. Who will never want, or fear, or have the sense that they are not loved.

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48 thoughts on “Month of SRK: Shahrukh’s Life Story in 5 Sections

  1. This is beautifully written!

    Since you said you didn’t mind corrections, I just wanted to give some context you may not have as a non-Indian. Starting with his parents story, Fatima was not an uneducated girl. She studied at Oxford as did her father. He wasn’t just a government engineer. He was the Chief Engineer of the state of Karnataka. He was responsible for building the Mangalore port which was a huge deal in its time. There are pics online of him inaugurating the port with the then Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shashtri. SRK himself has talked about his mother being very well to do – she was at one point engaged to a cricketer from Team India – Abbas Ali Baig.

    SRK and his sister did not just go to local middle class schools. St. Columbas and Modern School (which his sister and also Gauri went to) were probably the top schools in all of India at that time. They have an illustrious list of alumni – all the big politicians, royalty, journalists, etc. went to these schools. SRK’s childhood friends from those schools are all very wealthy men. I think SRK was able to go because his father had very good connections from his freedom fighting days even though they did not have money. That stands true for his mother Fatima also. She was quite high up in the Congress party, a close friend of Ruksana Sultana (Amrita Singh’s mother) and a known associate of Sanjay Gandhi. There are pics online of SRK’s mother with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi too.

    That doesn’t change SRK’s story – he was still a poor boy and an orphan later on – but both his parents had political connections. They, however, did not have the money that would usually go with it.

    Gauri was not a regular middle-class girl. In her case, not even in monetary terms. Her family lived in a bungalow in South Delhi – I don’t know how else to explain it. You have to have some very serious cash to have a house in a location like that. (For example, if someone lives in a brownstone in Brooklyn, you can place what level of wealth they would be at) That was one big reason her parents were against SRK. Not only that he was Muslim but he was way too poor for their standards. Her family owned factories and showrooms that produced textiles and clothing that was shipped to international locations. They still have it – they supply clothing to everything from Abercrombie & Fitch to Primark. They have an office in Los Angeles too. Her parents actually saw SRK once in Delhi when they didn’t know him wearing one of their shirts. They couldn’t figure out how this boy had a shirt that was created by them only for export. Gauri had obviously given it to him and she pretended she didn’t know what they were talking about. She had asked SRK to lie and say he has 20 lakhs in his bank account so that her parents would not freak out that he was broke. Again, 20 lakhs in 1991 is a HUGE amount of money, the kind money middle class people might have as life savings. Gauri knew this is the amount her 25 year old boyfriend would need to pretend to have lying in his bank account. That is not middle class in the slightest. There are also old quotes by Vivek Vaswani and others alluding to it – he had said something like how SRK works so hard because “Gauri is a rich girl and he wants to provide her everything she is used to.”

    Regarding them having kids after so many years – I think it was partly because they were having miscarriages. SRK has mentioned that Gauri went through several of them before Aryan. Once was when he was filming Pardes in Los Angeles. When he told Subhash Ghai that he had to leave, Ghai told him he needs to stay to finish filming. He left anyway and vowed he would never work with Ghai again. I think she’s always had a very hard time with pregnancy. Surrogacy for AbRam makes perfect sense.

    About the kids’ boarding schools, Sevenoaks, which Aryan went to, is actually very prestigious. Suhana went to Ardingly which is not as prestigious but it’s known for its drama department so it makes sense for her.

    Agree with you about AbRam. He is the cutest and too young for people to be able to make rude comments. Boys have it much easier than girls anyway. It’s not like anyone is going to comment on their clothes or makeup. Aryan was very introverted and disliked the public attention even when he was small but AbRam is different. In terms of personality, he seems to be SRK’s true successor. He likes hanging out on sets, enjoys waving to fans, genuinely seems to like people and is completely at ease in front of camera. Even during the Letterman shoot, he was perfectly fine and happy. I think Aryan was actually home when this was shot (during summer vacation) and they obviously kept him out of the shoot pretending like he wasn’t there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for the context!

