12 years ago last month was my first meeting with SRK. I was sitting in a movie theater watching a fairly odd film with a fairly uninteresting lead actor. His nose was too big, his face was a little pudgy, his acting was much too broad. But I loved the heroine, so I kept watching.
And then, one hour and 18 minutes in, this big nosed pudgy looking actor told the
heroine he wouldn’t be coming to her wedding, and shook his head and walked away,
and I was lost. I was sitting in the movie theater with tears rolling down my face and I
didn’t even know why. I left the theater after the movie was over, and I felt like I was
flying, I was so happy I couldn’t even feel my feet touching the ground any more.
And that’s how I met Shah Rukh Khan.
I wasn’t supposed to ever meet him, I am an American of German heritage, grew up in a
mid-sized midwestern city, watched movies with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and Cary
Grant and never wanted anything else. But somehow I landed in that small art theater
the one Saturday they were showing a traveling print of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,
the summer after my freshman year of college. And it changed my life.
When school started again, I added a minor in film studies to my program. And I started
making friends with desi students and asking them about Shahrukh, about his movies,
about his life. And, in order to better understand his art, I asked about Hindi films in
general, about other actors, directors, the classics, the cult hits, the gossip. I took a
class on South Asian history and Asian sociology in addition to my film courses. I
bought my own abbreviated copies of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I read
every book my college library had on Indian film.
Every Friday, after my last class, I would take the bus to a train to another bus to the
Indian neighborhood. I would rent half a dozen DVDs, take them home with me, and
spend the whole weekend watching them. It meant my social life was cut short,
because I had to finish all my school work between classes and jobs during the week in
order to have my weekends free, but it was worth it, because it meant I spent every
weekend with Shah Rukh.
After college, I stayed in the same city, moved closer to the Indian neighborhood, and
kept up the same routine. Most of my friends had moved away, and I was very lonely
and my life felt empty. But I put up Shahrukh's photos and posters on the wall of my
new apartment, I watched his movies over and over again, and I got through a rough
Shah rukh is how I finally made friends again.
I talked about him at work and invited my co-workers over to see Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. They were hooked immediately, within weeks I went from having no friends to having half a dozen people over once a week to watch movies with me.
To this day, those are my closest friends in the world.
But, it wasn’t enough. I felt like I was stagnating, I wasn’t using this passion to grow
myself into a better person. And so I went back to school. Over 6 long years, I worked
4 jobs and went to night classes, saved up money for tuition by walking miles instead of
paying for the bus, skipping meals, but never skipping movies. And finally, in my final
year, I did a thesis project on fans like me. People who came to Indian film from outside
of Indian culture.
SRK makes you love him, but he also
makes you love the whole community of people who love him.
And I discovered that Shahrukh is what brought them in. A woman in Ireland stumbling
on a 3am broadcast of DDLJ and crying, an exchange student in India going to Kuch
Kuch Hota Hai in theaters and being swept away, a man in Texas watching Om Shanti
Om and knowing he had never seen anything like this before. Shah Rukh didn’t just
change my life, he changed thousands, millions of lives.
And that’s what inspired me to move on to another level. I had introduced Shah Rukh,
and the Hindi film world in which he lived, to dozens of people over the years through
my movie nights. Now I had finished school, finished my thesis, and I wanted to
introduce more people, not just one by one but all at once. And so I wrote a book and
had it published. And when that didn’t seem like enough, I started a blog.
And Shah Rukh was there for me too. Dilwale came out shortly after my blog launched,
and my reviews of it were the reason I started getting visitors.
Now, two years later, Jab Harry Met Sejal released. I saw it 4 times in theaters (as I see all his movies), and I started to think about it and realized I needed to write about it, really write about it, even if no one read my posts. I had to write them for myself. And the people came! Wonderful people from all over the world who just wanted a place where they could share their love.
That’s what is so special about Shahrukh Khan. He makes you love him, but he also
makes you love the whole community of people who love him. He doesn’t just give you
a fandom, he gives you a family.
About The Author
Margaret Redlich grew up in Springfield, IL and currently lives in Chicago. She received her Masters in Cinema and Media Studies from Depaul University. She wrote the book Don’t Call It Bollywood and blogs at the website dontcallitbollywood.com. And she runs weekly movie nights for her friends.