bollywood obsession

[Photos] Meet the ‘biggest Shah Rukh Khan fan in the world’

Encounters with an obsessive admirer of the superstar – not from the upcoming movie but in real life.

In the April 15 release Fan, Shah Rukh Khan plays both a celebrity and an obsessive lookalike. Gaurav Chanda thinks that nobody loves movie star Aryan Khanna more than him, but he has tough competition from the real world. Lucknow resident Vishal Singh believes that he is the biggest Shah Rukh Khan fan on the planet, and going by the evidence, he certainly seems to have earned the title.

From legally changing his name to Vishahrukh Khan to driving down to Mumbai for his honeymoon to catch a glimpse of his the actor, this devotee has done it all. The song “Aisi Deewangi, Dekhi Nahin Kahin” (Such madness, never seen before) from the 1992 Shah Rukh Khan starrer Deewana perfectly applies to Singh, whose entire life revolves around idol worship of another kind.

Every brick of Vishahrukh’s three-storeyed home screams SRK. The actor is plastered on the walls, ceilings, bulbs, fans, and the bath tub. The house is called Shahrukh Palace. Visharukh own two cars, both of which are plastered with more than 23,000 images from Khan’s movies. The 43-year-old wholesale dealer in homeopathy medicine has named his shop in Aliganj Shahrukh Force.

Vishal Singh first saw Shah Rukh Khan in the television series Fauji in 1989. His enthusiasm grew after watching Khan in the serials Circus and Dil Dariya and reached its peak with Khan’s debut movie, Deewana, in 1992.

Vishahrukh believes that his life runs parallel to characters played by his icon. His own love story mirrors that of the couple in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), he says. (It helps that his wife, Ruchi, is also an SRK worshipper). Vishahrukh has named his son Aryan after Khan’s son and his daughter Simran after the character played by Kajol in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

Vishahrukh says he battled cancer like Khan’s character in Kal Ho Na Ho (2003). If he survived (unlike the movie character), it is because of Khan’s benediction. “I believe these pictures of Shah Rukh Khan give me strength and bring positive energy to my house,” he said. “The way SRK has struggled and achieved success is a role model and his life is a true inspiration.”

Vishahrukh has now met SRK several times, and he claims that he has a direct bond with the actor and his family, to the extent that he attended the wedding of Khan’s brother-in-law. He boasts of having received numerous gifts signed by Khan, and he reacted in kind by sending a handmade 42-feet greeting card to Khan on his fiftieth birthday on November 2.

In 2006, Vishahrukh won a local competition titled Sabse Bada Deewana, and his fame has only multiplied ever since. “Sometimes, I myself feel like a celebrity,” he said. “People come to my house, they take my autograph and click pictures with me. I treat them the way SRK treats his fans, though I am not a celebrity.”

He has set up a production company and wants to make a movie tentatively titled Hum Bhi Hain Shahrukh, about young Khan fans who go to Mumbai to meet and work with the star, only to return disappointed. Vishahrukh wants SRK to play the lead. Another script is based on his own life, tentatively titled Faniyat. Maneesh Sharma’s Fan, written by Habib Faisal and produced by Yash Raj Films, will beat him to it.

A portion of Shahrukh Palace houses a mini-theatre, where only SRK movies will be screened. However, Vishahrukh is waiting for Khan to inaugurate the screening facility. One of the stores Visharukh owns has been shut for the past decade and has a ribbon wrapped around the door. Some day, he hopes, Khan will come there to cut the ribbon.
(All photographs by Uzair Hasan Rizvi.)

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German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.