How Shah Rukh Khan gifted me an invaluable lesson

Sadiq Saleem shares his experience of meeting the Bollywood superstar on the occasion of his birthday on November 2

Published: Tue 1 Nov 2022, 7:04 PM

Last updated: Tue 1 Nov 2022, 7:37 PM

Like all 90s kids, watching SRK on screen was an act of habit. My writing job brings me in personal contact with many notable names and UAE, being a significant market for Bollywood, has a lot of stars that swing by before their films release. I have attended several press conferences – thousands of media reps and only one SRK – and I have been fortunate to interview him one-on-one, twice.

Watching him off screen was an experience. At one of his press conferences, confronted with a question in Urdu, he responded in Urdu with the same élan with which he he spreads his arms for romantic grandeur. This happened during his promotional tour for Raees.

A journalist from an Urdu publication in Pakistan asked him a question in Urdu as he apparently wasn’t fluent in English. He said in a shaky voice, “Maaf kijiyega, I will ask you a question in Urdu.” SRK patiently listened to him and he responded to his question in Khaalis Urdu. SRK is truly a man of compassion, for he doesn’t want a scribe to leave his court without the answers he is seeking. That journalist was so elevated that one could see confidence boosting through his body.

Two years later, I met him again in Dubai when he was promoting Zero. Just before I was about to enter the room, his publicist took my details and advised, “Shah has the tendency to give lengthy answers but be mindful that you only have 15 minutes.”

I turned my voice recorder on, and was waiting for him to arrive from the room in front of me where he was giving a sound bite to a radio station. Next was my slot. Enter SRK.

He walked up to me and uttered the three magical words, “Kaisay ho Sadiq?” Time stopped and the lights in the room got brighter but then I collected myself as I only had 13 minutes left. My phone rang, flashing ‘Mom Calling’. I cut it. He said, “Maa ka phone mat kaato, I’ll wait and we can continue after.” This was a lesson for life.

After my interview, I reminded him about the journalist from the Urdu daily. He had especially asked me to convey his gratitude to King Khan, “Please tell Khan sahib that I don’t feel shy to ask questions in my language anymore.”

SRK remembered that anecdote and said, “It’s our responsibility to make everyone feel inclusive. Isn’t that what we all need? We all love acceptance. I can’t imagine myself without that feeling.”

The monarch of romance took a bow on this note. He gave me a warm hug and a slight tap on the back and went to another room where an equally eager interviewer was waiting.

To everyone who comes in contact with him, he gifts a lesson, a direction, a memory or a story – no doubt their most memorable anecdote.

This was mine! Happy Birthday, SRK!

Sadiq Saleem is a UAE based entertainment writer. He can be contacted on his Instagram @Sadiqidas.

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