TV actor Rituraj Singh and Shah Rukh Khan spent their formative years together in Barry John’s theater group TAG (Theatre Action Group) doing plays together. A bond that grew between the two in Delhi has stayed on forever and nothing has changed despite SRK being India’s biggest superstar today. On SRK’s 50th birthday, actor Rituraj in an exclusive conversation with The IndianExpress.com, recollected his old association with his superstar friend.
“Shah Rukh Khan is just a year younger to me. We shared the stage for five years as part of Barry John’s TAG (Theatre Action Group). I was there for 11 years and Shah Rukh Khan came in five years after I joined. He certainly was one of the most beautiful people in our group who possessed this amazing incredible energy within him that you couldn’t help but like him. He was very open to learning new things and had no pre-conceived ideas about acting or what theatre was all about. When he joined us, he was just like a baby wanting to learn as much as he could. His lovely energy was so attractive and infectious that everybody including me, Barry John and other senior people wanted to make him feel at home in our theatre group. Shah Rukh was like a sponge ready to absorb everything. He was very intelligent and super smart. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was also a sportsman having won the sword of honour in St. Columbus. By virtue of being a sportsperson, he naturally became a team player.” (See Pics: Shah Rukh Khan @ 50: His Style File)
“We used to discuss many things about life. At that age, you are just filled up with everyday stuff and there is an everyday high. We used to rehearse together and play football among other things. Somewhere down the line he got the feeling that acting is something that his life is all about and thank God it happened or else we wouldn’t have had a magnet of a miraculous star today. (See Pics: SRK’s Top 10 Roles)
We could fit into each other’s clothes because of the same body structure. We were real thick buddies and those were the best days of my life. I came to Mumbai to act at his insistence. He would come to Delhi and tell me, ‘What are you doing here? Come let’s go to Mumbai. You’re such a good actor. (SRK’s best family moments)
Shah Rukh Khan is a superstar but when Shah Rukh Khan meets Rituraj at a function, he is the same old friend. He would hug me and introduce me to others as his oldest friend. He would invite me to his vanity van and we would smoke together. Infact, we started smoking at the same time. It’s not a good habit but when you are young you end up trying things to form your own image.
I also had a chance to be close to his mother. She used to make the most amazing food. It was always a pleasure to go to his place and whenever we used to go there his mom made sure to treat us with some delicacy or the other. His home had a very warm and friendly atmosphere. And all of his friends were treated with the same love and affection by his mother. Unfortunately, she passed away and I could feel Shah Rukh’s pain but he was never the tragedy king. He pulled himself through it.
He has gone through a lot of hardships. Even when he started getting films, people said it’s through contacts and he used to laught at these talks. Sometimes people ask me, ‘Don’t you feel jealous that you guys were together and today look he has become a superstar. The same thing could have happened to you?’ I always turn around and tell them that for me if it has happened to Shah Rukh, it is one and the same thing.
I last met him when he came to promote ‘Chennai Express’ on the sets of a Television show. I happened to be shooting next door when I went and met him. The actors of the serial were absolutely tired as they were working since morning. But the moment SRK walked in, he lifted everyone’s spirits and the shoot went on till 4 am.
SRK’s first play with TAG was Annie Get Your Gun and his last play was Rough Crossing by Tom Stoppard. We starred together in a film called In Which Annie Gives It. For our plays, we used to travel extensively by train and we loved eating aloo puri during our travels which was also SRK’s favourite dish then. In Delhi, we used to hang around Taj Mansingh.
Gauri (Khan) was very much a part of SRK’s life when he entered TAG. He was so devoted to her that we used to make fun of him. All of us were young and there were a lot of beautiful girls around us. I and SRK were the only two guys who had cars. He had a white Maruti van while I had a white Maruti 800. And we always used to end up dropping all the girls home. We sometimes used to tell him, ‘ Why don’t you drop that hot girl home?’ He would shout and say, ‘Are you mad? The love of my life is Gauri.’
I have never asked SRK for work because unlike others I don’t suck up to him and ask favours. But this I know that if God forbid I am in a miserable situation tomorrow, SRK will be the first one to reach out to me.”