      Until I sat down to write this, SRK had successfully pulled the wool over my eyes and I saw his love story with Gauri as about this funny boy chasing this girl, I hadn’t thought of it from her side before. Your additional information makes me even more interested in her. Not only could she have married better, she could have been running a fashion house if she wanted to, or a textile factory. But instead she was stealing shirts to give to her poor boy boyfriend, and feeding him lies to convince her parents. The official version Shahrukh sells keeps Gauri out of the light, but looking at it, she must have been as committed to this impractical impossible relationship as he was, if not more so.

      AbRam is so cute! And I’ll be interested to see how he grows up. So far it seems like Gauri and Shahrukh have followed a different path for each child based on the child’s needs. Suhana is in front of the cameras more and more as she gets older and more comfortable, Aryan less and less, and now AbRam is actually smiling and waving at photographers and seems to really enjoy it all.


      • Yes, the context helps to understand. Like Gauri going to fashion school wasn’t about her parents being cool. It was because it was their family business! Her niece is currently in fashion school in London. Her nephew sometimes posts pics hanging out with big designers like the guys behind DSquared, etc. Those are all Chhibba connections – they don’t come through SRK.

        SRK as we know always downplays his life to err on the side of the ‘middle-class story.’ Same happens to the version of Gauri he shows.

        It brings me to a story Koel Purie told once. If you don’t know her, she is a TV host and interviewer. She has interviewed SRK a few times – she’s also the daughter of Arun Purie who is a huge name in the media because he was the head of the India Today group. Koel and Gauri went to school together – Gauri was Koel’s senior. She’s mentioned that SRK used to come there to see Gauri (long before he was a star) and make Gauri climb fences and run off the campus, etc. She’s talked about how all the girls in school were crazy about him even then but he never looked at anyone other than Gauri. It’s not that he was so handsome or anything but I think he’s always had a huge charisma that drew people to him. If SRK liked you, what are the chances that you would reject him? In spite of him being so bad on paper, I don’t think Gauri could have really said no.


        • Except, Gauri did say “no”. And then “yes” again. To me, that’s one of the biggest signs of how close they are. She got close enough to get passed the charisma, to the real man, and was able to pull away. And when she came back, it wasn’t because of the charisma and charm and all the rest but because she cared about the “real” Shahrukh underneath it. He lets her see that “real” Shahrukh.

          At least that is how I see it. She’s the one person (besides his sister and his kids) who can get right in there past the veil and see the person. And she loves that person, the real person, which is I think why Shahrukh needs her so much. Does that make sense?


          • Completely agree. I think she’s the one person who was able to get past his incredible charisma and see him as a normal person. SRK, I think, also knows that. She’s the only one in the world who will tell him when he’s wrong and not get taken in by all the hype around him. I think he really treasures it. He once said when he got his wax figure at Tussands, his friends were crying and so excited and making plans to go to London with him. But Gauri couldn’t care less and didn’t even want to go with him. That his friends had to convince him her to come along because she was so uninterested. He said he loves it because it tells him that she loves him for the person he is and not for his fame or achievements. (She often catches flak from his fans for being so “uncaring” towards him.)
            But in general, I think there’s hardly anyone in the world who can say no to him about anything.


          • And she chose to love him. His kids and his parents see him/saw him that way too I am sure, he is just “normal” with them. But you are always going to love your son, or your father. Gauri sees him as a normal person and picked him to marry anyway. That must be so powerful. I mean, it’s powerful for anyone who has a love marriage, knowing that you were chosen by that person. But for Shahrukh in particular who has always struggled with feeling unloved, not deserving, it must mean a lot.


    • So glad you liked it! And appreciate that you read all the way to the end. I really should have broken it into two parts.

      On Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 1:31 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, he indeed lives in your heart, Margaret. And again, I admire your understanding, reading between lines, looking at both sides.

