India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Verve Man
October 02, 2010

I’m All Love

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena.

He is the quintessential romantic and, despite his frequent forays into action thrillers, Shah Rukh Khan is known to stir hearts of all ages by his quirky smile, likeable characters and wholesome appeal on screen. Verve interacts with the self-confessed real-life lover, on matters close to his heart….

  • Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood
  • Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood

In well-worn jeans and a simple Tee, in a sequinned kurta pyjama with a tikka on his forhead or in a formal suit with a natty tie…superstar Shah Rukh Khan carries off his reel-life couture with an effortless panache that has girls (and women) from all generations, swooning. The fans that line the road outside Mannat, his home in Mumbai, or the shrieks that emanate from wherever he is seen – remember the reactions to his presence at IPL matches all across the country – indicate that his age and long screen familiarity have not eroded his charm. He is the eternal romantic, the ordinary boy who made it big, the man whom girls love to love – so what if he is a husband and a father?  Does that prevent female fans from dreaming about him?

In fact, just a few days ago, a colleague spoke of how her three-and-a-half year old US-born and based granddaughter had said, “I love Shah Rukh Khan. When I grow up I want to marry him.” Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge are her staple favourites.

“I wish I could do it over again…better!”
Having caught up with him on several occasions, I have seen him in casual attire at his home in Mumbai or togged up in figure-fitting suits for brand events like the high-powered TAG Heuer launch in the capital. It is impossible to ignore how this Khan never fails to capture the moment, the spotlight, even if by his own admission, he has often said that beyond the limelight, in the glare of the everyday sun he is shy: “In real life I cannot stare straight at people….”

It is an odd statement. But at our present meeting in New Delhi, he adds, “I’m very shy of looking at myself. I feel a little odd and I always think I am not good looking enough. Of late, I have started getting used to seeing myself on screen, but I still feel very awkward. I think my voice and walk are not right or my body language is not good. So post the technical trials, I never see any of my films. When my kids are watching one of my old movies, say a Baazigar or Badshah, and I walk in, I’m like ‘Eeks’. I wish I could do it like all over again and do it better.”

“I don’t live the image at all.”
The years have seen the rise and rise of Khan. Even if a few of his films may not have made the box office jingle or kept carping critics happy, his popular appeal has not been significantly affected. On the contrary, Shah Rukh continues to rule, in India and abroad. He accepts his mass appeal with a sense of gratitude. And perhaps, even now, with a slight feeling of surprise, says, “I find it very strange myself that so many people like me. Almost every kid knows me. Every mother wants to hug me. I feel it is not because of my acting, but because, when I am moving around in my real life, I don’t have a starry image. I’m very accessible and approachable.”

Paradoxically, Shah Rukh the superstar is also simultaneously Shah Rukh the oh-so-normal family man in real life. Despite all his success, Khan comes across as any other man next door enmeshed in the fabric of his personal life. He says, “I don’t live the image at all. I have always said I am the employee of my image. I do a job when I am called nine to nine and I work very hard for the image you see on the screen. But personally I am completely unattached to it. It’s a very strange and different sense of detachment. I just feel that that person is someone else.”

“I never have to live up to anything.”
No wonder then that his friends and family treat him like the Khan next door. He is grateful for that because “I never have to live up to anything. I have a great sense of humour and you can’t take that from me. I joke with my friends and my kids also. My children are developing that comic sense too, so I’m happy. My wife gets a little disturbed with my wisecracks.”

As far as the façade of being a consummate entertainer goes, he says, “If you ask me to come to a party, I will have a drink, do a little small talk, but stick with you. Or I will go very late when the party is about to end. But if you call me professionally, I will be Shah Rukh, the star. I will say my speech, dance and do all the right things.”

He admits, in between signing autographs for a few fans (who have been allowed in by security) who come up to greet him, even as we talk in the Oberoi Hotel room, “What I do in films is a role that I play – what I do in real life is exactly how I am. I have never tried to promote an image of mine. The only thing is that I am a little lazier at home, not as energetic as you see outside. And when people see me they feel what you call in Hindi, aankh ki sharam. So they feel it’s okay to give me a hug or say they love me. A young girl can come up and tell me that she thinks I am very sexy and I know that it won’t be taken wrongly by her father. I invoke that kind of confidence in people where you know you can say anything to me and I will take it sweetly and not misinterpret it.”

“I am a clothes horse.”
Whether it is a Raj, a Rahul or a Rizwan, Shah Rukh becomes what the role demands in terms of looks and character, for as he says, he is only performing a job. The man who can look charming even in a simple Tee and pair of jeans says, “I have never been very picky and wear whatever I am given. I like my clothes to fit well and do not want them to be too loose or too tight. I am personally very easygoing. I prefer T-shirts and jeans that almost always look exactly the same. In formals, I would go for black suits.”

