King Khan pours his heart out in a stirring interview about his relationship with his father, what he learnt from his parents and how he approaches life

Anshul Chaturvedi | TNN (MUMBAI MIRROR.COM; September 23, 2010)

“I’m honest but I’m not defensive about winning and living well,” says Shah Rukh Khan, as he looks back at life 30 years after his dad died of cancer in Delhi.

You’ve been posting messages about your dad today (Sep 19) … nostalgia?
Haan yaar… I just suddenly realized today, I woke up and I’d forgotten what date it was, I just looked at the newspaper and then realized it… Actually, before that, at night, strangely, my son came to me – my wife is at the hospital, she’s staying there – and he came to me and said, ‘papa, I want to give a hug.’ So I asked, ‘why?’ And he said, ‘just like that, papa… I think, I love you’. I found it very touching.

And then I woke up and realized that it was my dad’s death anniversary when I saw the newspapers. And I’m glad I’m in Delhi today. I’ll go and pray in a while. When good things happen in my life – and I think every day a good thing happens in my life – I feel, I wish, that my parents were here, as my kids are growing up. For example, we had to bring the kids here, we couldn’t leave the kids in Mumbai; sometimes you suddenly feel, arre, if I had my parents, you could always leave the kids with their grandparents, but that’s not to be. We don’t have any elder at home. I miss that, I miss them…

It’s been a long, long time since my father died. I calculated it in the morning itself; its been 30 years. I feel happy to be in the town where he lived and died today. Ek ajeeb sa… isme kuch supernatural nahin hai, but I feel nice to be in the vicinity of where your family has lived and breathed.

Do you ever manage to go the house where he lived, relive memories?
The Gautam Nagar one? You see, my father died when we were in Green Park. My mother expired in the house we lived in, in Gautam Nagar. Yeah, I go in the night sometimes… I take the kids for a drive, go past the area, but I haven’t specifically gone into the house, no.

You don’t have the luxury of walking into the house where your father lived his last days without cameras and people around, do you?
No, I’m sure I can walk in and they won’t say anything! I remember when my sister was joining university – I must have been 14 and she must have been 18 or 19 – my father took us to Delhi University. He took us into Miranda College. He had lived in a room there. I think perhaps it wasn’t an all-girls college in those years; anyways, the principal had allowed him to stay in a room there. So he took us to the room, and he opened the door, and there were some girls there, and he said to them, ‘beta, bura mat manna, main yahan pe rehta thaa.’

So I’m sure I can also walk into somebody’s house and say, listen, I stayed here, and they won’t mind. But no, I’ve never tried, I’ve just seen them from outside. I normally do take the kids out for a drive at night, tell them this is where I used to stay, this is my old house… they kind of feel nice. But yes, I’ve never gone inside.

You don’t miss not stepping in and taking a look and saying, this is where his chair used to be, this is where he lived, this is where you had those childhood memories…?
Na… nahin, I feel I don’t think I’d like to do that. I’d feel too sad. I’ve seen it from the outside at night but I probably wouldn’t want to go in. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to go inside, which is why I never have. I haven’t thought about it. Now that you’re telling me, is when I’m thinking about it.

Maybe you wouldn’t want to go with anyone around.
Yes, if I do, it’ll be by myself, because there are things I don’t share with the world, and I’m very clear about that… But I don’t think it’ll be right for the people who are living there for me to knock and walk in and say, ‘hi, I’m here because my dad’s memories are here for me.’ They must be having a happy life in that house and they should just have their own memories in that house, not mine. My memories should move with me. So, no, I don’t wish to go inside either of the houses where my parents died. If it was my house still, then of course I would go – but it’s not. And I don’t think I associate the space with my father and mother. A material space isn’t something that I need to go to think of them… of course I’ll go to my father’s grave and pray at night sometimes.

That’s a luxury you have?
Yes, yes… I’ll go quietly and at night. It’ll be scary, but I’ll go (laughs)! If I can’t go there, I’ll go to the vicinity and pray.

And the kids?
I’ve taken them, yes, I’ve taken my kids to my parents’ graves a few years back. Not my daughter, she was too small, but my son, yes. I like to take them sometimes. My wife gets a little worried sometimes, she says, ‘don’t. Take them in the daytime if you must.’ So maybe I’ll send them in the daytime with the family, and I’ll go later at night.

