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The “Baadshah of Bollywood” and I

by Bored Guest

I remember the days when we played cricket together, the “Baadshah of Bollywood” (King of Bollywood), Shah Rukh Khan and I. We were schoolmates. He was the wicket keeper and I the opening batsmen for our junior school cricket team at St. Columba’s School, New Delhi.

One thing is for sure, SRK was more dynamic and charming behind the wicket than I was.

I played the ‘slow & steady, old style knocks’ that kept one end of the wicket fortified. That was the call of the day. Dynamic, ‘fling around the bat in any style cricket’ culminating in today’s T20 format was unthinkable back then. Our coaches, Gurcharan Singh (an ex Ranji Trophy coach) and Br. Eric Steven D’Souza (a Vice Principal at our school and cricket coach, also SRK’s mentor since then) would have disapproved of the awkward and effective batting techniques as used today by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But, regardless of what I think today, two dear friends of mine always claimed and continue to claim that my style was more like that of Anshuman Dattajirao Gaekwad (Indian test team 1975 - 1985), implying that it was slow and… ah, well, let’s not talk about it. Yes, I still am in a state of partial denial about playing slow knocks in 20-30 over games.

Whatever, we emulated long innings played by ‘The Masters’ of our day and age, eg. Sunil (Sunny) Gavaskar. Believe it or not, I had even adapted his stance, i.e. ‘fixate the right leg, lift the one on the left, circle it around and then gently let it fall into position’. Enjoy looking at any old video footage to see what I am talking about. This is, seen today, as funny and special as Sachin (The Little Master) Tendulkar’s leg bends whilst standing, just before he takes his batting position.

The reasons for the two masters so diverse movements surely were quite different. After analyzing the movement so unique to Sachin, it must be said that it originates in a crotch guard that refused to stay in place or one that tweaked his gonads a little too frequently. Sachin, being an Indian, could of course have indulged in a very Indian men’s habit: crotch scratching or repositioning in public! But, because he was being filmed and constantly scrutinized on screen, he refrained from that rather disgusting habit whenever he was out there on the pitch. Whatever, his special habit did not disappear even though cricketing equipment got better and better over the years. Now, I cannot criticize what Sunny did because I imitated him. Well, that’s how much of an influence ‘The Greats’ had on us.

At practice, I remember SRK finding my Sunny Gavaskar style left leg lift quite funny and then he would invariably have his effervescent, dimple-cheeked smile going for me. Yup, he was always very amused.

I remember SRK, possibly emulating the great wicketkeeper Syed Mujtaba Hussein Kirmani (Indian test team 1976 - 1986), being somewhat relaxed/ sluggish in nature but he used to come alive once he was behind the stumps, keeping wicket. Others will confirm that SRK also played field hockey. Regardless of the sport, most will agree that he was athletic back then. Seeing his dance steps, hip moves, pirouettes and what have you on screen today, chasing fictitious gangsters or real heroines around, one will agree – he is athletic even today. I shall not comment on his ‘6-Pack Abs’, as I have never seen or felt them.

Shah Rukh was an amicable guy, i.e. he always was in a good mood around me. We had fun on the cricket field and off of it. Being junior to me by two years at school obviously meant that we were less around each other, i.e. once we were off the cricket field. But we had common friends. One of his best friends Vivek (Khushu) Khushlani spent a whole lot more time with me in the pool back then. We were on the school swimming team together. Khushu was smaller and thinner then and is much taller and bigger now. You’ll see him often on TV with his very silver, straight hair, sitting there, right next to Shah Rukh Khan. Yup, he’s SRK’s buddy alright.

Talking of TV… I guess that it was a combination of many things that got SRK involved with the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) T20 team that play in the DLF IPL tournament. Besides friends that coaxed him into it, the prime reason is that SRK is an avid sports fan. He appreciated all forms of sport back then and does so even now. Some might ask, is this also because it is about the big money? The answer is rather straightforward: SRK has never denied that he will do what makes him happy and more successful. For a man that emerged from a modest background, he has all the rights to enjoy the proceeds and laurels of his own hard work.

Like many of us, including most mentioned in this article, even SRK’s wife Gauri Khan (maiden name ‘Chibba’) was what we, in India, call ‘convent educated’. She went to Loreto Convent in New Delhi and her love story can be read all over the world-wide-web. Nope, she did not play cricket but she did fall in love with KKR’s owner!

I mention love and I must think about my girlfriend, Kavita. Her late father Col. Bob Muthanna was in the Army with SRK’s father-in-law Captain Ramesh Chibba, both a part of the ‘1st Sikh Light Infantry’ (Battalion). Ramesh had left the Army and Bob passed away in 1989 but their wives have been in touch ever since.

