The actor talks about the role that strong and beautiful women have played in shaping his life -in reality and on screen
Madhureeta Mukherjee (BOMBAY TIMES; January 19, 2017)

He's known as the King of Romance, and being wooed by Shah Rukh Khan on celluloid -whether it is on mountain tops or in some mohalla - is every Bollywood actress' dream. The superstar unabashedly claims that he enjoys the company of women more than men, but it's not just romance that he's talking about. He emphasises that women have always played a central and crucial role in his life. In reality and in his movies, including the upcoming drama Raees, which has him playing a don.

“I lost my father early in life, and I was closer to my mom. I guess children are closer to their mothers. I was brought up by a woman who was energetic, practical in a certain sense, and very beautiful, like all mothers are. My mom impacted my life deeply, and it's not just what she told me, but what she did for me. Since I was 13-14 years old, I spent a lot of time with women. I was the only boy in my mom's family. On her side, there were four sisters. Even those sisters didn't have a boy first, so in a way, I was surrounded only by them. Even my grandfather died early, so whatever I knew of my mom's family in Bengaluru, they were only women. I have been brought up by women and I would hang out with them. Strangely, I went to a boys' school, so that was a contrast. On one side, I saw boys all day, and at home, it was all women power. Then, much later, I got married and I had a daughter, so more women entered my life. Honestly, I get along better with women and I enjoy their company more,“ he says.

The actor always displays an innate kind of sensitivity towards women, a quality that leaves the ladies around him floored and awestruck, to say the least. And he's worked with some of the most talented and gorgeous women in the industry. He's quick to add, “In my films, the leading lady's part has to be important, as I believe that women play an important role in the world. Being a hero who has worked with the most beautiful women, I got to know them over the years. Even in my upcoming film, the female characters have been instrumental in the rise of Raees. He's helped a lot by the women in the mohalla, and though he is a criminal, they are not scared of him. There is a scene where he is seen chatting and joking with them. In their own subtle way, they stand by him. I am not talking about just the leading actress (Mahira Khan), but also the other female characters. At first, I didn't realise this aspect of the story, but as we went along, it struck me that women play a big role in shaping Raees,“ he adds.

The actor has worked in films directed by women (Hema Malini, Farah Khan, Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde) and he firmly believes, “The harshest of women and the toughest women have the gentlest of hearts.“ Talking about how female directors have a rare sensibility in the way they narrate their stories, Shah Rukh asserts, “I think when we are dealing with some issues and emotions, a woman feels it more, and they have a certain sensibility more than anything else.“

Given his comfort level and proximity to women, does he feel that he understands them well? Does he have the answer to the most pertinent question that eludes most men - 'What women want?' He laughs and says, “I don't know if I can lay claim to understanding women more or men for that matter. It's just that I am more comfortable in the company of women, and I hope that doesn't sound wrong. Well, even for simple things in life like watching a match with my daughter (Suhana) and her girlfriends. Though I am nervous throughout the game, I feel more comfortable watching it with them. My son's (Aryan) group are all encouraging and he says the right things like, 'Don't worry papa, we will win it', but it is easier watching it with Suhana's girl gang. Having said that, I am not good at making friends with women. I am shy. I don't know if I understand them, but there is a certain amount of normalcy that I think you should give women. People call it charm or gentlemanly behaviour, but I don't do anything special. It comes naturally to me that I open the door for a woman, not because she needs the door to be opened. It's basic etiquette, and part of the way I am. Even if you are my closest female friend, I might crack a joke while chatting with you at home, but I won't push those boundaries in public. It's a different space. It will send a wrong signal to people about her and me, which I think is incorrect.“

He continues, “I am the most romantic hero in the world,“ and in the same breath, he confesses that he's shy of women. He is the undisputed King of Romance on screen, but he also admits, “I am like a babe in the woods when it comes to romance in real life.“ Quite a dichotomy, huh? He flashes a smile and answers, “Yes, the dichotomy is because this is something I can't do in real life, so I live it on celluloid. I never thought I would do love stories, and when those romantic scenes are given to me, I actually feel quite shy, and my actresses are aware of my discomfort. I do it with earnestness. The way I romance in films, I can't do in real life.“