THE UPSHOT: The ‘King Khan of Bollywood’ proves why he’s deserving of that epithet in a thoroughly engrossing tête-à-tête with David Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman.
Directors: Michael Bonfiglio, Mark Ritchie, Michael Steed
Presented by: David Letterman
Seasons: 2 (2018, 2019)
Streaming on: Netflix
Half the planet loves Shah Rukh Khan
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman opens with a scene that’s familiar to Mumbaikars. Eid celebrations outside Mannat, Shah Rukh Khan’s palatial, sea-facing house in Bandra. A tsunami of people storms his gates, just to catch a glimpse of the ‘Badshah of Bollywood’. He obliges, this time with his cherubic son Abram and David Letterman. As SRK blows kisses and waves to his fans, Letterman is left absolutely dazzled. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. A similar scene is repeated, albeit with fewer people, at the taping of the show in New York. Khan has a fan following that far out-rivals any actor on the planet. In fact, as Letterman frequently points out, 3.5 billion (we have no idea how he arrived at this figure) people love him unabashedly. Khan responds with winning self-deprecation, “I’m not as talented as I thought. So (I thought) if I can’t do it with skill and talent, then I’d better get into the hearts of the people. And if they are loving me, let me just be nice and good about it.”
SRK had us chuckling throughout
The superstar is called a “charmer” and “so darn cute” by Letterman, and during the course of the interview, he shows why he is worthy of those titles. Khan combines wit and candour as he discusses his children (he claims fatherhood has made him “kinder, gentler and more anxious”); actors that inspired him to become one (Michael J Fox and Peter Sellers); losing his parents at a young age (“I showed my mother one of my serials when she was in the hospital, and she died the next day. So no amount of criticism about my work makes me feel bad anymore”); his views on Donald Trump (“maybe you guys deserve it”) and of course, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a movie that catapulted Khan to superstar status. Khan has Letterman and the audience in splits with lines such as: “I always assume everyone who comes to meet me is a fan,” and “He’ll like this on him (shaking fist)” while discussing daughter Suhana’s boyfriend.
The myth of SRK is the boss of him
Khan confesses that he is “an employee of the myth that is Shah Rukh Khan”. He adds that he is an extremely shy person who finds stardom “alien” and feels awkward about blowing kisses to his fans but does it anyway. Gauri Khan, who makes an appearance in the Mumbai segment of the show, corroborates this as she weighs in on his astounding rise to fame, “sharing” him with his fans and how she’s okay with the crowds outside the house (“as long as I don’t have to go outside”). The actor is candid about his kids. He says his oldest son Aryan “doesn’t have what it takes to be an actor” and that he pretends to be “cool” about Suhana’s boyfriend when really he’d like to tell her to “kick him out”. Of course, the interview would be incomplete without him being asked to showcase his signature dance moves and pose (the sideways stance with arms wide open). He obliges and tries to teach Letterman how to shake it like a Bollywood star. Towards the end, Letterman sums it up best when he says, “After each one of these sessions I think to myself, it is a very smart, very lovely person from whom I have learned things. You would maybe be at the top of that list.”