Unravelling the mystery that is Shah Rukh Khan Who better to talk about Shah Rukh Khan than his close friend Mushtaq Shiekh, who does not tire of writing about the superstar. After giving us a glimpse of the actor in Still Reading Khan, Mushtaq returns with Shah Rukh Can, which makes for a much lighter reading than the first book. We bring you excerpts from the book. The Others What happened was this. In this world of careful cliches and PR-dictates, it was easy to come across encomiums about a much successful star. But somewhere during the interviews conducted for the book, the respondents would tune away from the practiced, well turned-out phrases; a question here or there would initiate a train of thought, they would gain an insight into the star and their relationship with him. The title of the chapter comes from a movie, The Others, which has Nicole Kidman and... the others. It's a love story and a ghost story. It's about pain, loss, grief and, above all, love. The main character lives in an illusion until she realises that she is but a ghostly guest in the real world. The Others: this is a metaphor that could be stretched to apply to movie actors and their characters. And this was a title that I thought would fit in well for a chapter where an actor is being discussed by his colleagues, where they state their perception of his art, of his heart, of his life and their expectations. In the movie, Nicole Kidman (with apologies to those who haven't seen it as yet) and her two children live in a vague world, the unreal aspects emphasised by absence of light, the heavy fogs and utter solitude of the house. She is haunted, she believes, by the Others, the presence of whom she can faintly divine at times or at other times, it is thrust upon her. Till, of course, in a reality-obliterating climax, she realises that she is the Other, a ghostly remnant of her physical body that had been caught between the planes of the real and the unreal. The movie ends with the Real world moving out, leaving the ghosts in their imaginary world, in the cocoon of the house. 'I didn't find him absolutely straight' In the movie, the unreal is identified when compared to the real world. Nicole Kidman is a ghost but only to the others. For her, reality is the one she lives in and chooses to live in when the movie ends. The dilemma for an actor is that he exists only when he is in character, one that is identified by the significant 'Others'. His identity is a ghostly presence on celluloid, a false existence in an unreal world. The dilemma is that this existence emanates from reality and has its origins in the actor's heart and mind. The emotions, especially the pain and anguish, are real in the mind of the man who is at times an actor. Some of the emotions are real, and drawn from life's experiences, while the others are imagined at the best. But once in character, there is no differentiation; everything is real for the character, and unreal for the actor. The genius is to know the difference and yet obliterate it from the minds of the viewer. That genius is what characterises the best actors of the day. So will the real Shah Rukh stand up? The answer is that he doesn't need to. It's us, the Others, who want to understand the difference; it's us, living in the real world, who want to know the ghost from the man. How much of a ghost is in the man, and how much of the man is in the ghost? A true paheli! It's us, the audience, who want to unravel the mystery. I could try, I thought. I could look at the notes made during interviews and try to piece together the riddle. So what began as an effort to work out where to fit in the rest of the material, turned out to be an investigation, an unraveling of the mind and the heart of the man, all that this book is about. Sanjay Leela Bhansali purses his lips and contemplates the question. And when he speaks, it's like a gust of torrential rain, which just results in a swirling mesh of paradoxes. "I found him strange," he begins. "I didn't find him absolutely straight. This man is manipulative, this man is sharp, this man is wicked, this man is witty, this man is entertaining and this man is charming. In short, he is very interesting -- the way he feels, the way he walks, talks. That's what I felt. "I found him a very ordinary person with great charm. He is not a Guru Dutt, who would be lost in smoke and alcohol, be destroyed for a woman. No. Shah Rukh is a practical man. But then, he is also a combination of spontaneity and magic. And his mind is a mathematician's, he uses these factors to get the right equation. He calculates, "Main itna karoonga, toh kam hoga. (If I do this much, then it would be less)." I don't know when he jumps from the magical to the calculative -- that is very unpredictable, that is very enigmatic, it's very mysterious. "He is one person who can just turn around and be a different person, so I don't know which one I am dealing with. He keeps you unprepared for that and I think that's a mark of any great person."