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Badshah at durbar and dinner
- I am really proud of you, Shah Rukh tells Sonia

May 30: “I am really proud of you,” said a smiling Shah Rukh Khan, not trying to hide his admiration. Sonia Gandhi smiled back gingerly but Priyanka could not stop giggling. “Hey Shah Rukh, it’s straight from a filmy dialogue but a good one.”

The Badshah of Bollywood was not in a playful mood. Settling down in the olive green sofa at 10 Janpath, Shah Rukh said: “No, it’s not a dialogue. It has come from my heart. I had always known the Nehru-Gandhi family to be exemplary but, madam, your gesture overwhelmed me with emotion. I guess it must not have been easy,” he said.

After the 30-minute meeting this evening, Shah Rukh told reporters: “It had nothing to do with politics. It was a courtesy call.”

Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla, who accompanied Shah Rukh, said the star invited the family to watch his latest movie Main Hoon Na.

Invitations were by no means one-sided. “Old pal” Priyanka asked him to have dinner with them at her 35 Lodhi Estate residence, which Shah Rukh accepted, spending the evening with her husband Robert Vadra and a select group of friends. The king of mimicry soon had the gathering in splits.

Shah Rukh and Priyanka have known each other for long. When his home production Asoka was released, Shah Rukh had organised a special screening for Priyanka and Rahul. Kareena Kapoor, who starred opposite Shah Rukh in the movie, described Rahul after that encounter as “perfect dating material”, a comment that stoked the fire of Bollywood gossip already burning feverishly with rumour of their having taken a fancy to each other.

King Khan came calling on the family on a day Sonia and her children avoid entertaining outsiders, a description that obviously did not fit him.

Shukla said family ties between the Khans and the Nehru-Gandhis go back several generations. Shah Rukh’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) Shahnawaz Khan was a general in Subhash Bose’s Indian National Army. In the INA trial at Red Fort, one “barrister Jawaharlal” had defended him.

After Independence, Shahnawaz joined the Congress, winning the Meerut Lok Sabha seat a number of times. He went on to become a central minister and when he died in 1980 his body was draped in the Tricolour, receiving full national honour.

Sources close to Shah Rukh said his heart has always been with the Congress but somehow could never come out in the open. In the last elections, he had nearly agreed to campaign for the Congress till his film producers begged him not to, warning him that the association could draw Bal Thackeray’s wrath. No one in tinsel town dares to cross the Shiv Sena leader’s path.

Aamir Khan, a descendent of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad family, is also believed to be a Congress supporter but has kept his political affiliation to himself.

Shah Rukh’s visit to 10 Janpath comes at a time when the power equation in Bollywood could undergo a change. Congress leaders said in the eight years the party was out of power, it had lost touch with the entertainment industry because of the Sena’s hold.

“Now you will see a marked change,” an MP said, expecting more actors to defy the Sena.

Govinda has joined Sunil Dutt in the ranks of celebrity MPs of the Congress. Party leaders Kamal Nath, Rajiv Shukla, Subbirami Reddy and Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde have close ties with the industry.

Amitabh Bachchan was, of course, like a member of the Rajiv Gandhi household but, after his assassination, there was a celebrated falling out, the reasons for which are not quite known.

Sonia’s family is believed to have accepted Shah Rukh’s invitation to watch Main Hoon Na at Mavlankar auditorium here. If Sonia does turn up, she will continue at least one fetish of the previous government. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are well-known movie buffs.

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