October 6 2014 London
A personal piece about what it’s like when India’s biggest film star Shah Rukh Khan rocks into town to give a press conference alongside some other very BIG names…it can all get a little surreal, with wailing babies and besotted journos, as our correspondent discovers…
By Suman Bhuchar
IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST eagerly anticipated Indian film events of the year – and a little bit later than planned (but it was definitely worth the wait) – the stars for “Happy New Year” Slam Tour and film, walked into the ballroom of the Montcalm Hotel, London, to a press conference with a crowd of media, fans and sponsors, “to mark this year’s biggest Bollywood release”.
(Earlier, they had been having their pictures taken with fans who won a competition to travel on their bus with them to the O2 where the concert was later due to take place).
Farah Khan, the director led in the entourage, consisting of Boman Irani, newcomer, Vivaan Shah, (son of actor Naseeruddin Shah), Sonu Sood, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan and the Badshah of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) himself, along with the headline sponsors of the tour, Lycamobile and its representatives, chairman and founder, Subaskaran Allirajah and group deputy Chairman, Premanthan Sivasamy.
The conference yesterday (October 5) hosted by Ameet Chana (currently appearing in the sell-out Rifco play “Happy Birthday Sunita”) began with him asking all the stars a question about how the tour had progressed so far and the difficulties of transporting a 135-strong team from India across the world to perform in the US and now finally London, which was their final destination before they went back to Mumbai and put the finishing touches on the film.
“Happy New Year” is due to be released overseas in the UK, US and Dubai on October 23 by Yash Raj films, and will hit theatres in India the next day, just before the country celebrates Diwali.
Director Khan said the show had taken over her life: “Let’s say I have not seen my husband in two weeks, it’s a whirlwind lead up, we still have a movie to release, the tour has been amazing, we slammed every city we went to, saved the best for the last.”
Tour producer SRK, also India’s highest paid film star (and often compared to Hollywood’s Tom Cruise for looks, style and longevity), said: “It’s been a long time since any of us has performed live on this scale ever (for Farah Khan it was 25 years since she first came to London to appear in the World Dance Championship) but it’s been great fun, it’s just a good excuse to go out there and enjoy yourself.
“The film is all about dancing so it all seems to fit in and we’ve been hanging out together for the last one year making this film, so it was easy to be with people who are like friends, like family and I think when you do a live show; the most important part is how everyone gets along together. London has been the most important city for performing live.”
Audience questions ranged from the enthusiastically gushing to the awkward.
Here’s an example, shortened and straightened – ‘Isn’t this tour about piling the cash high when you’ve already made enough money by signing a megadeal (running into millions) with Yash Raj Films (as distributors)…and what’s there left to achieve…and answer in Hindi!
SRK responded in Hindi: “First thing, this is a completely wrong thought of anyone, who thinks we have made the money for our film from the Slam Tour – whoever thinks that doesn’t know how to make a film; has never made a film and according to me should never make a film.” (Audience claps.)
On Saturday, SRK had been presented with a Global Diversity Award in a ceremony at the House of Commons.
SRK responded to the question about achievement: “In terms of what is there left for me to achieve – not everything is achievement oriented, some things are for giving – now I wish to just give, I wish to share some happiness, I wish to entertain, I wish to give smiles, and sometimes, I wish to give answers to your questions.
“I say it again and again, I am thankful and humble with all of the awards bestowed on me and it makes me want to work harder, do better and give a little more.”
So you see, not just SRK, but all the panel answered every question with equanimity and gracious sincerity.
At one point, a baby started wailing, while King Khan was talking, he began humming a lullaby mid-sentence to the delight of the assembled media and a few others, who were in a state of ecstasy as a congregation might be when hearing their favourite preacher.
“The most precious thing is we are going to miss is each other,” was an answer to one question, while another asked Abhishek Bachchan to do a ‘selfie’ with the audience and he duly obliged.
A young Nepali woman Shradda (representing a website) spoke to SRK in her halting Hindi saying how she had learnt the language through watching Bollywood films, and asked them to come to perform in Nepal. She then presented him with a bouquet of flowers.
A nervous French writer’s voice shook as she revealed how her organisation was promoting and distributing the film in France (where it would release in 30 cities) and she had written a biography about SRK in French which she duly presented to him, and Khan, as ever charm personified, kissed her hand.
“Thank you for the love, I am aware of all the work you do, so I take this chance to thank you and your team,” he said explaining how he rarely had the personal opportunity to thank people responsible for tirelessly promoting Bollywood films in new territories such as Europe and Scandinavia.
Another French journalist implored SRK to attend the Cannes Film Festival – he said he would, but only when he had a film showing there (ed: could be waiting a long time).
Deepika Padukone was asked what it was like to work with such a “male dominated cast” on the film and here, SRK joked that (“there was no men amongst them”) while she said: “I mean what can I ask for, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world, how often will I be surrounded by good looking charming men in one film. I’ve got them in different shapes and sizes!”
It was a slightly humorous reference to Shah (second from left main picture), who had to stand up at one point to address the media, as they could not see him properly when seated (and Deepika herself is a cool 5ft 9ins/1.74m)
They were all asked which moment had changed their lives. Irani revealed that for him it came later in life.
He said: “When I was 35 years old, I did my first play as an theatre actor and I was suddenly required to travel for the first time, and I did not own a passport , within a week someone had managed to pull some strings and get a passport as I had to come to London for an audition; and the first city I visited outside my country was London and I think it opened my eyes to a completely new world, new place and opportunity, that I feel was a life changing moment.”
For, Bachchan it was getting his first job as an actor, (with JP Dutta).
Farah Khan said ‘life changing moments happen regularly, if you know what they are” for her, one was having three kids at age of 43, and another, she said: “I am hoping ‘Happy New Year‘ will be a life changing film for me as a director.”
For the newcomer Shah, it was the opportunity to be involved in this film.
SRK said it would be great to take the tour to other countries and urged to visit Paris and France where journalists from that country said he had a big following.
The Happy New Year UK tour behind-the-scenes is being made into a documentary which will be aired on Star TV at a future date.
- ‘Happy New Year’ the film releases October 23 and October 24 in India
- Picture gallery to follow