EXCLUSIVE: Shah Rukh Khan has shown the grace of a superstar, says Viveck Vaswani
Actor cum producer Viveck Vaswani opens up about his relationship with Shah Rukh Khan.
Theirs has been a three-decade long equation. A relationship that has witnessed the ennui of a newcomer and the sheen of stardom. Well-conversant with the youngster who took to films to fulfill the dreams of his late mother, to a superstar deified by millions… and now a father, who brought home his incarcerated son with quiet dignity… producer Viveck Vaswani throws light on the man behind the megastar on Shah Rukh Khan’s birthday.
In Viveck Vaswani's own words...
“I first met Shah Rukh during the time we were making Patthar Ke Phool (1991). He was doing television those days. Eventually, we became friends. Those days, he was staying in filmmaker’s Saeed Mirza’s office in the suburbs. Gradually, he moved into my home (Dalamal Park) in South Mumbai. Call it friendship, call it caring, he stayed with me for two years. He was going through a bad phase those days. His mother (the late Lateef Fatima Khan) was unwell. She wanted him to act in films. That’s how Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992) was born.
“ I have known Juhi Chawla since school. I spoke about Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman to her and said the new boy, Shah Rukh Khan, was better looking than Aamir Khan. When she first saw him, she turned around and said, “Are you mad? Are you blind?” The truth is that she loved the script. She realized it was something solid. Juhi’s a sincere and good-natured girl. Soon, she warmed up towards director Aziz Mirza and the cast including Nana Patekar, Amrita Singh and Navin Nischol. On the first day after watching Shah Rukh shoot, she remarked, “You were right, he’s special.” Then it became a picnic.
“Honestly, I didn’t introduce Shah Rukh Khan as a hero with Raju... I launched him as a strategy. I didn’t start shooting until he had signed four other films - Deewana (1992). Dil Aashna Hai (1992), Chamatkar (1992) and King Uncle (1993). His first mahurat shot was for Hema Malini’s Dil Aashna Hai and his first release was Deewana. But the trigger point was Raju… Word went around that G.P.Sippy had signed the boy.
“I had to forgo the profit I made as a co-producer of Patthar Ke Phool so that we could have GP Sippy’s name as a producer to greenlight Raju... His name was enough for distributors to buy the film. Shah Rukh learny early that a film has to be distributed well to be successful. After Raju… Shah Rukh turned into a distributor himself. Other stars did that 20 years later.
“Either your performance makes a profit for the producer or it doesn’t. Shah Rukh’s could. He had the ability to sell tickets. If you can sell tickets, you become a star. He still has the same energy he had those days. He was non-fussy about food. He ate only chicken and lived on coffee like he does today. Later, we even acted together in a couple of films like Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994) and English Babu Desi Mem (1996).
“His relationship with Gauri (then Chibber) was on while we were filming Raju... They got married (25 October 1991) during Raju... We’d given him all the suits that he’d worn in the film and perhaps he wore one of those for his wedding. The song Dil hai deewana in Raju… was shot in Darjeeling, which was a kind of honeymoon for the newlyweds. As a wedding gift, I gave them a three-four night stay at the Sun-n-Sand Hotel. Because after that they would have to look for a house to stay. Meanwhile, they set up their own home.
“Initially, Gauri didn’t want Shah Rukh to act. But after his mother’s funeral (Lateef Fatima Khan died from complications of diabetes in 1991 while Shah Rukh’s father Mir Taj Mohammed Khan died of cancer in 1981), he made up his mind to fulfill her dream – that of becoming a star! After Baazigar and Darr (both in 1993) … there was no looking back. Charisma, a connect with the audience, magic… there are many qualities about him which we take for granted. But above all, Shah Rukh understood the business of films perfectly.
“We remained friends through the years. For my production, Dulha Mil Gaya (2010), he gave me four days in which we had to finish 18 scenes. He never misbehaved even though the director (Mudassar Aziz) was new. He was patient and gentle towards the team. He was what we term a model actor. Those days he was suffering from a bad shoulder. Instead of using a stunt double, he did it himself. His ligament tore and brought him excruciating pain. When I inquired, he just said, “Aadat hai yaar!” Eventually, he had to undergo a surgery.
“I have been to Mannat, Shah Rukh’s home, just once. It was for his birthday party. He wanted me to meet his children. But Aryan wasn’t there. I have never met Aryan Khan in my life. Having said that, I regard his children like mine. If required, I will always be there. I would even stand up for every child on the streets, who’s forced to be a scavenger, so that we can live clean. Hunger and poverty often push them towards intoxication.
“A mistake committed by a child is not a stain. It’s a wound, which has to be healed. You can’t misbehave with the youth, the adults of tomorrow. At worst there’s rehabilitation. At best there’s love, warmth and compassion. We can’t have this holier-than-thou-attitude. It’s not just about Shah Rukh Khan (referring to Aryan Khan’s arrest by the Narcotics Control Bureau). It could have been so with any other person or actor’s son. Any parent in the world would be troubled. But Shah Rukh handled it with a great deal of grace… like a superstar. I have been praying for all of them – Shah Rukh, Gauri, Suhana, AbRam and Aryan. I am a great believer in prayer. Shah Rukh’s a spiritual boy too. He’s always believed that along with the good, the bad can also happen. He has proved what a superstar is all about and without any drama.
“There have been a couple of politicians, who when supposed to be in jail landed up in hospitals citing ill-health as an excuse. But Aryan spent all 25 days in jail. Aryan was graceful and there were absolutely no tantrums from him. A drug addict would have withdrawal symptoms. This boy didn’t go through any. There were no drugs found on him. Shah Rukh tried his best to help his son but within the parameters of the law. That shows he’s a man, who loves his country. I am in complete resonance with all he has done.”