Kuch Kuch Hota Hai... That was the first time Shah Rukh Khan played father in reel life, a 30-year-old father to an eight-year-old motherless daughter. “When I was holding the newborn in my arms, I was reminded of my son Aryan’s entry into the world,” he admitted to me 14 years ago, adding with a relieved sigh that fortunately his real life story had a happier ending and Gauri didn’t go away. “But Sana’s daddy was nothing like Aryan’s daddy. Rahul reminded me of my dad, he was so grown-up. Maybe when Aryan is eight, I’ll feel that way too,” he mused.
Aryan is 14 today. There’s Suhana too. And Shah Rukh has grown up as a dad. Sure, he lost his cool last month when a security guard at Wankhade stadium tried to physically hurry along one of his daughter’s teenaged friends. But then, he apologised for doing so during KKR’s heady moment of triumph. Many insist the ‘sorry’ was an effort to whitewash his public image but I believe it was to ensure he remains a role model to his children.
I remember waiting at Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Bandra office once for an interview just before the release of Kareeb. After about 30 minutes, he called saying he was feeling a little blue and could we push the interview forward to the next afternoon? With a long-suffering sigh I agreed but then, just as he was about to hang up, the filmmaker asked me to hang around for another 10 minutes. “I’ll take a shower, maybe it”ll cure my headache,” he explained.
Ten minutes later, he invited me up to his apartment. He didn’t look like he’d showered, his hair was oily, but he seemed fine. And I noticed a little boy watching his father settle me in. He was Agni, and it turned out I owed my interview to Vinod’s son. Busy with his film, Vinod hadn’t been able to spend much time with his kids and had been looking forward to an evening at home before a late-night trial show of his movie when I had turned up. He had tried to fob me off but had been caught fibbing by his son and Agni’s reproving stare had brought me upstairs.
“You can’t preach unless you practise,” smiled Vinod whose just-released Ferrari Ki Sawari has its muse in Agni who was careful to ensure that his cricket buddies didn’t know he was the son of the maker of the Munnabhai films and 3 Idiots because he didn’t want any undue advantages.
I know Agni will grow up to make a name for himself in his chosen field because his dad was brave enough to admit to a journalist that he’d been caught lying by his son!
Before I’m accused of being a sexist, let me assure you that daughters too have done what their mother couldn’t for years. Rishi Kapoor used to smoke up to 40 cigarettes in a day until he got a note from his daughter Riddhima one New Year’s Day warning him about no more morning kisses if he didn’t stop smoking. He did!
For Shatrughan Sinha, politics and Sonakshi put an end to all his affairs. In ’94, he’d told a colleague, “If I’m in love with anyone other than Poonam, it’s my daughter.” I believed him because for our annual issue, the photographer had goaded him into playfully nibbling on Monica Bedi’s ear during a photo shoot. When he saw the transparencies, he was aghast. “If Sonakshi sees these pictures, I am dead!”
A few weeks ago, Sonakshi admitted that papa was looking forward to the release Rowdy Rathore: “He will get all dressed up for the premiere, watch the film with the audience and wait for air-hostesses to come up to him during a flight and tell him how much they liked me, the way they did after Dabangg! It’s sweet!”
That’s daddy for you!