    Just to add some things…
    Gauri: She had at least two miscarriages before being pregnant with Aryan. She also had been warned that pregnancy and birth could be risky. She had more than these two miscarriages, at least after Suhana’s birth and she was vehemently adviced not to go through labour a third time. ShahRukh openly opted for a third child already when Suhana still was a little girl but he equally openly said that Gauri was the one who mattered in that matter.

    his father: birth year is 1927, I think (SRK tweeted in 2013 that he would have been 86 – the 27th of October).
    What I know about his father was, that he left home on his own whish rather young, at 16, if I’m not mistaken (wasn’t sent away) to go to India (his family wanted partition, he didn’t) and there, he joined a group of freedomfighters fighting for a Muslim leader who was against partition. He only started to study then. Was described as an highly intelligent and humerous man entertaining others a lot but otherwise rather quiet.
    The cancer was in his mouth (tongue/ pharynx), so from one point of time, he couldn’t eat anymore and even drinking something would become an atrocious pain. I guess, Meer didn’t went to a doctor until he noticed that his pains while swallowing something wouldn’t go away. I don’t know how much radio-/chemotherapy had been developped at that time in India (in 1981), but nowadays, this kind of cancer is treatable and most often curable getting nutrition and medcaments through a feeding tube. But going with ShahRukh, his father had had great pain to take some gulps of water not long before he was admitted at the hospital and he only tried to calm his son who had brought him the water to his bed and pleaded him to drink it.
    I don’t think that they had enough money (despite some support from an aunt from London) to by all the needed radio- and chemoshots, the nutrition for a feeding tube and all the needed infusions…it seems like it was an always interrupted treatment to me.

    If I remember rightly, ShahRukh was younger when his father took him with him to get to know his family…nevertheless the incident on the bridge and what he learned in Peshawar and at home made him think and feel that he hasn’t a family in Pakistan. In addition, instantly after his mother’s death, there had been stress with them because of heritage issues.
    I wonder if his father was a smoker, too. He died about five weeks before his 54th birthday…

    Sheynaz shock was so violent because she had been kept in the ignoring of how serious her father’s condition was (I understand that she lived in another city while studying psychology). It was only when her dad had alredy died that she was summoned home (fetched by her brother?) without getting to know that her father had died. (Are there examens in mid-september in India?). After that, her emotional and mental condition wasn’t diagnosed rightly and she even got false medication.

    His mother got diabetis (if ShahRukh says cancer, maybe in addition but diabetis in itself shuts the body down without a regular treatment)…and again it has been the emotional stress to get the money for the treatment and the medicaments to the patient. As Kundan Shah’s and Aziz Mirza’s Circus serial was shot in Mumbai (it was a serial from 1989 t0 1990), it was a constant pressure to get the medecine, to get back to Delhi, to get back to Mumbai do the shootings…he couldn’t be really t h e r e for his mom and if I imagine his sister’s condition at this time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you liked it! After the Letterman special, I really started to see Gauri more clearly. Shahrukh (purposefully to protect her) tends to put himself in front when he tells their story. It’s all about the poor boy punching above his weight and convincing the pretty cool girl to be with him. But taking another look at it, Gauri was the one who lied to her family for 7 years, Gauri was the one who figured out how to tell them and arranged things just so for Shahrukh to be introduced, Gauri was the one who was willing to elope if they couldn’t get permission. Shahrukh had it easy in a way since his mother was always aware and supportive straight through, and he had the job and the house and all the rest. Gauri was the one risking everything on this very unpromising young man.

      On Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 6:18 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 2 people

      • I love the occasional deadly serious replies Shah Rukh gives about her in interviews. Just little things like “My fans know me in 2D, Gauri knows me in 3D.” or simply “I love my wife.” Whatever problems they have had, a deeper connection is there that is so positive to witness even at long distance.

        I re-watch this occasionally. It is so cheesy in some ways, but lovely to see how protective and solicitous he is of her when he is on stage with her, and how simply they talk about their day to day life. I wonder why on earth she agreed to do this show. Was Shah Rukh’s career in a rough patch? Or maybe as a favor for a friend?


