I was rather intrigued! Ever since the meeting with SRK had been finalized, I was very eager to understand that when would we all get to witness the reinvented version of SRK Part Two…after all, in the entertainment and film industry, where memories spans merely last from one Friday to the next, in between movie releases, here was a man who had mastered his craft and was still going strong after more than two decades but perhaps, it was time to witness the unfurling of his latest avatar…let me start from the start…
He has been a rock solid part of the triumvirate comprising the Khan brigade of Bollywood and has touched pinnacles of success, both as an actor and a businessman, unforeseen even in the ‘land of dreams’ as the film industry is often referred to. His entry into films in 1992, with Deewana, literally as a ‘bad boy’, on a mean bike with a bandana on his head, a smirk on his lips and floppy hair all over the place was by no means conventional and the fact that he was making the crossover from television was even more unconventional.
And yet, defying all norms, breaking all rules he went on doing film after film and tasting the sweet taste of success strangely playing the anti-hero in movies like Darr, Baazigar and Anjaam before the magnum opus DDLJ imparted him the quintessential ideal lover boy’s image and Rahul (his most common screen name) was here to stay.
So much for the actor part! Wait…this is just the beginning of the story…at present, Shah Rukh Khan or SRK is more a brand entity worth some $600 million. Now that is a sum comprising of not merely his fees and profit sharing as a star actor but through his myriad ventures: Red Chillies Entertainment, his production and distribution house including a VFX unit for state-of-the-art motion picture special effects; co-owner of IPL Cricket Team, Kolkata Knight Riders; endorsements ranging from fairness creams and mango drinks to real estate in Dubai; revenue as a television and live event host; entertainment shows round the globe; assets spread all over the world and of course personal effects.
Phew! Under the weight of all this knowledge and the apprehension of meeting The SRK, I went to meet him for our ad film shoot to Mumbai, completely clueless as to what I was in for. Expecting the usual trappings that are a part and parcel of a superstar’s paraphernalia, I surrendered myself to the moment, but at the same time, was extremely curious to know what makes him tick.
Thoroughly focussed and concentrated on completing the shoot for the better part of the day, our interactions were purely work-centric to begin with. For some technical reason, when the shoot extended the stipulated duration, I was worried that there may be a problem as he had run his course of eight hours that were designated for the shoot but to my pleasant, pleasant surprise, he continued and completed the shoot which went on till the wee hours of the morning. And finally, there he was, flashing his oomphy dimpled smile, and a cup of black coffee sitting next to him, when we settled for a chat.
Despite the excruciatingly long hours of shoot and erratic schedules, the man revealed no signs of exhaustion, irritability or arrogance, and his humility was what struck me like a breath of fresh air. He wore his manners on his sleeve, literally, and spoke like a real charmer and wordsmith. He was very candid about the fact that he met with so many people every day, all the time, and all he hungered and strived for was to make his fans and followers happy.
After the initial rounds of general chit-chat, he wanted to understand how we ran our business house and specifically the strategies and processes that contributed to making a successful conglomerate. I was again a little more than surprised this time, because here was a guy, who is one of the best case studies in creating and managing a rocking and booming business empire despite not having formally gone to any Ivy League College or Business School and yet his humility and down-to-earth straightforwardness was simply so refreshing. Add to this a razor-sharp mind and a very forward looking vision that went beyond the micro or short term gains or immediate scope and engulfed the holistic or macro image.
The fact that he has kept a separate identity for SRK the star vis a vis SRK The Brand is perhaps his trump card or the pulse of his success saga. And the joy is that he himself confesses to it! To me this policy of hedging, whereby he safeguards his multiple business interests from clashing with each other or diluting each others’ brand value, is a masterstroke that has kept the SRK magic and aura intact. Despite touching the ripe age of 50, his last movie Happy New Year released at Diwali-2014, was another blockbuster affair, an affirmation of his popularity and star power.
The yearning, the hunger to learn, grow and acquire knowledge is so much a part and parcel of the SRK persona that again, he shattered all myths of that ‘know it all’ attitude that comes as a logical suffix to any frightfully successful individual’s statements. Here was a guy, with a sparkle in his caramel-coloured eyes and a wing in his designer-shoe clad step, whose every second is worth a million bucks and yet he has this urge, this insatiable appetite to learn and gain awareness of the finer nuances and intricacies of managing an empire befitting a badshah (pun unintended!).
Talking till almost dawn, we were both physically exhausted and I was completely bleary-eyed at the end, but with a promise to continue the chat very soon, we parted. My last question to him was: What next? When are we going to see SRK Part Two? Obviously, there is a limit to which even a popular star like him can continue playing Raj-Rahulesque lover boy roles and endorse products or host shows or manage the cricket team. These will soon run their course and his all-knowing smile and slight nod of that famous head revealed that something was brewing in that very, very intelligent brain of his, processing and analyzing information, and coming up with breathtaking results.
And I knew that I had hit the nail on its head. On my return journey, my thoughts were just about the man’s candid demeanour, no-frills attitude and frank outlook. SRK Part Two will be something to look forward to with baited breath…what say?