Superstar Shah Rukh Khan had one mission in mind when he got onto a train to promote his film “Raees” — to get closer to his fans. But he didn’t anticipate that his stardom would spell trouble for his admirers waiting for him on the platform, as well as inside the train.
For many, it would have been a dream come true to know that Shah Rukh — one of Bollywood’s best known stars — was just a couple of bogies away from them. But their dream come true moment soon turned into a nightmare, due to his superstardom.
From bulky bodyguards cordoning off almost one bogie for the star, the frenzy around his presence in the train, and inability of passengers to get on the train or get down — only fizzled out the excitement of people to be a part of this train journey on August Kranti Express from Mumbai to Delhi with SRK.
Be it his peppy dance number “Chaiyya chaiyya”, or the iconic “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” train sequence and even scenes from his film “Chennai Express” — trains have been an intrinsic part of Shah Rukh’s movies. Perhaps, that was the reason he decided to take a train from Mumbai to Delhi to promote “Raees”.
After starting on the right note, the train ride got engulfed into controversy due to the death of a fan on Vadodara station, where two others even got injured.
As the fans went berserk and got out of control, actress Sunny Leone — who was on board the train too, rightly described the train as “sardine can with all little fish wrapped in” together. That it truly was.
For me, the journey began much before than the 5:40 pm train journey. To many, the idea of taking a Delhi-Mumbai flight, only to take a train back, may seem senseless, but it made total sense with Shah Rukh for company.
I was almost like Kajol of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge”, running against time to make it on the train. Only, Shah Rukh was not waiting at the gate and I was instead wading through a maddening crowd.
The euphoric tunes of “Udi udi jaye” — the garba track from “Raees” — added to the jubilant mood. Luckily, the actor, who is infamous for being late at events, made it to the train on time.
His plan involved waving to the crowd at nine stops, including Vapi, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Ratlam, Kota, and Mathura.
Everywhere it was the same fan frenzy — people jumped on to tracks, climbed on the top of the train, banged windows of the air-conditioned coach — all for just one glimpse of the Bollywood Badshah. It left a group of scribes wonder the extent to which fans can go for the screen idol.
The maximum mayhem was at the Vadodara station, where the train would have stopped longer than other stations. People peeped in, climbed up and jumped to find SRK — all without thinking of their own safety.
There were people huddled together on stairs, and up some poles as well. The craze was there for all to see, with people’s shoes loitered all around the platform as they chased their way to look for SRK.
It left those of us inside the train hoping and praying that no one was hurt, and Sunny – who was peeping out of the window with curiosity — also said: “I don’t want anybody to get hurt. Oh, there is a guy with a stick… Please don’t hit anybody. I will start to cry.”
And soon everyone’s fear came out to be true with the news of one fan – a relative a female journalist travelling in the train — dying at the station. There are conflicting theories about his death as some claim that he passed away due to a cardiac arrest, while some say he was suffocated to death due to the stampede-like situation.
The fun and the merriment of travelling in the train soon faded away with the news, as it cast a pall of gloom.
While SRK has been blamed for the mayhem, he was seen on his toes in the train trying to pacify his team. The actor was shocked with the news, and visibly guilty too.
Apart from meeting the journalist whose uncle had died at Vadodara station, Shah Rukh sent out members of his security team to accompany the scribe and her mother from Ratlam to Vadodara.
The incident seemed to haunt him — even as he stepped in for a chat with scribes very late at night. He was devoid of his stardom, and spoke off the record in a heartfelt way.
Was the management for this major publicity plan in place’ Well, every nitty-gritty was not looked after, and it could have been planned better. But the question that lingers on is why blame SRK’
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The writer was travelling with the team of “Raees” on the makers’ invitation.)
By Sugandha Rawal