Everybody has a secret they fight to keep – a secret so dark that it makes their skin crawl and feel like numerous caterpillars have deigned to walk on it. For some, it is inappropriate thoughts. For others it is a petty crime. For yet others, it could be political affiliations, Nazi party memberships even, things that will make them outcasts in the current social fabric.
My dirty secret is something that will probably earn condemnation from most of my friends. Some will smile and make polite public noises about how it is all fine and yet privately swear off any association with me in the future. Maybe my inbox will be flooded with emails with “WTF” on their subjects. Maybe people that I haven’t spoke to in years will call and pray to get my voice mail because they don’t want nothing to do with me and yet are forced by social pressures to commiserate with my less than perfect life now.
Such is my probable fate, a fate certainly not pre-ordained, but one that I brought upon myself. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I was once a die hard fan of Shah Rukh Khan. And most inconveniently, that piece of history seems to have come back, ready to bite me on my posterior if I don’t come clean now. Because, lately, even with these historical misgivings and in spite of the revulsion that the infamous 6-pack evokes, I have been doubting my decision to disavow any affiliation with the name Rahul and the most (in)famous bearer of the name.
My induction into the Shah Rukh fan-boy circle happened about a dozen years ago. Being a student in a school favored by the Punju and Marwari crowd in Chennai gave me the unique experience of being in a “indhi” group in a city that was staunchly “anti-indhi”. Even though one’s parents were staunchly against any contact with corrupting influences such as movies, one always managed to catch the most recent superhit “indhi padams” via rental VHS camera prints.
It was via one such VHS tape that one first caught a glimpse of Shah Rukh Khan. Baazigar was not his first on screen stint, but it was certainly his best at that time. Soon he had become the resident psychopath of Bollywood. But he also spoke his lines in a manner more befitting an ass, braying his lines again and again when just a whisper could have done the job. Not that it mattered to his adoring fan-boys ((Not sure if murdering psychopaths are “attractive” to potential fan girls)) like me.
May be it was a conscious attempt to establish a strikingly obvious attribute of the kind that set apart the likes of yesteryear Bollywood heart-throbs like Dev Anand, but it was definitely an attempt that hit the bulls eye. Even now, more than a decade later, his lines have gotten so much following that rumor has it that they may have helped people win JAM contests (in Hindi) at IIM(L) ((Sources in the know, please clarify if its true!)).
Then almost overnight, the psycho-boy underwent metamorphosis into the lover boy and the fan girls took over. And the fan-boys tried to ape the lover boy to get the attention of the fan girls. Even in the farming hinterlands of Tamilnadu, we were not free from his influences. So whether the general populace knew Hindi or not, “Kuchikuchiotha aye” and “Dhilthopaakal aye” were avidly watched.
One was so much of a fan-boy that conscious attempts were made to model one’s wardrobe after his. Pastel shades started to find favor and I think at one point, you could see me walking from half mile away with my fluroscent green and orange tennis hats. And then there was the famous “COOL” chain (( It was substituted from time to time by the oversized metal “bling bling” pilfered from a piece of imitation jewellery that been discarded by my sister. But let’s not go into that.)).
It appeared magically on my neck wore it soon after I got on to the KPN bus to Trichy and disappeared soon after the bus stopped at Tambaram on my way back for the holidays. In the intervening period inside the college, the chain was carefully hidden away from prying eyes and let out during opportunities befitting its stature as the “coolest” fashion accessory.
And then one day, it inadvertently popped out in the presence of a teacher, who asked me about it. Embarrassed, I stayed silent, till a girl who was standing by, volunteered to explain what it was. Everyone else laughed and needless to say, the “cool” fashion accessory was rendered un-cool and soon discarded.
I became more discreet from then on and while movies like Yes Boss and Duplicate were watched multiple times, deniability became the name of the game. While privately his antics were enjoyed and aped, publicly I denounced him for taking every chance to hold his hands apart and go “hhhheyyyyy”. Slowly I really became a hater. The fact that he was a Yash Raj – KJo staple made it simpler.
By 2001, when I came to Ohio, the change was seemingly permanent. Watching Devdas cemented the sense that I had outgrown my fan boy status. It seemed like he was incapable of even swatting a fly without the “hhhheyyyy”. And slowly I stopped watching his movies. Movies like Swadesh did not do much to change my self imposed embargo since they seemed outliers on an overwhelmingly negative statistical curve.
Then a couple of months ago someone pointed me to the most recent Shah Rukh Khan soundtrack – Om Shanti Om. Watching Saturday morning desi tv here in NJ, one found out that Om Shanti Om was going to be Farah Khan’s second directorial venture and that Shah Rukh Khan was going to appear topless in a song, and attempt to emulate Salman (and dirty coal miners). Outwardly I groaned. But soon a sense of déjà vu washed over me.
You see, in one of my pseudo intellectual moods a few years ago, I had vowed not to watch Farah Khan’s directorial debut Main Hoon Naa. Mainly because I had heard that the climax had incorporated a chase sequence with Shah Rukh on a rickshaw with the bad guys in a car. However later, when I finally watched the movie, I ended up eating humble pie because I enjoyed the experience so much. And I was similarly confused for months later.
Fast forward a couple of years, I watched Om Shanti Om a few days ago. Now I am torn between pseudo intellectual hatred for what is essentially entertainment and being the fan-boy that is hidden inside me. Through the movie, I was humming along with the songs and laughing out aloud at the gags. I will clarify that I was offended by the “Enna Rascal-a” gag that draws its vibes from the preconceived notions about South Indians that have been established by yesteryear actors like Mehmood. But at the end of the movie I wanted to get an encore of some of the scenes and at least one song ((NOT THAT outrageous “ewww” inducing number.)).
I am confused. Am I going to be ostracized by my friends for coming out the closet as a Shah Rukh Khan fan-boy? Will people end conversations about me with a “not that there is anything wrong with it”? Will that hot Tamil gal who flashed a smile at the local grocery store last week frown and turn her face away this week? Will my already thread bare social life take a turn for the worst? So many questions. So much confusion.
Jokes apart, the biggest question I really have is – while I have been laughing at Shah Rukh these past few years, has Shah Rukh Khan been laughing with me too?