        • Shahurkh is so good with words, but I feel like his connection with Gauri is something he truly cannot find the words to describe. Which is true for all really deep relationships, I would say the same about him and Karan actually. And of course him and his children. They have been together for 34 years, there’s kind of a baseline there that is so deep and strong that it makes everything else work. They can fight, they can get caught up in their work, all kinds of things can happen, but that connection is never going to be touched by anything else on the surface, can’t even come close. That’s part of what I find silly with the PC affair rumors. Affair or no affair, does anyone REALLY think Shahrukh loved PC enough to threaten his marriage? There is just no way. His marriage is everything, something a lot more than just “love”.

          On Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 8:51 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


          Liked by 2 people

        • The fact that he pretty much completely refused to acknowledge PC says it all. Once she started acting nutty, he completely distanced himself at least publicly. We know this is not how he treats people he loves. He was adamant since the beginning that Gauri get the respect she deserves. When people like Aamir and Juhi used to hide their marriages, SRK refused to. He was the first movie star in his era that so proudly brought his wife to public functions, did photo shoots with her, and spoke so much about her in interviews. In today’s time, that is normal but it wasn’t back then. Even people like Anil Kapoor used to keep their wives hidden at home – it was known they were married but it wasn’t something that was ever really talked about. It was considered a liability.

          How many of these industry men put their wives’ names as producers? None. We know Gauri doesn’t really even do anything but he still credits her and puts her name front and center.

          He has always considered it really important to acknowledge and respect her in front of the world. SRK doesn’t hide away people that he loves.

          Liked by 2 people

          • There’s an old interview with Anupama from back before marriage, when he was a nobody new actor in town. And part of the interview is her talking about how Shahrukh was known for not shutting up about his girlfriend, he carried her photo everywhere and showed it to everyone from reporters to cameraman and got them to confirm how beautiful she was. It wasn’t just that he didn’t hide the marriage, he didn’t even hide her before they were married!

            Liked by 2 people

        • Oh that “First Wives” show was produced by Red Chillies when it had a television wing. I guess Gauri came on to support the family business.
          SRK later shut down the television and advertising wing of RCE saying that he wanted to streamline and only focus on two or three things and not have his finger in everything.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. First I LOVED this. You wrote it beautifully and the “corrections” just enhance it. A couple of things: did you notice at the beginning of that old Holi video (I can watch that over and over) that I think its Aziz maybe, the guy to the left of the ‘pool’ imitates Shah’s pose as he gets out of the water? I never noticed that.
    Re: the birth order. Yes, its clear that were were multiple miscarriages and difficult births which is why they needed a surrogate for the 3rd and why it took so long. But there is another piece to this, I think which is connected to the PC debacle. Carol and I have done the timeline many times. When PC was putting out her “I’m having an affair PR” and when the film fraternity theoretically boycotted her and then didn’t…Gauri and Shah Rukh were in the middle of this whole process: the pregnancy, the premature birth, the fear the baby would die which was a real possibility. Gauri wasn’t seen out and about with him because she was at the hospital. What everyone interpreted as an estrangement between them was really them coping and EXACTLY as you said, he went in public, pretending all was fine (as he says, “I am an actor after all) so she could be out of the public eye, going to the hospital etc. Also, surrogacy for the Mom is not nothing, People act sometimes like the mom is too pampered or lazy to do the hard work. The hormone shots, the “extraction” etc etc is very fierce and difficult. You are pumped full of hormones and don’t feel like yourself for months. So add that on top of everything. (worse than pregnancy) That is why we are positive beyond a shadow of a doubt he did NOT have an affair with PC, even an emotional one. He would never do that to Gauri and for all the reasons you’ve stated above and more. And a father worried about a surrogate pregnancy taking and then a sick baby and working around the clock does NOT have the energy for an affair anyway. But, the real reason is he just wouldn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep, Gauri was MIA a lot in 2012 because she was busy with the whole surrogacy process. It makes perfect sense that she didn’t want to fly in and out just to go to cricket games or hang off his arm at film functions. Of course SRK wouldn’t be able to tell the world the real reason for why she’s not with him. It allowed the rumors to go crazy because Gauri wasn’t around.

