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Stars shine bright

Britain’s Channel 4 television clearly believes Shah Rukh Khan’s fans cannot get too much of him. As part of a Shah Rukh season, the channel recently broadcast a documentary on the actor, called The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan. This is to be followed by The Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan, to be shown next year.

Nasreen Munni Kabir, who made the first documentary and is currently filming the sequel, shot Shah Rukh performing at one concert in Birmingham and two in London last week.

“I did some vox pops,” Munni told me. “Ninety per cent said they had come for Shah Rukh.” The first documentary dealt with Shah Rukh’s “personal life”, while the follow-up will deal with his relationship with his fans, explained Munni.

At the press conference to launch the UK concerts, Shah Rukh, the star among stars, had to answer most of the questions when he turned up with Preity Zinta, a gum-chewing Arjun Rampal (Arjun, this is considered bad manners in England), Priyanka Chopra (is this sophisticated woman the nervous 18-year-old girl I interviewed the morning after the night she won Miss World in London in 2000'), Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. Shah Rukh, holding a lit cigare-tte, promised he would try to give up smoking.

“If I could, I would,” he vowed. “I lost my parents because of tobacco (cancer').”

Munni, by the way, is accompanying Shah Rukh for part of his 15-city tour of the United States and Canada. “He’s so pleasant to be with,” she added, with genuine warmth for the man. “I am going to Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, New York and Orlando,” she said. “By the way, did I mention San Francisco'”

I know it’s hard work, Munni, but someone’s got to do it.

Show time

To meet the demand for tickets to his latest concerts, he had to sell even “seats with restricted views” which are normally held back. In all, over 30,000 people in Birmingham and London, mostly Indians (though I kept meeting one English girl, who confessed she was not a journalist at all but pretended to be one “because I am a huge Bollywood fan and this way I manage to gatecrash all these events”), enjoyed the concerts.

“I like to give a gap before bringing back a star so I don’t think Shah Rukh will be back for four years,” says Farhath.

Originally from Hyderabad, Farhath used to go to India 12 times a year but has cut that down to two trips a year. “Bollywood is like a family, everyone knows everyone else and I’m part of the family,” he explains.

Farhath, who lives in a luxurious house in Essex and drives a Mercedes, acknowledges that “the industry has been good to me”. The long-term future of Bollywood in Britain seems assured because today, the films draw even British-born youngsters. And Indians remain desperate to meet the stars.

According to Farhath, “Anyone who has bought a VIP ticket for £100 says, ‘Now I must meet Shah Rukh.’ I tell them, ‘Look, I have sold 6,000 VIP tickets. They can’t all meet Shah Rukh’.”

YESTERDAY ONCE MORE: A still from Sholay

Veeru to Viru

The chap next to me in the Leicester Square cinema was transported back to 1975 to his college days in Bombay. “I saw it the very week it opened,” he remembered. “Every time I got bored with my studies, I would go and see Sholay.”

Young girls, who were not even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when Sholay was released, shrieked and screamed when Dharmendra came on stage and stood next to Swapna Roy. Mrs Roy, who lives with her husband Subrata in Lucknow — the Sahara boss could not come to London — made a little speech, as did Rani Mukherjee.

Then followed a long documentary, imbued with almost religious fervour, eulogising the achievements of Subrata Roy. Its subliminal message was that anyone who did not support Sahara offended both God and Mother India. This sort of approach might work in India but not, alas, in London.

A word of uncalled-for advice to my long-lost uncle. All Aunty Swapna should have done was read out the following statement: “My husband is sorry he cannot be here but he knows you have all come here to see Sholay. So please enjoy the evening — and the mishti on your seats.”

Sahara, which is to set up its global headquarters in the UK, intends to host a charity dinner with the Indian cricket team currently touring England, I am told by Shailendra Singh, managing director of Percept, Sahara’s music and entertainment management company. The cricketers have been wearing the Sahara logo for five years.

“Pay is not related to performance,” he said. Let’s hope the other Viru justifies such faith.

Speak Easy: Mark Kalka

Calling time

He was speaking on “the role of NGOs in India” at an event in London organised by the Arpana Trust, a charity which supports the empowerment of Indian women.

Mark recalled a journey to Kalka by what he thought was a fast train for which he had even paid extra.

When he asked about the slow crawl, he was assured: “You are on the fast train, only it’s going slow.”

Mark argues that since the trickle-down effect of “top down” development apparently has not worked, it is perhaps time to embrace the Gandhian model of the “bottom up” approach.

Commenting on Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s execution in Calcutta, he said the crime was “inhumane” but so was the hanging. “I would welcome the end of the death penalty,” he said.

Tittle tattle

Reynold explains: “Silva Screen’s strength is its vast catalogue of critically acclaimed recordings of popular film and TV themes.

“Popular tracks are James Bond, Mission Impossible and Harry Potter.” He adds: “The great thing about ring sounds is that you allocate a different ring sound to identify who is calling you. For example, if your bank manager calls you, the theme from Jaws would be appropriate.” And for the wife' “The shower scene in Psycho,” suggests Reynold.

He is joking, of course. He is happily married to his wife Evita, and his three young daughters, Kirsty, Olivia and Annabelle tolerate his presence at their pop concerts.

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