A couple of days ago, I was in Singapore. I didn’t get to visit the orchid garden, the bird sanctuary or the Sentosa amusement park. I didn’t get to see any lions in Lion country because even Merlin, the life-size statue of the fire-spewing mermaid, the national emblem, was sheathed in plastic and under repairs.
But I did see the brightest and best of Bollywood add sparkle to the crystal chandeliers in the opulent ballroom of Hotel Marina Bay Sands last Friday. And make Zee Cine Awards the buzzword in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. As I was leaving, a stiff-lipped immigration official smilingly invited me back when, in response to his question of whether I had come on work or holiday, I told him I’d been there for the Zee Awards and hadn’t seen anything outside of one of the largest integrated resorts in Asia.
Leading the Bollywood brigade was the Badshah himself who had flown in on a chartered flight that had taxied into Changi airport in the wee hours. And after an hour, at best two of shut-eye in the Presidential suite, was on stage practicing his dance moves for the evening’s finale.
As the familiar tunes of Noor-e-Khuda and Sajda from My Name Is Khan rang out for the nth time, waiting backstage for a promised chat with Shah Rukh, I was transported back in time… to another award function in a five-star hotel in Mumbai.
It was SRK’s first ever stage performance and the hazel-eyed Kajol was matching steps with him. Buzzing with nervous energy, in the wings, the duo were bickering over little things and trading punches, as they waited for their turn in the spotlight. "I remember," Shah Rukh smiled. "At another show this week, we started my act with Yeh kaali kaali aankhen and ended with Om Shanti Om. And it was flashback to Baazigar for me too."
Baazigar bagged Shah Rukh his first Best Actor award. I’d gone to Madh island where he was shooting, to drop off his invites and got an earful in ethics because an industry veteran had told the young superstar that awards were ‘bought’ and he could only hope for a consolation prize… Best Villain for Darr.
Shah Rukh was disappointed, disillusioned and deaf to reason as I tried to convince him not to listen to gossip. And later he was suitably apologetic as he walked out of our show cradling two prized trophies for Best Actor and Best Bad Man, after publicly admitting that they had not been paid for.
"I love awards," he’d asserted. "They make me feel so loved and wanted." Even today, he echoes the same sentiment: "And they get me extra hugs and kisses from my children."
There’s a room in Mannat where all the trophies he’s won down the years are proudly displayed. How many in all, I wondered. His forehead creased and then those famous dimples flashed, "I don’t know. I’ll count them when I retire."
Well, he added two more to the shelf last week. And they got him lots of extra hugs and kisses from his lil’ darlings, I’m sure. For me, watching Shah Rukh gently coax Sussanne Roshan on stage and get her husband Hrithik to serenade her to the tunes of Sajda is today another trophy in my shelfful of memories…