      I don’t think SRK would ever forgive PC for taking advantage of such a time to plant rumors for her own gain. He stopped acknowledging her post 2012 (his last tweet ever to her was regarding a false article that had been planted about him wanting her in HNY – he denied it and denied the rumors about them as well). After that point, he tries not to even take her name even when he’s asked sly questions like “how do you feel DP and PC are doing in HW” type of stuff. He makes sure to never say her actual name so that it can’t be turned into a soundbite. He will say something like “everyone who has gone there is doing well” type of thing that can’t be edited and messed with.

      As for a minor fling during Don 2 time – it’s possible I guess but we will never know. He is a huge movie star at the end of the day. He has temptations day in and day out and is constantly surrounded by women who would die to be with him. Could he slip up once? Maybe. When you’re shooting far away from home, lonely, maybe had a few drinks.. things can happen. But was it important? No, I don’t think so. I mean personally I think that might explain why PC was so relentlessly after him even when it could be damaging to her career. She carried on for years and years, trying every possible way to embarrass him or bait him into talking about her.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I could always believe a minor fling during Don 2, after all anything can happen with anyone. But I just don’t believe in the temptations theory. I just don’t think that has an affect on the kind of marriage Gauri and Shahrukh have. If he wouldn’t cheat with a plain average woman, he wouldn’t cheat with a movie star either. But, on the other hand, if they have a “what happens on location doesn’t matter” deal (which I suspect a lot of movie star marriages have, in India and elsewhere), than yes I could more easily believe in a fling. Or alternatively, if that was a particularly difficult period in his marriage, the old “cheating isn’t the problem just a symptom” theory.

        But I still lean away from it, especially after going over the Gauri love story again and seeing them together in the Letterman interview. They have such a strikingly different kind of intimacy together, I find it easier to believe that they are each others first-and-only partners, to the point that they can’t imagine anyone else, than that he is having affairs.


        • I agree with you regarding the second paragraph. I definitely don’t think they have an open marriage or that he’s going around having multiple affairs.

          But it’s the PC part of the puzzle that has never quite fit. Her insane behavior has never really added up for me. She isn’t completely kooky like Kangana. Wouldn’t it have been easier for her to just maintain a friendly relationship with him? Why do all this public drama? She could have gotten more movies with him after Don 2 since they had good chemistry if she didn’t start acting like a psycho and trying so hard to connect herself to him romantically. What was the reason for her to shoot herself in the foot like that when there was nothing to gain at the end of it?

          She’s tried so hard to convince people that she had a relationship with him. Why? It doesn’t make sense. And why did everyone just let go of this bad behavior? Even Gauri’s best friend, Karan, was inviting her to to his talk show and remained friendly with her. (after one initial outburst) Even after the outrageous jacket stunt, Karan continued being friendly with her.


          • One theory that came up in the comments here at some point is that PC is gay and using the Shahrukh story as a kind of beard. Which kind of makes sense to me for all the reasons you list out. It would be even more shocking and horrible than an affair.

            As for Karan, while SRK and Gauri may prefer not to deal with her again or give fuel to the fire by talking about her, I can believe they let their friends know to just treat her like normal because anything else would just increase the stories.

            Mostly it just feels like people not understanding marriages in some way. I don’t see the SRK and Gauri marriage as anything unusual, although still wonderful. I know plenty of couples like them, married for years and years, can’t even imagine cheating. It’s not obviously a lie, or false, or fake, or anything.


    • I hadn’t thought about the strain on Gauri pre-birth, thanks for pointing that out. This was also the year when Shahrukh got into the fight with Farah’s husband and just generally seemed “off”. If they were going through this very private trauma, and if Gauri wasn’t there to be his rock like usual, it explains why he was so visibly distressed in so many ways during that time.

