“When you really desire something from the heart and soul, all the universe conspires you to achieve it,” Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist, 1988.
There are a few stories in the world that exist between reality and legend. They usually begin with the words ‘it is said’ or ‘once upon a time’. One such story happens to be about Shahrukh Khan, his dream and the city of Mumbai. Legend has it that a long time ago, way before he became the superstar that he is today, Khan standing on Marine Drive, looked across the gigantic sea at the slowly setting sun, said, “I’ll rule this city one day.”
The universe conspired and today, Shahrukh Khan is the undisputed Badshah of Bollywood and not just Bollywood, but the biggest star of the world.
It wasn’t an easy journey, however. An outsider in every way, Khan came from extremely humble beginnings and had to overcome massive personal and professional losses to reach where he is today.
Moreover, so grateful and humble Shah Rukh Khan is that I heard him saying in a couple of interviews, “What I am today is because a lot of people came together to ease my path when I needed it the most.” Khan speaks about his ‘life mentors’ who gave him a place to stay in Mumbai when he didn’t have a roof over his head. He emotionally recalls how even the biggest of celebrities, including the evergreen Hema, imparted nuggets of wisdom to him so that he’d be able to make better choices in life.
“When I came from Delhi, I had no family. I had nobody, and I tell this to everyone that I have an extended family in all the filmmakers, all these leading ladies, all the producers, some other friends I’ve made along the way in the film industry. If it wasn’t for them, I genuinely would not be celebrating 25 years of my life here,” said Shahrukh Khan.
Khan’s parents were taken from him at an early age and he admits to having adopted acting as a way to vent his feelings and fill up the void in his life. “My parents went away suddenly. We got to know they had cancer and within two and a half months, they were gone. I didn’t know what to do. I just felt one night, while at their mazaar that I should fill this void with something. I got a fortunate break in films. For me, acting is not work but a place to vent out my feelings. The Almighty who’s the benefactor of life and death, if He tests us with difficulties, also makes us find ways to overcome those,” he added, showing incorrigible optimism and the insurmountable ability to overcome obstacles, two characteristics that have come to define him.
When Khan first came to Mumbai, he brought only 1,500 INR with him, “I am really scared of failures. Coming from a lower-middle class family, I saw a lot of failure. At a certain juncture of my life, I was thrown out on the road because we could not pay rent. Poverty instills fear, stress and sometimes depression,” he said in an interaction with around 800 management students in 2013.
Despite being faced with such abject poverty and partaking the roles that were being rejected by others (Deewana was turned down by Armaan Kohli, Baazigar by Salman Khan and Darr by Aamir Khan), Khan states that he has never sold his soul for stardom – it’s been sheer, backbreaking hard work mixed with incredible talent and unshakeable faith in himself and the universe.
The boy who stood on Marine Drive all those years ago could have never imagined how far he’d come. Or maybe he did. Perhaps, that’s why he became the legend we now address by the name of Shah Rukh Khan.