Thursday, October 19, 2006

Inside : India Questions

An exercise in visual media marketing, India questions is timed close to the release of Don. If one remembers that a similar “debate” was held after KANK released on NDTV’s ‘We the people with Barkha Dutt’. How valid is this current trend in news channels, well that’s subjective. The following programme might as well be just that.

In his introduction Dr. Pranoy Roy rightly said that there is so much known about SRK in the public domain, one is at loss when it comes to asking him questions. “Your life is an open book” and that too literally and figuratively.

So yes it is true. He is humble, articulate, ‘chilled out’, hyperactive and just about everything that you have heard in countless interviews. (We couldn’t confirm the gay thing, obviously). The show was supposed to begin at 12.30 but like he has confessed in a previous interview with Vir Sanghvi, SRK true to his word walks in 2 hours later. The most frustrating part about this was the fact that it was being taped at Mehboob studios, two minutes away from the grand mansion that he calls home. But the audience, mostly comprising of journo students and college crowd didn’t seem to mind.

Pranoy Roy arrived probably an hour before Shah Rukh did. He is a lot smaller in person than what I initially thought. A comfortable ease surrounds him, a nonchalant awareness of sorts. NDTV announced its projections for the next quarter and an aim of taking their business to $500 million in10 years. This man, at the helm of it all seems too honest and genuine a journalist to be burdened by the trappings of creating a media empire.

And then the Don makes an entrance with the music from the movie being played in the background, well not so much of an entrance really. Bodyguards in tow, surrounded by hordes of people, dressed casually in blue jeans and a checkered brown shirt (cleavage on display, why-o-why!) I couldn’t believe that it was him. He appears a lot smaller in person and a lot “normal” too. The girls were swooning by now and some guys also, with a distant sigh I could hear words like “so cute” “wow” “is it really him”… I couldn’t see what the fuss was about, but his impact as an entertainer, an enigma was apparent in the way the crowd and just about everyone was reacting around me. It is impossible to ignore the man, even if you are a determined cynic at war with the influence of pop-culture.

He is called destiny’s child and is truly blessed, I must say, because I just can’t see why this very charismatic yet ‘normal’ looking guy is the King of a multi-billion dollar industry. A casual aura surrounds him as if he is completely oblivious to his concomitant reality.

As the interview begins I can see why both these gents are so affable and loved all across the country. The genuineness and honesty is highly infectious and an immediate connection is made with the audience.

The initial questions are routinely generic but my friend fires one at SRK (my question mind you) that in spite of being a smoker he launched a Biocon anti-cancer product recently. His answer is much more calculated than probably what he would have said five years back, but honest none the less. He categorically derides smoking as a bad habit, “I am trying to quit” and mentions the loss of his father to cancer which made him endorse the cause.

When asked about him being overtly diplomatic when it comes to commenting on his co-actors he replied and which I consider a true definition of SRK in his private life, “I am just a wise-guy!” He does seem to be the cool friend that everyone would want to hang out with.

The questions are dealt with a characteristic smile and the twinkle in the eye, which makes you wonder, what is he going to say next. He confesses to being tone deaf, musically inert and admits that he likes making comedies a lot including the forgettable ‘Babloo’ and other such zany characters.

What was most revealing about his personality is the way he perceives life and his job (as “just another 9 to 6 shift” Ya right!). The passion for his work is omnipotent and that is the secret to his unparalleled success today. He best describes it as being a child with many ideas and unbridled enthusiasm which his directors just cannot ignore. He reiterates the often heard “Do whatever that you wish but do it with passion”, a mantra that he clearly follows in his own life.

“Nothing better than honesty and goodness to achieve your goals…with a bit of patience…” is his advice to youngsters. I don’t know how much of it would hold true in SRK’s professional life but it does seem to be a norm for SRK the person.

The show couldn’t end without the wily doctor perpetrating a jig to which the marketable star willingly obliged. He danced to 'Khaike' along with some auidience members and made it look effortless.

As the crowd rushes to the makeshift stage, Shah Rukh is completely swamped, probably groped and molested too; the bodyguard then somehow manages to extract the prized possession.

He smoked two cigarettes for those eager to keep a count. If you watch the show, the cigarette pack is in his left shirt pocket. Also, he is quite restless as a person, fidgety as if always in a hurry. He spun around in his swivel chair. It is this boyish quality which makes him one of us, relatable.

Sorry Nessi didn’t get an autograph, but I did find out that SRK at the end of the day is a nice guy. My friend, who had a chance to go on stage during the Hindi version of the show, apologized for being brash earlier. Shah Rukh HUGGED HIM and said “God bless you” with a peck on the cheek (?!)

Watch India Questions this Saturday, 21 Oct on NDTV 24/7.

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