When they are a little grown up, maybe, I’ll take them along. You need to know your roots… like I, unfortunately – my father’s family, I have hardly met. I’ve known them, and known of them, they’re in Peshawar, but not much.

Sometimes I think – arre, what did my father’s father look like? I’d like my son to know more than I do – to know how his father’s father looked like, to pray a little for all the goodness that has come his way in life…

How unreal does all this look today? When you lost him, you were a fatherless 14-year-old in a small house in Delhi. Today, all of Delhi would line up to spend a few minutes with you.
I was speaking to my brother-in-law on this a little while back… I come here, even if I go to the hospital, the Escorts people, Dr Seth and all the other doctors are very kind… People stand in lines to see me, wave out to me. There’s so much riding on me all the time…

This is as much a distance someone could have covered in 30 years, isn’t it?
Yes, I just realized, if somebody were to ask me what I did to become successful in this distance – people do ask me that – and I swear I don’t know. I think about fathers telling their kids what they should try and be. I never knew what I will be. I just studied, went from one place to another, went to Mumbai and acted a little – and before I have realized it, I have a son who is 12 years old, a daughter who is 10 years old, I am sort of famous, I am respected a lot, I am loved a lot.

And I find love in all the writings on how successful I am and on how unsuccessful I am going to be. He’s the biggest star. He’s not the biggest star. All the discussions I read about myself, I find love in all of them, they’re concerned, that’s why they talk about me.

And I just remember roaming about the streets here, as a nobody… I’ve come here (Gurgaon) when this was a desolated space, once, twice maybe.

I just don’t know how all this happened. And I don’t know – absolutely from the bottom of my heart I don’t know how I became successful. There are better looking people than me, more talented than me, as hard working as me – or maybe more. But why did it all come to me? Why has it sustained for so long?

I’ve thought about this. And I came to the conclusion that it has happened because I never doubted what I am doing. I never doubted the fact that there wouldn’t be somebody to look after me after my parents died – even though there was no one. I never doubted that I would be able to make ends meet for myself. I never doubted whether the work that I do would be a failure. And in fact I feel that as we have it all, we begin doubting – so I need to go back to that basic.

I was just telling a lady here that I have the heart of an entertainer. From the food I serve at my home to the cold drink I serve you, I want you to smile. The heart that I have – the heart of an entertainer – a part of it has always been sensible enough to do the business part of it. But a large part of it, a large part of my heart, still believes in magic. Because I believe in magic, magic happens to me

Also it happens, I believe, because my parents have given me that prayer – that listen, don’t worry, you are magic. I don’t have any other reason to believe in my success. I can’t duplicate it. I can’t tell my kids to become the same. There’s no way – and I know it. But I think I am surrounded by the magic of my parents’ soul. I believe that. I truly believe that. And I don’t do anything special – I think of them, I pray to them, I pray to Allah and say, keep them nicely. But I am surrounded by the magic of their souls. So if God takes away from you something – if Allah takes away from you the most important aspect of your life, he fulfills other aspects. And today with my kids, I feel even the vacancy of my parents is fulfilled. I have got a son and a daughter – and I always think of them like my father and my mother, in the sense that chalo yaar, woh they, agar woh hote to main hota, biwi hoti, behen hoti – abhi bhi wohi team hai.

I am alone in what I do – I have a very small family – but I am never lonely. I don’t need so much. I just need these 3-4 people to keep me away from loneliness, and I think that’s the gift my parents have given me. I’m all alone, I am an outsider in Mumbai, but I do things with a lot of belief. I screw up also, I go wrong, I take pangaas, but I’ve always stuck to – agar isne galat bola hai, toh take a stand; agar yeh sahi bol raha hai, support; abhi yeh ulta bol raha hai, toh chup ho jao yaar, keep dignity.

It’s my belief that so long as I am doing that, I will never be lonely. I will be alone, but I am happy – that’s what life has given me, that I will walk alone. My loneliness has always been fulfilled by 3-4 people; earlier, my parents and my sister, now, my sister, my wife and kids. So it’s a great gift. On good days, especially in Delhi, I miss my parents, and I do today, because it’s a coincidence that I’m here today.

