This is not an open letter, Shah Rukh. I do not know what to call it – or wait, I can perhaps label it as a thank you note. One tiny bit of the many millions that you must be receiving every day.
Before I begin to thank you, let me admit that I can’t thank you enough. Did that sound like a hyperbole? This is what happens to me when I try and thank you, or when I try and explain it to myself and to others that why I need to thank you. But, today on your birthday, I think it is imperative that you know how you have touched, influenced and molded not just my life but also the lives of your millions of fans. I also write on their behalf.
Neither am I going to praise you for your films, your acting prowess, your box office clout nor am I going to stake claim to the title of being your Sabse Bada Fan (I know Gaurav is already out there). I am just grateful for how you and your films have stood by my side, almost like an imperceptible friend, through joys and sorrows. I am grateful because you epitomize happiness, dream, love, hope and miracle. For me. For all of us.
Happiness: I was merely 7-year old when I watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge in a theater – perhaps the first time I went out to watch a film with my family. That little mischievous twinkle in your eye, spring in your feet and sincerity in your words, made me genuinely happy as a child. It was perhaps the first time cinema made a lasting impression on my young mind as I found myself seamlessly fitting in the world of Raj.
But, DDLJ was not just about happiness. I remember stealing a glance at my family members and others in the audience as you innocently pulled out a bra from Simran’s rucksack. Those were my first lessons in knowing the opposite sex and their ways. No one ever really tells you what a bra is and how it functions. In your own playful way, you educated quite a few young, curious Indian minds who are otherwise devoid of any sort of formal gender sensitization. Thank you.
Dream: I also remember repeatedly watching Yes Boss and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman on Doordarshan. Those were the days when DD aired movies every Friday and Saturday in the late night slot, so I battled familial displeasure to watch your films on TV. Yes Boss and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman were my first lessons in dreaming, daydreaming and dreaming it big.
As an ordinary teenager from a small town, with deeply imbibed middle-class values, your films taught me to dream and be shamelessly open and assertive about it. Success, money, love, family, we all want a slice of these but those who finally get there are perhaps the ones who are not shy of dreaming. You were the voice of my middle class dreams – that is if dreams could ever speak – you were my easiest and most reliable source of motivation, long before motivational speakers and their quotes started to invade our lives. Thank you.
Love: Meanwhile, you rose the ranks of Bollywood and firmly established yourself as the industry’s biggest star and most importantly, as the greatest icon of love and romance. Roughly around the same time, my hormones started to go on a rampage with teenage paving way into adolescence and eventually adulthood. Call me hopelessly filmy, but I sought inspiration from your films and life as I tried to understand love and its different shades.
Your body of work was my Bible, Gita and Quran when I first fell in love. From serenading my girl to never losing hope even when the going got tough to eventually managing to win over her heart (a la Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa), you were always there like an invisible friend. Raj and Rahul are cheesy names to be frank, but these characters were an open repository of dos and don’ts of romance. For almost every relationship scenario, you had a film and hence, I knew I will have you every time I faltered or needed advice or simply needed some inspiration. Not to mention, your own fairy tale romance with your wife and how it continues to be a landmark for anyone and everyone who has ever fallen in love and never given up on each other. No matter what. Thank you.
Hope: As they say, life is not a bed of roses and we all have our share of setbacks, heartbreaks and failures. Life is a little more challenging than how it appears in the movies and there isn’t always a happy ending. For every DDLJ, there is a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. For every Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, there is a Kal Ho Na Ho.
And, there is also Darr and Baazigar lurking around the corner all the time. I have had my trysts with obsessive, compulsive and revengeful behavior when things did not go how I had wished or planned for. It is tough to let go, accept defeat or face rejection. It is even worse when you completely immerse in your failures and become a modern day manifestation of Devdas.
But, you have also been a light of hope at the end of an abysmal tunnel. If I still in believe in love, it is because of you told us to. If I now believe that life is all about second chances, rising to the challenges and finding completeness by joining the dots and putting together the pieces, it is because of you. A bit like how you did it in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and My Name is Khan.
Miracle: Picture Abhi Baaki Hai Mere Dost, I tell this to myself sometimes. I believe in miracles because I know what almighty has in store for us is the probably the best. Rab Ne Bana De Jodi explored this divine angle so profusely and I believed in you so diligently. I still do. Your own life, your journey has been nothing less than a miracle – it is not every day that an ordinary Delhi boy with funny hair goes on to conquer big, bad Bollywood. And he does not stop there. Not even at 50. He continues to inspire, enthuse and entertain a billion people.
And, he continues to be friends with them without ever really asking for anything in return.
Thank you, Shah Rukh. Dil Se.