Okay, jumping a bit… there’s the recent success story of “The Zoya Factor”, a book on the passion of cricket in its many dimensions, written by Anuja Chauhan. No, she is not Sunny Gavaskar’s opening batsman partner Chetandra (Chetan) Pratap Singh Chauhan’s (Indian test team 1969 - 1981) daughter but yes, she is married to Niret (Choku) Alva, co-owner of MidiTech TV, also an ex batch mate of mine and schoolmate of ours. He just about landed up being my brother-in-law back then, believe it or not? It gets better: My girlfriend’s cousin, Pria is married to Niret’s younger brother Nikhil (Niki) Alva, also known to me from my school days. Yet another connection!

Now, here’s another angle to it: The rights to film “The Zoya Factor” are now with SRK. How did these get to him? Well, Anuja knew SRK from her days managing the Pepsi account at J. Walter Thompson Advertising, where she is an Executive Creative Director and Vice-President today. SRK was then a brand ambassador for Pepsi.

Now, if you think that is it… Ha, check this out… back to the IPL:
Lalit Kumar Modi, the Chairman & Commissioner, also the “Wizard of the IPL” was not only my schoolmate, he was my class mate, too (in 11-B). We actually studied together or should I say bought our books together. Yup, we did.

Six degrees of separation, huh?!
I guess we are all related or are all known to each other in some way or the other. These are all connections indeed to the “Baadshah of Bollywood” but nothing beats first-hand memories and narratives from friends.

Besides, times might change but one’s love for cricket and each other doesn’t really ‘take a hit’ or ‘go for a six’… what a great game!!

by Ajoy Eric Lal
Went to school with Shah Rukh Khan and even played cricket with him in the early 1980s. You’ll find him seated on page 60 in the Baadshah of Bollywood’s coffee table book called “SRK” but the date there is all wrong.


Gaurav Sethi said...

Welcome on Bored Ajoy, and your extended SRK family.

Boy, you didn't leave anyone, did you? This was one good old fashioned Punjabi Bua-ke-Bhai-ke-mamma ke-behen ke frollic, quite a big fat punjabi cricket wedding!

Being from the same school, and having heard of SRK back then, good at least someone is taking it easy on him.

Though you are in the minority.

cheers, and thanks a ton for the piece.

straight point said...

welcome on bored ajoy...the piece was a joy to read...

it puzzles me even more that out of all franchisees only srk was of sports background...and yet he muddled his own team in search of fancy theories...

somewhere he allowed the canny businessman in him to take over srk the sportsman...and lost on both count...

Amy said...

No doubt SRK would have had an extraordinarily successful career as a cricketer if he hadn't stumbled across Bollywood.

Some people theoretically and hyperbolically have it all.

Ajoy Eric Lal said...

Thanks Guys/ Gals...
Thought that it was time there be something quite different to read...
...many angles ...few insights!!

Sunny Naradmuni said...

Ajoy bhai,namaskar! Being a fellow Columbum ( as we call ourselves in jest) I would like to add, that I think SRK also got the sword of honour, for being the best all-rounder in academics,sports and dramatics.I was a co-dancer with him as the "Yellow brick road" team, in the performance of the rock opera "Wizard of Oz" . SRK acted, danced and sang well as the Wiz.Also I remember stories of Lalit Modi from school,about how he overturned his car once driving fast, and cool-ly walked to his home nearby. There are some other stories for which I might have no proof and one could be sued!But Lalit was one rich brat in his younger days.

Ankit Poddar said...

welcome on bored Ajoy!

it was nice to read about SRK in a light completely different from what you read about him normally!

and it is better for me really, because i always, without fail, love success stories, esp those of the Baadshah!

Ajoy Eric Lal said...

Sunny Bhai,

Thanks for the comments. People are the way they are. Yup, SRK did have more talents, some of which weren't really relevant for me to mention on a cricket portal, so I left them out.

But, here's the 'Boom Point':
We also know that for our beloved Rev. ESD not all people were equal!! Remind me and I'll tell you a wholly different story on the "Sword(s) of Honour" at SCS.

And yes, thank you Ankit!

Anil Singh said...

I read some tit-bits about SRK's life in a Vir Sanghvi article. But this one appears more real.

Enjoyed Reading it.

K said...

Great to read your piece Ajoy. Your pictures took me back to the era when I started watching cricket (83-84)... the days when India and Pakistan played a series every season and most sub-continental cricketers sported moustaches (Sunny Gavaskar was the only clean-shaven member of the world-cup winning team in 1983). I vividly remember the Pakistani cricketers during those days always had longer hair than their Indian counterparts.

Also would like to mention that one of my cousins happens to be SRK's batchmate (1985). So have seen some of his cricketing pictures, in one of your old school magazines.

AEL said...

Thanks for the comments, fellas.
It is luck or whatever else that brought SRK and me together at school... he was a good guy then and I am sure that he as good today... Cheers!

cricketfan said...

Good one!!

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