Holding a Tibetan prayer wheel in one hand and an audio CD of Shah Rukh Khan’s best in the other, 86-year-old Tshering Lama breaks into a smile, revealing decaying, brown teeth. “We just love him,” Lama says of the Bollywood hero as she leaves a shop in downtown Lhasa, clutching the CD she had longed to buy for long.
The octogenarian neither understands nor speaks Hindi. Yet she has lost count of the films she has seen featuring SRK. “My favourites are Dil Se and Baazigar,” she says.
King Khan’s popularity has breached the near-impregnable Himalayan wall, travelling to the barren, rolling mountains of Tibet.
Khan is almost omnipresent in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s capital city. Shops selling motley household items peddle pirated CDs/DVDs of his films, his songs are the ringtones of every third cellphone, and his posters adorn almost every hair-cutting salon.
Tibetans say the Kaun Banega Crorepati host is the most popular person in Tibet after the revered Dalai Lama.
“Not many people know of Amitabh Bachchan here. Shah Rukh is our hero,” says Jiang Wu, an employee of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lhasa. Born to a Han Chinese father and a Tibetan mother, Jiang has at least half-a-dozen popular numbers of SRK in her mobile phone as ringtones.
“When do you think Shah Rukh will visit Tibet?” asks Tashi Takhla, a curio shop owner. Is King Khan listening?