A ll the parched and dusty roads led to Film City Goregaon - on the day of the season's finale shoot of Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain, guest starring Lalu Prasad Yadav.
The entrance at a studio lot has a 100-strong crowd - sweaty but cheerful. The press waits. Much, much later, there's a long-drawn security check.
No bags, no wallets, no cell phones, no lighters, no cigarettes, not even sunglasses. The PR girl overseeing the exercise, attempts a dash of humour, "Anyone got bombs?" No one smiles. Indoors at last Finally, we're ushered into Shah Rukh Khan's classroom. The icy cool draft is welcome.
The decorations for the finale include clumpy ornamental trees with fairy lights and coloured flags. The bacha party makes an appearance along with a huge replica of an encyclopedia. "Field clear, field clear," yells a hoarse voice in a red Tee-shirt.
A very trim but uncharacteristically grim SRK arrives in black Tee and jeans. The live audience comes alive. He smiles (ah, those dimples), bows, blows kisses and starts the dance rehearsal.
The mammoth encyclopedia is a cupboard of sorts which the kids push on to the stage.
One, two three. Khan kicks open the door and dances to the tune of Tumse mil ke dil ka. The kiddies' not-in-awe interaction with him is a treat to watch. They aren't over-excited, not even when he absent-mindedly pats their heads after, ‘Cut.' When it's time for a retake, the kids get into the encyclopedia with Khan, their excited screams echoing from within. "Field clear, field clear," shouts red Tee-man again. Enter.. Minister Half hour later. The field clearer's orders become even hoarser as he announces the Union Railway Minister's entry .
First, men in white enter and take over the first row. Second, Lalu Prasad Yadav's special guests arrive. Finally, Yadav enters. The kids are excited, Khan is excited, ditto the audience.
Yadav and Khan tap their gifts of the gab and charm. "If Shah Rukh is my fan, I'm his airconditioner," announces Yadav.
The politician recounts his school days in a municipal outfit in Bihar. "Tab ki baat aur thi," he says, remembering his school teachers pinching his ears to punish him. As a student, he would work at his teacher's house and help out at their farms too.
The minister then sighs about how smart today's generation is. They can even operate a cellphone and the Internet. "Humaare palle hi nahi padta," he smiles apologetically. Four dummy questions are answered quickly and correctly by the minister.
Khan offers to show him how to use the children's answers as lifelines for one of the questions: Which mammal can fly? Yadav keeps retorting, "But I know the answer.. why do I need a lifeline?"
Then, the duo walk off the stage as promptly as they came on it. The press is ushered out.. the finale shoot isn't open to media. Field clear.