“SRK shot for a sword sequence in Asoka from 6 am to 4 pm”
I met SRK for the first time during the shoot of Asoka. I think it was in 2001-02. We were shooting somewhere around Maheshwar. Santosh Sivan was directing Asoka and he was the film’s DOP too. I had worked with Sivan on my first Malayalam film. He works in a super-fast manner. We were shooting for a sword fight sequence where some goons attack Kareena Kapoor and her kid and SRK comes to their rescue. Whenever you meet someone for the first time, you tend to pick up their vibe. I got a very positive vibe from Shah Rukh bhai, when we hugged.
It was a very difficult shoot. Santosh was shooting it with a handheld camera setup from 6 am to 4 pm. I think we took more than 100 shots by the time we completed the fight sequence. It was a difficult shoot for SRK as he had to do sword fighting throughout the day. The goons he was fighting would get rest when their shot was done but SRK did not.
In the climax sequence, I knew that Shah Rukh bhai was not comfortable with the horse, but he never showed it while riding. While doing action, an actor needs to trust the action director. He was nice enough to trust me. I had a great time working with him.
For another sequence, an actor was supposed play a small part. But a night before the shoot, SRK and Santosh planned that they will get me to play that part. When I went to the set, they told me to get ready. I was taken to a vanity van all of a sudden and I had to put on the get up for the part and play it. I love working with SRK. I can’t think of a single bad day or experience while working with him.
“In Don, Shah Rukh pulled off a dangerous car stunt on his own”
After Asoka, I got to work with SRK on the Don remake. I did the India schedule of the film. There’s one incident which will always stay with me. There’s a place called Bodi near the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. The black car chase sequence was shot there. The action sequence was such that multiple blasts occur around SRK’s car and the car emerges through that fire. One camera was rigged inside the car. It was supposed to be a one-take shot because the car had to pass through the fire wall. Such sequences keep you on your toes and you pray that everything turns out safe and proper. You can’t afford to take a chance. The car was speeding at 70 kmph. It takes a lot of courage for an actor to pull off a stunt like that. A lot depends on an actor’s presence of mind. I showed SRK a shot done by a stunt double. His reaction was simple, “You do what you have to do. All that I need to do is to drive at 70 kmph speed, right?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “Don’t worry. I will do it.” I was amazed by that. Hats off to Shah Rukh bhai. Luckily, somebody from the crew had captured that shot on mobile, too. Whenever I think of that shoot, I get goosebumps. That’s SRK’s nature, his belief in himself and the crew.
“Om Shanti Om’s high-risk fire sequence kept everyone on the edge”
I can do the biggest action sequences, but I get very emotional about the sequences where higher risk is involved. One of such sequences was the fire sequence from Om Shanti Om. We were shooting in Film City. The sequence had a lot of big curtains, which were supposed to catch fire. There were three cameras, the actors, and people from my team. A unit of about 125 people would be inside the studio. SRK was at ease about that too. He said, “Koi baat nahin Paaji. Main yahan se nikal jaunga. Aap tension mat lo.” Deepika was involved in close-ups and we used a body double in the wide angles. But SRK did all shots by himself. His belief in himself is remarkable. I call him a true pathan. Darr naam ki koi cheez hee nahin hain unn mein (He’s not afraid of anything). He is very organised and has a great presence of mind. He is a very committed and involved actor.
“SRK’s gesture made me and my wife Veena’s eyes well up”
I think the film industry can learn how to respect a person from Shah Rukh Khan. You feel so humbled and blessed the way he treats you. We still share the same bond we shared when we met during Asoka. We speak in Punjabi with each other. He is so warm with people.
In 2019’s Filmfare Awards, Vicky and Shah Rukh bhai were hosting the show. If I go to an award function, I sit wherever they tell me to sit. I had gone to that show because my son was co-hosting it. SRK and Vicky came to the stage and SRK started talking stuff that was not in the script and he asked whether I am in the audience. I was sitting in the 5th or 6th row with my wife. All the cameras turned to me. SRK told Vicky, “When I was new in the industry, your father taught me a lot.” He went on to reveal a lot more. Everyone’s focus was on us. I got so emotional that I felt like crying. With God’s grace, I have received many awards in my career, but I will never forget that moment at Filmfare.
Later, I asked Vicky whether it was all part of a script. Vicky revealed it wasn’t. When they were coming from their vanity van towards the stage SRK asked him, “Sham ji bhi aaye hue hain?” Vicky told him that I was attending the award function. Then SRK asked, “Tumhari Mummy bhi aayi hui hain? Kya naam hai unka?”. Vicky told him that her name is Veena. Both Veena and I were in tears because of the way SRK gave importance to us that night.
It’s moments like these that made him Shah Rukh Khan. I told my kids that these moments are great learnings. You can see video footages of whenever I have got an award, if SRK was hosting it, he has often said good things about me. These gestures are bigger than any award for me.