      I do wonder, having written this out, how many private tragedies they suffered on the way to AbRam. Shahrukh did his job as the decoy, so we may never really know how many miscarriages, how many failed hormone cycles, how many years they were trying.

      With the affair stuff, not just with Shahrukh but male celebrities in general, have you noticed that often it is phrased as “of course he had an affair, all those beautiful woman working so closely with him, he must have”. As if the only reason not to have an affair is that you don’t have beautiful women available. I find that very revealing of how those people see the world. Is the only reason they are faithful to their wives because no one is offering? Is that really what marriage means to them? Shahrukh wouldn’t cheat on Gauri because that’s not the kind of marriage they have, and that’s all that matters.

      On Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 10:35 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Exactly. All that bad stuff happened the same year…the year they were trying to conceive, and then did conceive AbRam…There was a long hiatus between bad behavior on his part before. And remember he describes himself (as well as his brother in law) as Delhi ka Gundas.


  4. I thought I’d expand a little bit about Juhi. It does seem like Gauri is completely uninvolved in this friendship. I don’t think there’s hardly even one or two pictures where they are seen together at the same time. But it still seems to work for them and nobody has any issue with it which is interesting.

    That’s not the case with Jay, though. SRK and Jay are very close friends and dare I say probably closer than he and Juhi are. After Dreamz shut shop, Juhi said she decided to save the friendship and let go of the business because it was causing too many fights and problems between them and everyone was unhappy. She is not involved in the cricket business and that is Jay’s baby by her own admission. SRK has also said he never gets to see Juhi because she goes to sleep really early and he doesn’t have time until late at night. So he goes and hangs out with Jay and leaves.

    There’s a total bromance there – they go out to dinners together with a group of friends (no Gauri or Juhi), go on vacations together with other pals (again no Gauri or Juhi) and handle the cricket business. I don’t think SRK even spends that kind of time with Karan.

    For instance, last year when Juhi and Gauri were both abroad for some Ambani wedding thing, Jay and SRK were having dinner together with their friends (SRK posted a pic). Last year or the year before, SRK, AbRam, Jay and a few buddies went on a ski trip together to Zurs – again no Juhi or Gauri. They were hanging out in Trinidad recently because of their cricket team though the wives stayed away. They have their own separate friendship, not involving Juhi. It was the same way with SRK and Bobby.


    • Thank you! That’s fascinating.

      When I was growing up, my Dad’s best friend at work was a woman. He’d come home and tell work stories about her, my Mom always liked her when they bumped into each other at work events, but it was very much a work friendship, not a family one. And that’s kind of how I picture Shahrukh and Juhi, great work friends, Gauri likes her when she sees her and hears stories about her, but it doesn’t really move beyond work. While, at the same time, it is the most important work-only connection.

      I had no idea about the Jay friendship, thank you! That’s so interesting. I can totally picture boys dinners and stuff with that group. Jay isn’t a spectacular celebrity type, he’s a hardworking quiet type who likes going home to his wife and kids. A group like that, dinner out to talk about sports and tell jokes and drink a little and then be home by 10pm to Skype with the kids, that fits with my vision of Shahrukh a lot better than the idea of wild late night film parties. Just solid middle-aged businessman family men kind of fun.

      And now I want to write an SRK fanfic about a group of middle-aged guys on a ski trip getting caught up in a spy thriller or something. SRK can be either a widower or a divorcee who surprisingly finds love with the female super spy that ends up working with them. What do you think?


      • That’s a cute idea!

        SRK and Jay’s friendship doesn’t get much attention because he’s not a celebrity but sometimes you will hear SRK say things like “Jay bought me this book” or “Jay taught me about wine” and things like that. You will sometimes see pics of Jay next to SRK when he’s coming out of airports but the media doesn’t put a caption for him because they don’t realize who he is. Same for parties – sometimes you will see at Jay at unexpected places like Imtiaz Ali’s birthday party with SRK. Juhi is never at these things. When he had his last surgery, the only two people there to pick him up from the hospital were Gauri and Jay.

