Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Mission: Interview Shah Rukh Khan
Time: No appointment
Designation: Trainee Reporter
Subject: If I was the Prime Minister of India for a day
I had zero experience in film reporting. But I could not say no to my editor. The only information I had was that Shah Rukh Khan was shooting at Mumbai's Film City, some 30 kilometres away from my office.
It was 3 pm on a Monday. My deadline was Wednesday.
I told myself, 'What a way to begin your life in film journalism: interview the biggest star in Hindi cinema!'
But I was not sure whether he would give me an interview. His career was going great guns with three big hits: Darr, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and Baazigar.
At Film City, Shah Rukh was shooting with Rakesh Roshan for Karan Arjun. He was wearing a brown jacket over black jeans. He was standing alone near a stable, where his duplicate was doing a fight sequence. He was observing them.
I thought I should approach him directly. But there was small hitch: I didn't have a visiting card; I was only a trainee. The only proof I had with me was a copy of the newspaper I was training at with and a letter from my editor.
When I approached Shah Rukh, my palms were sweaty. I didn't know what to say to him. But there is always a first time.
So I began my conversation: "Hi, Shah Rukh, my name is Syed Firdaus. I would like to interview you on what you would do if you became Prime Minister for a day."
Shah Rukh listened attentively and said, "Hmm. But why do you want my views?"
I said, "Our newspaper is doing this feature with celebrities."
I handed over my copy of the newspaper to Shah Rukh.
He asked me to wait. He would talk to me only after he completed his shot. It was 5 pm.
Soon, Rakesh Roshan called Shah Rukh for the next scene. Shah Rukh transferred all his attention to his director.
I waited for two hours until he finished the shot. He came to me and asked whether I would like to have some tea. I must have looked tired. I said, "No, thank you."
I just needed his interview.
He told me he was taking a break and would talk to me later. After an hour's break, Shah Rukh went back to shooting.
Two more hours later, I realised it was 10 pm. Dinnertime. I had not eaten anything after lunch.
But what if Shah Rukh didn't give me time? Would he make me wait all night? Would I have a job if I didn't get that interview?
Meanwhile, Shah Rukh gave his final shot. As soon he stepped out of the sets, his fans surrounded him. It took another an hour for him to talk to everyone.
Finally, at 11 pm, when I approached Shah Rukh, he said, "I am not in the mood for an interview now. Why don't you give me your fax number? I will send a write up to your office."
I insisted it would not take more than 10 minutes. But Shah Rukh would not listen. He said, "If I talk now you won't get a good interview. So please don't insist."
I had to leave. But before leaving, I asked him to give time for the next day. He agreed readily and asked me to come at 6 pm at Filmalaya Studios.
Naively, I asked him where it was.
Shah Rukh smiled and said, "I am from New Delhi. Even I don't know where the studio is located."
I said, "Okay. I will find the place."
I walked out. I had failed in my mission for the day. But there was another day ahead.
Next day, I reached the Studio at 6 pm. When the guard stopped me, I said Shah Rukh Khan had called me for an interview.
He laughed. And then he told me that shooting had yet to begin. There was hardly anyone on the sets. I waited for an hour. Slowly, some unit members of Shah Rukh's, Oh Darling, Yeh Hai India, started trickling in.
Four more hours later, everyone had come in except Shah Rukh Khan.
I said to myself, "I will have to eat late again."
Shah Rukh came in much past 10 pm. He was wearing a blue suit and a necktie. He was looking very tense and was in a foul mood.
When I tried to go to his room, his makeup men and helpers stopped me. They said he was in a very bad mood and I would not get that interview.
I told myself I would not get that interview anyway. It was better to try than not at all.
I went up to him and reminded him about his promise. He said, "Yes. I remember. See, even today I am very busy. But I promise you I will talk to you today. I'm not sure when, but please wait."
I waited. Shah Rukh got busy. It was 2 am when he finally did meet me.
He came to me and said, "Okay. Let us begin. I am extremely sorry to keep you waiting so long."
It had taken me three days and 14 hours to get to Shah Rukh Khan. But when he spoke about becoming a 'one-day prime minister of India', it was a delight.
I felt the wait was worth it. He was down-to-earth and spoke from the heart. It was 2 am, yet he looked very fresh.
I spoke to him for 20 minutes during which he smoked continuously. He said he loved children. And spoke about what he would do for them if he became the PM.
I had a great interview. He had made my day, albeit at 2 am.