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Television producer Megan Nass has just completed shooting in Melbourne for Khan’s latest project Chak De! India. This Australian got the chance to appear on the other side of the camera, acting alongside her hero in a scene filmed at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. She asserts, “He is as good-looking in real life as he is on screen,” adding, “his eyes are definitely one of the reasons behind his success.” Nass pinpoints a trip to India in 2004 as the start of her obsession with Shah Rukh. After viewing Kal Ho Naa Ho in a 15-rupee talkie, she was prompted to pen “I am besotted with Shah Rukh Khan” in her diary, swayed by the actor’s sensitive portrayal of Aman in the film’s final scenes. This besotted fan’s most prized possession is an original Balkrishna painting of the Devdas movie poster. However, she will temporarily be without it, having agreed to loan the work to the National Gallery of Victoria for their forthcoming Bollywood exhibition.
Nass is no longer a newcomer. Her discovery of Hindi films led to a subsequent trip to Mumbai, and a role in an item number last year. Appearing in a disco as “blonde female on the left,” Megan worked on Iqraar: By Chance, a movie that, you may not remember, opened one Friday in October, and promptly closed the next. Nass anticipates that working with the Badshah of Bollywood will bring her more success than her flop debut. * * * * * Evelyn Tu, a web developer from New Jersey, is another foreigner hooked on Hindi cinema. After viewing over 100 films, she made the leap from avid fan to ambitious actor, shooting on Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna in New York. Evelyn states, “Shah Rukh embodies what appeals to me most about Bollywood movies: conviction and heart.” Over a 70-day shooting schedule, she was able to gain close proximity to the actor, giving her an insight into the inner world of Shah Rukh Khan. “By the end of it Shah Rukh had breathed on me, leaned on me, and showed me the kind of determination it takes to be a movie star.” Tu observed intimate details of Khan—his gentle coaching of Rani Mukherjee with her dialog; shaving with his electric razor on an overcast Tuesday morning, and greeting Akshay Kumar (shooting for Jaaneman) with a big hug in Times Square. At the end of a 12-hour day, Tu posed for a photo with the leading man. That was the moment she chose to tell Shah Rukh how much she loved Paheli, and that she hoped it would receive the Oscar nomination. As she describes it, “The mixture of surprise and delight that shows on his face in my snapshot is just too funny. His lips are pursed very unflatteringly, but you can tell he’s pleased.” Towards the end of her time on Karan Johar’s film, Tu approached her idol for another photograph. “Shah Rukh, I know I already took a photo with you, but you made a funny face.” He laughed and said in a mock serious voice, “Oh, I’m sorry!” Evelyn reminisces, “He leaned in close to me and smiled for the camera while his bodyguard took the shot.” She enthuses, “He looks so friendly that when people see his photo on my desk, they ask if we’re dating.” * * * * *
For Corey Goldberg, his collaboration with Khan did not come in his native California. It was a trip to Mumbai that provided not one, but two SRK film credits to his name. In July’s monsoon rains, Goldberg gave a rocking performance in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna as the bass guitarist in “Rock ’n’ roll soniye.” From his vantage point on the balcony, Goldberg watched every turn and twist of the cast dancing below. Goldberg on Khan, affirms, “He’s got a dynamic presence, yet he’s remarkably down-to-earth for a man of his stature and fame.” Later in July, the chase begins again for Goldberg, as he returns to the Yash Raj studio to appear alongside SRK in Don. Almost a week of hard work, retakes, and perfectionism was undertaken in the picturization of the “main hoon Don” number. After observing both Khan’s Dev and Don, Goldberg declares, “He’s definitely one of the better actors in Bollywood. I’ve seen just how versatile he is.” * * * * * In a reversal of Bollywood tradition, Daniel Grieser, a Swiss national, worked with Khan not at home in Switzerland, but in India. Grieser, an enthusiastic fan of the actor, was exhilarated to shoot on Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, but disappointed when he arrived on set, to discover SRK was not in that scene. Like Goldberg, he also worked on Don, and here he finally met his idol. For Grieser, a scene with Kareena Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan, filmed in a Mumbai nightclub, meant six days with the star. Speaking from his home in the mountains that are so recognizable to Indian film audiences, Grieser smiles, “I found it kind of surreal to see SRK in person after everything I have seen and heard about him on and off screen.” * * * * * U.S. citizen Erica Reddy’s zest for Hindi films started when she married an Indian man. “Like most Americans,” she relates, “until I found Bollywood, I saw life in a ho-hum sort of way. Life was just passing me by, I needed excitement, and I wanted to experience things I hadn’t before. Bollywood has changed my life …”
This passion has been handed down to her daughter Nikhila, who bagged the role of Tanya in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Erica Reddy recalls shooting at New York’s Grand Central Station. “Shah Rukh took Nikhila to sit with Ahsaas, who was playing his son,” Reddy enthuses. “She has the best seat in the whole world, sitting beside both Karan Johar and SRK.” However, all is not well. “As I’m watching, I can see it … the tears are on their way, the floodgates open and she is officially bawling her eyes out. Both Karan and SRK are attempting to talk to her and calm her down, but it’s not working. “We ask her what’s wrong and she tells us that Shah Rukh scares her.” Shah Rukh feels bad and questions, “What did I do? I didn’t do anything.” Then the truth comes out. “Nikhila admits that she is afraid SRK will laugh at her. He assures her he is the most unserious person in the world and everyone is always laughing at him too.” * * * * * This man seems to be a great actor to work with. A sense of humor? Yes. Movie-star looks? Sure. Professional? Of course. Good with kids? See above. But the overriding theme of all these extra stories is that for a man with his star power, Shah Rukh is generous with his time.
In my time in Hindi films, I have worked with a who’s who of the industry. After working with Amitabh and Abhishek, Kareena and Shahid, Preity, Priyanka, and Rani, Akshay, John, and one of the other Khans, Salman, I would like to join the Shah Rukh camp. Without playing the numbers game, it would be a career high to share screen time with the No. 1. The most famous name in Indian cinema. Shah Rukh Khan, main hoon na.
Steven Baker lectures in creative writing for the British Council in New Delhi. Writing about his experiences as a foreigner working in India, he contributed the Rent-A-Tourist section to the Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel. He also writes features on Bollywood for Indian, NRI, and overseas publications.