        It makes sense to me. They are around the same age, both are well-educated and intelligent, have similar interests, Jay is low-key and not a celebrity so no chance for any tabloid gossip type of stuff, and they do have a business together. In many ways, SRK probably has a lot more in common with him than film industry people.


        • It sounds like more of a “normal” male friendship maybe? Shared interests, time together, interesting conversations, a connection that slowly builds of years instead of striking like lightening. Versus what he has with Karan (or Adi or Salman) which doesn’t quite fit what you picture when you say “friends”.


  5. I also don’t subscribe to the ‘surrounded by beautiful women” theory/excuse. I know and I bet many of you do to, men who are NOTHING to write home about who have had affairs and women too. A faithful man is a faithful man. Most men no matter their looks or status get offers. And many turn them down. Shah Rukh is one of those.


    • Just to add on the flipside, how many times have you learned a man cheated (either a celebrity or someone you know in real life), saw the other woman, and thought “her?” Men don’t cheat because the other woman is so much more beautiful, charming, charismatic, and so on than the boring wife. They cheat because they cheat.

      On Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 6:05 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  6. Great stuff Margaret, thank you. ShahRukh is a topic which can be endlessly analysed and his life story is a fascinating point of context. I so appreciate that the PC issue is discussed so rationally here.


    • Glad you liked it and were able to read it (I’m always nervous that these long posts are just too much)

      On Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 2:49 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  7. Wow. You have outdone yourself, Margaret. This was a true gift to read. Not sure what to say as I’m emotionally overwhelmed by it all. At this point I cannot explain in words how glad I am to have found SRK and his work. Wow.

    Thank you for doing this.


    • So glad it spoke to you! I was thinking about you/other newbies when I was writing it, what are the things about SRK’s life that really resonate with me and that I want to share.

      On Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 11:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  8. Here is the very, very good and really insightful interview that Shoma Chaudhury from Tehelka did with ShahRukh in March 2007. It is a fine example how an interview with ShahRukh can be with an intelligent (and serious) partner.
    I first copy paste the introducing text of the original (I’ve in my archive), then I’ll give the only link I found in the Net for the Q & A interview (it has another title but is the same as “Face Me”…everybody who is interested to save this interview, better past/copy it, no idea how long it will be available…two other links I had noticed on my copy are defunct). Please enjoy (some things were already mentioned here, some may be new…in any way, it is a pleasure to read, even from 12 years later):

