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Far from being the ‘conventionally handsome’ actor, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has, over the years, emerged as the gold standard of romance in Hindi films. Despite ruling the roost, Khan’s life hasn’t been a bed of roses.
On Khan’s 55th birthday today, we bring you an incident, where he was ready to take a bullet for his friend and filmmaker Karan Johar. Johar, in his autobiography ‘An Unsuitable Boy,’ mentioned an incident that took place while filming Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (released in 1998) where he got a threat call from underworld don Abu Salem and how SRK stood by him like a rock.
Read the excerpt mentioned in Karan Johar’s book here:
“On Monday, we were writing out the cards, dispatching them through production. My maasi had come to the house to help us. I went down to drop her. My mother was alone at home, even the servants were not there, all of them had gone out. The phone rang. My mother picked it up, and it was a call from the underworld. A man's voice said, ‘Your son's wearing a red T-shirt, I can see him right now. And we're going to shoot him if you release this film on Friday.’”
"For some reason, they didn't want the film to be released that Friday; we didn't know why. It was a call from Abu Salem, and my mother was shaking with terror. She put the phone down and ran towards the door. She pressed the lift number, and I was coming up. As I came up those nine floors, she was going through really tough moments.
When I reached, she just dragged me to the room and said, 'You have to call the cops. This call has come and they said they're going to shoot you, they don't want you to release your film this Friday...'" "That evening, my father, Shah Rukh, the cops, Adi, everybody was there. The cops advised us, 'We will protect you but you have to go ahead. You can't show your fear. You have to have the premiere on Thursday.' By my mother said, 'What does this mean?'
We were a simple family. We'd never had the underworld calling us to stop the release of a film. We'd never dreamt that something like this could even happen to us. My mother said, 'We don't want all this nonsense.'" They had the premiere anyway, but Karan was put in a small room with two security guards for his protection. He writes about how he always dreamed about Shammi Kapoor coming out of a car to attend the premiere of his film. His mother knew this, and was very upset that Karan wouldn't get to witness that. She told Shah Rukh Khan about this.
Karan writes, "Shah Rukh said, 'What nonsense!' He went inside and dragged me out. He said, 'I'm standing here in front of you. Let's see who shoots you. I'm standing right here.'" "I said, 'No, no, no, my mother was...' He told my mother, 'Nothing's gonna happen. I'm a Pathan. Nothing can happen to me and nothing will happen to your son. He's like my brother. Nothing's gonna happen.'"
In a separate incident, Shah Rukh had to also deal with threatening calls from gangsters Abu Salem and Chota Shakeel, among others. In a book written by Anupama Chopra – The King of Bollywood, she spoke about how Khan braved the underworld.
An unflinching Khan had once told Salem, who wanted him to work in a film by a certain producer who was close to the gangster, said, “I don’t tell you who to shoot so don’t tell me which film to do.” It was during the shooting of Dil To Pagal Hai (released in 1997), Khan had got these threat calls.
When Khan got a call from Salem, he asked, “Who’s this.” Khan’s question invited volley of abuses in Hindi. Khan chose to be polite as he continued to speak in English. Following the incident, Mumbai Police provided the actor with security.