Shah Rukh Khan and me had just finished watching Saudagar, sitting in the first row of the stalls at the now defunct Satyam cinema in Worli. We went to see the film there for the 70mm screen.
It was 1991 and we had not started Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. GP Sippy didn’t want a new actor; he wanted me to make my new film with Salman Khan, since Patthar Ke Phool had made a lot of money. Only natural, except that SRK was staying with me, his mother had died and I was committed to launching him.
Every single time Raaj Kumar or Dilip Kumar mouthed a dialogue, there was clapping and coin throwing. For no one else in the film, did this happen.
‘I want to have more fans than Dilip Kumar, he was my parents favorite star,’ said SRK.
‘Who’s stopping you?’ This was me.
‘No one at all. Have you ever known anything to stop me?’
‘Nope, but fans can’t be bought you know’.
A long silence.
We stopped the cab at Marine Drive and we used to sit there quite often, he looking at the sea and smoking, me looking at him and smoking.
A solitary man comes up and recognizes SRK from Fauji. He takes an autograph and then hovers around, never stopping to look at SRK. We don’t move away, neither do we shoo him away.
‘You know Viveck, you are very wrong. My producers cannot give me my career. Only my fans can. They will force producers to sign me. They will never desert me. They will always be my strength. They will always be there. As long as my fans want to see me, producers will always want to sign me.’
I remain silent. That was the period when SRK’s mother had just passed away and he would have long periods of introspection.
‘I want more fans than Dilip Saab. I will dance for them, sing for them, fight for them, make them laugh, make them cryâ€¦â€¦..’
That was then. It was a far longer conversation, but I honestly do not remember the rest.
Today, on the edge of the release of SRKs latest film, Fan, I look back at this conversation and reflect how true it is. SRK has not just danced for them, sung for them, fought for them; he has broken every single bone in his body for them. No matter what the situation, he has never been rude or short or irritated with his fans. In fact, when fans throng his set, he makes each and every one of them feel like a VIP. He has put his incredible energy at the disposal of his fans at every stage of his career. I have seen him sometimes get aggravated with people close to him, but never with his fans.
And it’s true; they will never forsake him, because he will never forsake them. SRK’s fans are his strength, his source of energy, and he needs them like oxygen. He needs their adulation for that is source of his energy. As long as there is one fan of SRK alive in the world, his energy will always be at an all-time high. Even when he threw Shilpa Shetty off the terrace, murdering her in cold blood in Baazigar, they loved him. We went together to see the response to Baazigar along with Abbas, Mustan and Ratan Jain, first to the New Excelsior, then to the Dreamland. Houseful midweek at both cinemas! Fans cheering the Baazigar in the second half, knowing that the character is evil to the core. No matter. Ratan Jain completely bemused at the audience throwing coins at the screen for the villain.
SRK just winked at me.
That late night I asked him for his autograph too. He signed it on my palm. Since then, every time we meet, I hold my palm out and he signs it.
This time around, he’s going to be the fan whose obsessive love turns to obsessive hatred. And the audiences are going to love him.
Too bad they don’t throw coins in multiplexes!!!