Coincidences happen… two, three years ago, on this day, somebody called me to release some medicines for them in Bangalore. Kiran Shaw. I didn’t know her. I said, mujhe Bangalore nahi jaana yaar… and again, I looked at the papers, and realized it was 19th September, dad’s death anniversary. So I asked my EA, what medicine? He said, cancer medicine. I said, listen, just fix up a plane quickly, I’m going. They’d even changed their programme in the meantime, and asked why I was coming now – and I was like, I don’t know you, but somehow this is connecting – this is about a cancer medicine, and my dad died of cancer, and today is the day he died – so here I am. You have to believe in these things – whether faith, love, magic. The ‘non-existent’ things for human beings. We have to believe in them. I do.

I had a choice of costumes today; I chose to wear a sherwani, I said to myself, my dad would like it.

You often speak about your dad as a reference point – waqt ki chhoti, dad’s eyeglasses…
Also my mom. My dad was very gentle, very honest – and his honesty killed him. My mom was also very honest, but she was a woman of the world. She knew how to fight the world, while retaining her integrity.

Why do you say his honesty killed him?
I think he was, you know… he was very successful, then became unsuccessful… he was a lawyer, he did not practice… he had a lot of options to take favours from people, which he did not. He went to Peshawar with a lot of dreams, took me also there… but I think somewhere he felt let down, he worried a lot, and I think worries cause cancer. And today it’s proven also, in some ways, worries cause ulcers, and other things, and cancers. I think those worries just took his life – otherwise he was very strong, was just 51, no heart disease, never drank, nothing… I think just sticking to impractical honesty and beliefs took him away early.

My mother, on the other hand – though she also died at 50 – she was a go-getter. The training I got from the both of them was – from my dad, be gentle, be religious, be kind, be honest. He taught me shayari, poems.

What I learnt from my mom was – let me put it this way. There are three development stages of a kid – I’ve been giving lectures so I remember this. The first development should be of the heart – love, art, music, nature, all good things. The second part is development of the head – how to use it, how to develop the intellect. And the third part is, development of the hand – how to put that intellect to use. These three – but in that order. I truly believe that my father taught me the heart, and my mother taught me the intellect.

That’s why when I meet people, youngsters, I tell them – please go out, and win your material goals as much as you want – honestly. Don’t be like, how a lot of people think, yeh nahi hona chahiye, woh nahi hona chahiye, chhoro, aur bhi gham hai zamane mein. You should fulfill your material desires. Fulfill them honestly, straightforwardly, without owing it to anyone. Don’t ask. Go and work for it.

The mixture that I got from them – I think that is the person I am. And so I miss both of them, perhaps differently. When I’m going wrong at work, I’m thinking of my mom, that I need to go out and DO IT, even if it all looks to be going wrong, go and give it my best shot. And when I’m going wrong in life, in my thoughts, that’s when I think of dad. Then I’m like, isko maaf kar do yaar. Galti ho gayi toh chhoro na yaar. Yeh ulta bol raha hai, lekin jaane do… You have to overcome a lot of latent and spontaneous anger and disturbance. My dad was like that. Mom would have slapped. So I learnt how to slap from my mom, and how to hold it back from my dad (laughs).

I don’t know if I can teach it all to my children, you know, because I’m a watered down version of their goodness.

When you’re 50 yourself, you’ll tend to do that comparison more frequently, perhaps?
I don’t know, but my sister has been telling me that I have begun to look more and more like my dad – and I take that as a compliment. Because he was a gentle soul. I don’t think I can ever be like my dad. I am a little too material, and a little too worldly intellectual. I wish I could say it right now, but I’d be lying if I said that I can be as simple as my dad. That’s an inner calling. If it happens, well and good, because then I’d be a well-off honest man. I’d like that, yes! If at the age of 50, if I can pass on the education that my dad gave me, it would be great, but I honestly don’t think I’d be able to reach that calibre. I think I am always going to be a mix of what my parents taught me.

Is that a bad thing?
It’s a fantastic thing. I think my mix is the best mix. You’re straightforward, honest, and you’re living well – I think that’s the best way. I tell my kids what I tell all youngsters – work hard, play harder, and don’t forget to pray. To that I’ve now added – pay your taxes also. Don’t owe anything to anybody. Always a giver be, if you can afford to. And just lead your life in the way that, at the end, it shouldn’t be, arre yaar, mujhe aise nahi karna thaa – no regrets at the end of your life.