    Face Me
    Mar 10 , 2007

    Shah Rukh Khan is usually restricted to speaking on Tag Heuer and his fabled competition with Amitabh Bachchan post Don and KBC. But in an unusually forthright interview with Shoma Chaudhury, he talks of much more. Islam, loss, death, fear, politics, films, women, sexuality, sensibility. This is Shah Rukh unplugged
    The sun is setting over Film City. A perfect globe of saturated orange. It could have been made to order. High up on a hill, at its very peak, a caterpillar of men pulls at massive ropes. Others stand around in formal black coats. Some wield guns. Behind them looms a horizon of blackened, burnt buildings. There is a hushed bustle in the air. Suddenly, a figure in carnation red whooshes up into the sky, arms flung out in high drama, cape flying out in perfect billow. In his arms, there’s a Barbie-woman, in equal red. Strapless gown, black cascading hair, slim leg tantalizing in its slit. They whoosh up, then the crane sets them down with a jaunty bounce. A male voice cries out, “Oohri baba! Mohabbat Man to your rescue. Baby, shall we dance?” And a troupe of fairy dancers engulf them.
    The sets of Farah Khan’s new film, Om Shanti Om. One could not ask for a more perfect first introduction to the Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan. It is how you imagine him. Wildly theatrical. Kitsch. Unabashed. In the 20 years that he has been riding the crests of Hindi cinema, he has sent out a curious musk. You think Shah Rukh, you think charm, wit, materialism, scale. You think charisma. You think success. You think trappings of stardom.
    You don’t necessarily think integrity, art, perfection. Vision.
    So what is Shah Rukh Khan really about? Is the musk accurate? One might wonder why one should be interested at all. As Shah Rukh himself has often said, he’s just an entertainer. Why should it matter what he is in the flesh. But it matters. The stars might scorn the idea of their influence. But cinema — and Bollywood in particular — has a grip on the Indian psyche that is unmatched by anything in the country, perhaps even religion. And Shah Rukh has been at its zenith for 20 years. He is, in a sense, the most public image of our collective selves. We want to know what that image stands for. What courses beneath the carnation red cape and red boot with spurs. Put a story out on Shah Rukh, and you can be sure, the most disdainful of us would devour it.
    Curiousity is a powerful precursor to influence.
    Shah Rukh comes off the sets of Om Shanti Om and is enveloped by a boisterous gang of kids. His son leads the pack. Their affection is palpable. You get into his car. It feels like a spaceship. Later, his house rises like Kubla Khan’s Xanadu at the edge of the sea. But the Shah Rukh Khan you meet then is much more than the musk. Thirty thousand words in four hours. A scathing sarcasm for socialism “soaked in the smell of whisky and smoke” — Black Label and 555 at that. A spirited defence of individualistic capitalism.
    Yes, Shah Rukh has worldview. You may or may not agree with it, but it cannot fail to challenge you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for posting! It’s interesting, while some things he says have remained the same over decades, each era has its particular obsessions too. This one was when he was my age now. I identify with the vulnerability of looking at your small children, still too little to fend for themselves. He also talks about his relationship to his work a bit differently – feels like he’s in a transition from the voracious early years to a more stable relationship with his success, but not yet out to do dangerous experiments or start tearing down the myth. And so much talk of intelligence in this! Wonder where that was coming from…

      This is the best context for his five expressions line. Seems like genuinely a way to keep himself humble, not take himself too seriously, but he still wields it in a very conscious way in public to undercut criticism.


      • I felt the same as you, Emily.

        And then, RabNeBanaDiJodi happened and I thought, that it was an interesting kind of follow-up to OmShantiOm, only this time in one person.
        Billu first disturbed me at that time because I thought that he would try to want to shed a kind of image starting from ChakDe and how the star in OSO was shown and then Suri who tried to imitate movie heroes (especially the Raj-figure). I was only with ChennaiExpress that I saw the angle of the common man in the star in Billu.
        And – after the kind of ‘heroes’, ShahRukh played in MNIK and Ra.ONe – HNY convinced me that he wouldn’t play a positive star-hero image any more.


        • It’s fascinating looking at the old interviews to see how honest Shahrukh has always been about himself as an artist. When he says “I want to start doing more roles like ____”, you look at the films that released a few months later, and there are those roles. No one ever believes him in the interviews for some reason, but sure enough he is doing exactly what he says he is doing.

          On Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 4:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • So insightful!
      Interesting he calls himself conservative, seems like his definition of conservative is much milder than mine. Also, the way he describes how he interacts with people (being present 100%, etc.) is exactly how people describe their interactions with him – uncanny how aware he is of himself!
      Like how he describes his cinematic sensibilities and that cinema is not meant to be life-changing. So many people would argue otherwise!
      All this might be known information to others but new to me!


  9. Thank you for this post Margaret! Only getting around to it today–really playing catch-up. The post and the comments along with it add so much. Thank you for the interview, Claudia! I love reading old interviews of Shah Rukh’s to get a sense of how he was thinking at the time, just as his more recent ones help me see how he’s thinking now. Or at least what he tells us he’s thinking!

    This piece is great for newbies and I’ll keep it in mind for friends who ask. And some who don’t.


    • So glad you like it! It took me a really long time to write (as you can tell by the length), so I am glad it is getting eyes.

      On Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 9:41 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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