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Shah Rukh Khan — The Charmer

Shah Rukh Khan combines charm and candour, wit and wisdom to make for an engrossing tete-a-tete with David Letterman

By Priyanka Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 28.10.19, 4:51 AM
  • Updated 28.10.19, 4:51 AM
  • 5 mins read
Shah Rukh teaches Letterman his trademark pose (Screengrab)

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. And yes, this man needs no introduction. As expected, Shah Rukh Khan — undisputedly one of the most popular filmstars in the world — made the hour-long episode of the smash-hit show, now streaming on Netflix and anchored by the inimitable David Letterman, a fun watch.

Self-deprecating humour and witty lines — in trademark SRK style — is what you will get, along with some insights into the man that we haven’t seen before. t2 picks the highlights of the episode shot in bustling Mumbai and a staid studio in New York City.


The episode fittingly begins with Letterman getting a glimpse of the thousands that stand outside Shah Rukh Khan’s palatial mansion Mannat in Mumbai. The occasion is Id and we see the familiar sight of the Badshah — son AbRam in tow — waving to the crowd gathered, even as a roar goes up. Letterman, taken aback at SRK’s popularity, can only mumble, “I’ve never seen anything like it before”. It’s a sight we’ve witnessed over the years, but seeing it through the eyes of Letterman is special, reaffirming the might of the SRK fandom once again. “Wow, this kind of thing doesn’t happen at my house,” says a somewhat dazed Letterman.

Almost the same scene — with fewer people, of course — plays out in front of the studio in New York and then inside it when the 53-year-old superstar strides in to chat with Letterman. Sharp in a suit and armed with his dimples and a smile that crinkles his eyes, accompanied by a namaste and aadaab, Shah Rukh’s explanation for his popularity is simple. “I have been told that I am the Tom Cruise equivalent from India,” he dimples, tongue firmly in cheek.

He says that he realised pretty early in his career that “I am not as talented as I thought I am. I don’t have the skill and talent, so let me try and get into the hearts of people”.

On being asked about the mindboggling number of followers he has on social media, SRK quips back, “We are people from the subcontinent. We procreate a lot!”

“So, how long do you want to stay this icon, this hero of the world?” asks Letterman. The man’s reply, “I have calculated... like till about a 106 years!”


In the business for close to three decades now, brand SRK has always been on the upswing, irrespective of the crests and troughs in his career. But Shah Rukh is quick to say that this kind of stardom is “alien” to him. “I am an employee of the myth of Shah Rukh Khan. I work for that myth”. He says that he’s a “genuinely shy person” who feels awkward blowing kisses to his fans or doing “hero-like” gestures, but he does it as an employee of that myth.

Later in the episode, wife Gauri weighs in on the SRK stardom and tells Letterman that she has always been comfortable about him being a public figure and that she has to “share” him with his fans. “So you don’t mind the crowds that gather outside your house?” asks Letterman. “As long as I don’t have to go outside, I am okay!” laughs Gauri, who refers to her husband as a “charmer” a few times during the course of the show.


“I just happened to be the right person at the right place in the right scenario at the right time,” says Shah Rukh when talking about the incredible journey he’s had as an actor. “I realised that there are a lot of things I can’t be... so I became an actor,” he adds.

Some of his iconic films are discussed, the most prominent among them being Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Letterman can’t believe that DDLJ — that he refers to mistakenly as “DDJL” — has played in theatres for 20 years. “We were all young kids who starred (in that film). We just had fun making that film and people just kept loving it and loving it and loving it,” says SRK.

He also reveals that he is apprehensive about riding a horse on screen, courtesy a scare (more of an embarrassing episode, really) on the sets of his 2001 film Asoka where the horse he was on wouldn’t stop even after ‘Cut’ was called out!

So which actors did SRK grow up watching? He names Peter Sellers and Michael J. Fox. “A lot of my acting is like that (of Michael J. Fox)… the use of space and the ease of his acting in Family Ties and Back to the Future. He was sweet and funny and looked eternally youthful,” says the actor. And yes, “Tom Cruise is competition”, he winks.


The most heartwarming takeaway from the episode is the way Shah Rukh talks about fatherhood and being a friend to his kids — Aryan, Suhana and AbRam. He says that since he lost his parents very early in life, he realises the importance of spending quality time with his children. An initial scene in the episode has him and AbRam sitting on the floor and drawing faces with ketchup on a pancake-like dish.

He talks about how Aryan, 21, is studying filmmaking in Los Angeles, but doesn’t want to become an actor. “My son doesn’t want to act. And I don’t think he can… I don’t think he has what it takes and he realises it himself. But he’s a good writer,” he says. He also admits that he “hates” choosing presents for his 19-year-old daughter Suhana’s boyfriend, but has to “pretend to be cool about it”.

“Fatherhood made me gentler and kinder. More compassionate for sure and very, very anxious,” he admits on the show, with Gauri saying that both she and Shah Rukh are “concerned parents, but not hysterical parents”.


One of the ways in which SRK has learnt to connect with his children in recent times is by cooking for them. “They stay up with their friends and at 3am, when they call up the kitchen to ask for something to eat, I am always available to rustle up something for them,” dimples the doting dad. He’s learning to cook Italian, and we catch a glimpse of the superstar slogging away in the kitchen for Letterman and his crew. He admits that since he’s just starting out, he can make only three things — aglio e olio, pepper chicken and risotto.


There is quite a bit of talk about SRK’s early days in Delhi, but we have all heard or read most of it before. He does reveal an anecdote about his ‘C Gang’ from school, a bunch of boys riding bikes and acting cool, influenced by John Travolta in Grease.

He talks fondly about his parents, even saying that his father’s honesty made him “the most successful failure in the world”.

What’s remarkable is the way he chats about his parents’ death, with a mix of philosophy and humour, and never allowing the mood to become heavy. You can’t help but guffaw when he says that he showed one of his earliest TV work to his mother in the hospital. “And she died the next day!” “So no amount of criticism about my work makes me feel bad anymore,” he laughs.


There’s no mention of the recent dull run SRK has been having at the movies, but he does talk animatedly about his “other interests”. Among them is co-owning his IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders. He says that he wanted to be a sportsperson while growing up and played hockey, football and cricket. “I am voyeuristically living my childhood (through KKR). I hope to win through them,” he says. This cuts to a segment of Letterman going to the nets and “practising” his batting with young turk Prithvi Shaw.

Shah Rukh also reveals some sticky bits about his career, including being banned from Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium a few years ago. “I recently had an altercation at a cricket stadium. I would have denied it, but it’s on video,” he laughs.

Letterman’s verdict at the end of 61 minutes? “You are so darned cute....”

Well, tell us something we didn’t know!