The man who was seen sporting a ponytail for a long time was then spotted with short spiked hair. When I meet him, his hair is slicked back, giving no indication of the length from the front. He laughs out loud, confessing, “My looks are what my films demand. For the last few months, I have had short hair because of Don 2 and Ra-One. But in the last month or so, I have not cut my hair and I have already begun getting calls that I am looking like the old Shah Rukh now. Ashutosh Gowariker called and said that it was nice that I have got my hair back. Honestly, I don’t even comb my hair. I feel style is actually very internal, how you feel happy or what you are. Externally it can be accentuated by add-ons. Sometimes I may walk the ramp or attend fashion shows. Karan (Johar) or my friends will tell me to wear something stylish and not orthodox. I am okay with that for I am what the stylists say, a clothes horse.”

Though Shah Rukh may claim to be disinterested in what he wears, he is fussy about what goes on his feet. And his fetish for shoes goes back to his co-star Sushmita Sen. “I learnt about footwear from her, years ago,” he states. “She told me about Cesare Paciotti shoes, they are the coolest I have ever worn. And I have actually collected shoes from all my films. I don’t wear them but I must be having like around 20-30 pairs of shoes. I am also finicky about my jeans. I don’t care so much about the designer but am fussy about the cloth and the fit. And even if something is the most fashionable, I can’t wear it if it is too sticky and shiny.”

“Endorsements are never my choice!”
He is the crowned king of the world of brands and the number of brands he promotes ensures that his face springs out at you from almost every tele-commercial or almost every other hoarding. His affection for TAG Heuer is ‘very personal’, for he says, “I really wanted to have a TAG watch since my childhood. Otherwise, I take endorsements but they are never my choice. I do things because people approach me.”

Rewinding to a past where he could not afford to buy branded goods, he states, “I need the money, but I also need to make sure that the product really needs me in some way. I try to stylise the endorsements a little bit. I have an audience base so I attempt to ensure acceptance in groups of people.”

“Gauri holds the keys and the cheque books.”
The loveable lover on screen, the devoted husband and fond father off it – Shah Rukh lives all his roles to the hilt. Like all husbands, he confesses to have done some shopping for his wife which soon stopped. The reason, as he says, “I used to give her a lot of gifts. But I realised a few years ago that she would quietly return what I had given her and buy something of her own choice. Now she holds the keys and the cheque books. I think it is much better. I’m very basic in my tastes and I don’t even shop for myself. When I am shooting and there are some extra T-shirts and jeans, I wear them. I have around 30 black suits. Even Gauri wonders why I don’t get some in a different colour!”

Apart from his wife who has often made it to Best Dressed lists in the country, his children – Aryan and Suhana – have started commenting on the way he looks. The father points out unabashedly, “If I wear a shirt over jeans, they say it’s ‘stinky’. I have started noticing that they prefer T-shirts. I have convinced my son that the sherwani is the Matrix look. They have a huge say in what I wear and are embarrassed if I am not adequately dressed.”

“I believe in different kinds of love.”
His well-known stance – arms outspread, legs askance and a gentle smile on his face – is an unforgettable one. Shah Rukh, who as we all know married his sweetheart of many years, Gauri, courting her across Mumbai and Delhi, admits to being romantic personally. “But it is not like you see in the movies,” he adds. “I believe in different kinds of love. It could be different with my children; it could be different with my friends, different with my actors. But I have a lot of love to give. I have never shied away from sharing, giving and I’m all love. I think that because I am such a lover in real life, I can translate it in the lines given to me a little better than someone else who is not a lover.”

Ask him how he would like to be remembered, or what makes for the essential Shah Rukh and the actor ripostes instantly, “I am a trier. A very hard trier. There was a company AVIS whose tag line used to be ‘because we are second best we try harder’. I’m always making an attempt that whatever I am indulging in – from being a father to being an actor – I’m able to do something new. Newness in work – novelty – turns me on. I guess it’s very boring when you are doing the same work for 20 years. So I wake up every morning thinking today is going to be a novel day. And that is what makes everything so special.”

Onscreen Panache
The actor on five of his characters whose look he loved

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai:  “I loved the polos I wore almost throughout the film.”

Chak De! India: “The character had a simplicity. Normal shoes and shirts.”

Don: “He had a certain sensuality and style. I call him ‘Dandy Don’ because he is aware of his sensuality. Even in jail he is a little cool.”

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna: “I liked the layers of clothes and the grunge look.”

Om Shanti Om: “I thought the whole retro look, the collars and stuff was cool.”

Travel Staples
“I always have….

A Louis Vuitton haversack:
“Only 20 people in the world have it, as I have been told. I can carry my laptop in it, all my stuff in it.”

A TAG Heuer watch:
“I almost always wear it. Sometimes I don’t because when I am in crowds, people try and hold my hand. Then it hurts and so I take it off.”

Jeans:
“Two pairs are always with me.”

Sneakers:
“I must have at least three pairs of sneakers.”

Formals:
“One black suit, with about two white shirts, two black shirts and about 40 ties.”

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