'Shah Rukh Khan loved to win,' says director Aziz Mirza

Farhana Farook
·9-min read

Veteran filmmaker Aziz Mirza reveals unknown facets about Shah Rukh Khan on the superstar’s 55th birthday.

Filmmaker Aziz Mirza
Filmmaker Aziz Mirza

Director Aziz Mirza was one of the first directors to work with a young Shah Rukh Khan. Beginning from television serials Umeed and Circus in 1989, they went on to collaborate on films Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Yes Boss, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and Chalte Chalte.

Cherishing a relationship that went beyond the professional, here the veteran shares rare facets of the superstar on his 55th birthday.

In Aziz Mirza’s own words…

Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan

“Those were the heady days of television. We were beginning our television series Umeed (1989), when my assistant Pushkar suggested Shah Rukh Khan’s name, the young actor who’d won notice after Fauji (1988). We (referring to brother Saeed Mirza, Kundan Shah and himself) sent for him. Shah Rukh flew down from Delhi. Unfortunately, our production manager failed to reach the airport to receive him.”

“Shah Rukh feared someone had played a prank on him.”

Eventually, he came to the office. The memory is vivid even today. He was wearing a white shirt. He reminded me of my son (Haroun Mirza). I took to him instantly. My wife Nirmala (Mirza) also grew fond of him. She felt motherly towards him. Shah Rukh has this endearing quality about him.

Shah Rukh in Umeed
Shah Rukh in Umeed

Right from the early days, Shah Rukh had this habit of staying up late. He’d be playing video games all night. Those days he slept in the flat, which also doubled up as our office during the day. Once when he didn’t wake up in the morning, despite ringing the bell repeatedly, we got concerned. My wife feared we’d have to call the fire brigade! Luckily, he woke up.

We shot our next serial Circus (1989) in Goa. Our location was far from the hotel we were staying in.

As usual, Shah Rukh would be playing video games all night. Knowing that he’d slept late, our production girl would wake him up the last. He’d get up and just get onto the bus. He’d have a bath on location in the open with the circus people. He was that simple!

Shah Rukh Khan and Aziz Mirza on the set of Yes Boss
Shah Rukh Khan and Aziz Mirza on the set of Yes Boss

“We’d pause shooting between 4pm – 6pm every day. During that time, the unit would play volleyball. Ashutosh Gowariker, Makarand Deshpande, Naeem Khan and Shah Rukh, all athletic boys, would get so involved in the game as though it was a matter of life and death. And Shah Rukh always loved to win!”

As most know, Shah Rukh’s a voracious reader. Appreciating his love for books, Kundan (Shah) gave him the keys of the two cupboards, which housed his precious books. For Kundan to part with the keys was a big deal! Shah Rukh’s love for books has made him create an incredible library at home. It’s a beautifully classified collection.

Much has been said about his wit and great sense of humour. While he can leave the room in splits, it’s funny that Shah Rukh rarely laughs. He will only smile.

Where food is concerned, Shah Rukh’s a simple eater. Omelettes were something he relished at all times. Later on his tiffin mostly comprised chicken tikka. He can have that for months together. He’s basically disinterested in food.

A superstar today, at one point, Shah Rukh wasn’t interested in films. Top producers reached out to him. But he wouldn’t go for the meetings.

He didn’t want to be a film star. He wanted to be a television star.

The first film he signed was Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992). However, Deewana (1992) released first.

Every actor is interested in his looks. But Shah Rukh is easy going and believes in being natural. One moment, he’d be sitting on the floor, the next minute he’d be facing the camera. I’d have to remind him, “Dust your clothes son! Comb your hair!” Even after he became a superstar, he still stuck to his old small mirror.

Some years ago, he had a pair of brown suede shoes, which he loved. They had worn out. The crepe sole had gone loose and kept flipping. But he kept wearing them, even though he could afford the best. He loved them so much; he got some three-four similar pairs made.

As an actor, he’s innovative and in-the-moment. Once during a scene of a film, he was standing on a slope and seemed shorter than the other actor he was to dominate. I wanted him to change his position. He made a ‘false pause’ in the dialogue and went over to the other side. That showed his craft as an actor. He managed the scene without making it look unnatural. That moment I realized he’d go places.

Another thing… Shah Rukh was greatly influenced by Back To The Future (1985) actor, Michael J Fox, who’d be doing five things at the same time in a scene.

Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani
Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani

Shah Rukh’s agility is something exceptional. For one scene in Yes Boss (1997), he had to get into an Ambassador car via the window. He jumped through in a second as though he had walked in, leaving us all amazed. Then once we were shooting for Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (PBDHH 2000) in Hyderabad. He was wearing a suit. It was unbearably hot. He had to fall and slip in the shot. He kept on doing innumerable rehearsals just to get it right. His energy is unbelievable!

Of course, we were all disappointed when Phir Bhi… didn’t work. Even he couldn’t believe it. He kept fighting for the film, giving interviews, talking about it. The film was edgy, a satire. It was layered with metaphors. I’d assumed that enlightened journalists would guide audiences to see it in the right perspective and grasp the underlying message. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t understand it either. But after the initial shock, Shah Rukh just delved into work and more work. He believes in looking forward.

Shah Rukh was deeply attached to his parents (the late Lateef Fatima and Meer Taj Mohammed Khan). I met his mother for the first time in Delhi. She ran a quaint restaurant in a fort. The place was allotted to them as his father was a freedom fighter. The next time I met her, she was in hospital.

Shah Rukh's mother was a great fan of Dilip Kumar and asked me, “Will my son be a star like Dilip Kumar?” I said, “I don’t know whether he will be a star like Dilip Kumar. But one thing I do know is that he’s a good actor and will always get work.”

Years later, while shooting for Phir Bhi… in Delhi, we visited his parents’ graves.

He was visibly moved.

He’s an extremely loving brother to his sister Lala Rukh (Khan).

I met Gauri (Khan) in Delhi when we were shooting Circus. They were both young and looked wonderful together. He’d call up Gauri every day from the set. But he’d make Renuka Shahane or Dimple Hirji call up. They’d then pass the receiver to him. Shah Rukh and Gauri got married during Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. Gauri accompanied him to Darjeeling where we were shooting. It was their honeymoon of sorts.

Shah Rukh’s an amazing father and makes it a point to spend time with his children. Once when I visited him, he was writing on a blackboard, teaching Hindi to Aryan (Khan) and his friend. On another occasion, he was reading out something to Suhana (Khan).

Aryan has inherited Shah Rukh’s agility. As a child, I’ve seen him do tricks on the trampoline and at the cross bar in their home. He used to be so proud doing those difficult gymnastic tricks. Also, when Aryan was a kid, he’d start crying on seeing me. He got petrified of my white hair.

So whenever Shah Rukh wanted to step out and Aryan would insist he be taken along, Shah Rukh would say, “I’m going to meet Aziz.” Aryan would quickly back off saying, “Go go!”

Rani Mukerji and Shah Rukh Khan in Chalte Chalte
Rani Mukerji and Shah Rukh Khan in Chalte Chalte

The secret of Shah Rukh’s success? I guess it’s his hard work and charisma. He was not motivated to be a superstar. I don’t think he calculated his stardom. He has his mother’s blessings. Interestingly, he casts a strange magnetism on women.

Women of all ages love him. Older women feel protective about him. While young girls… oh I’ve seen them blush and hide their faces in their palms on seeing him!

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