On October 13, Shah Rukh Khan came to Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, USA, for a much publicised event to mark the DVD release of Nasreen Munni Kabir's documentary, The Inner and Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan.
Hundreds of screaming fans -- young girls, kids, teenagers, men and even elderly people -- stood in a line outside the Eagle Theatre braving the cold rain that has soaked the North East US. But most never got Khan to autograph their DVD. In fact, many did not even get a glimpse of their favourite Bollywood star.
The timing was perfect for Eros Entertainment to release the DVD of a year-old documentary. Khan has been in New York City for a couple of weeks now shooting Karan Johar's new film Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. The desi community in the city is buzzing with sightings of Khan, and the film crew. And Kabir flew in from London to promote her film.
The event, publicised heavily on the local desi television programmes, was supposed to take place last week. The television channels showed clips from the documentary -- the private life of Khan, with his family and friends.
Two weeks ago, Khan gave a television interview to AVS where he talked about how he was such an ordinary man, but he loved his fans and their adulation.
But due to a delay in the shipment of the DVDs, the event was postponed to Thursday, October 13.
Fans were told to buy the DVDs and that Khan would autograph each copy. Later, some web sites announced that the actor would only autograph the first 100 copies of the DVD.
In the crowd, outside the theatre was a middle aged New Yorker, Virginia Kelly, who had come all the way from Manhattan "because I love Shah Rukh."
She added that she seen Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Duplicate, Dil Se and many more films.
"Oh, I don't think there is anybody like him. He is a wonderful actor." Kelly, who is a psychologist, added that Khan was more appealing than Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
Sharmeen Sarkar had been in the line for four hours. And it was only 8 pm. Khan was expected to arrive at 9 pm.
"In the universe, everybody knows he is a good actor," the 20 year old shouted loudly over other screaming voices. "And it is the only chance to see him here."
She was there with her friend Anwar Hussein, 25. And which movies of Khan did he like? "Everything, everything. All his movies."
"They said the first 100 will get in," Sarkar added, feeling confident that she would be able to see the star.
"Oh my God, I love Shah Rukh Khan, more than anything in life," screamed 17-year-old Nba Suhail, a Pakistani-American teenager who had just arrived from Staten Island with her friend and her parents. "We are going to take him home. We have a getaway car. Don't tell the police."
"This feels like a movie," Suhail added, giggling and her voice quivering with excitement. "It feels so real."
Suhail was not in the line, and the sidewalk was crowded, but that was no challenge for the teenager. "We are going to get in," she said, very sure of herself.
By now, the rain had stopped. The crowd grew pretty wild, with only a handful of NYPD cops on site doing their best to keep everyone off from the main road.
Khan did arrive, promptly at 9 pm in a huge white stretch limo, the kind that looks like an armoured car. But the limo pulled up near the side entrance of the theatre and only a few resourceful fans with their cell phone cameras, thought of looking for the star in the right place. Three huge African-American bouncers escorted the star inside the theatre, while the fans elbowed their way to click pictures with their cell phones.
Once Khan was inside, the side entrance door was shut. When it opened once, several more people, including this reporter, managed to get in.
Inside, there were about a hundred people, mostly those with connections to Eros Entertainment and the theatre. Khan, dressed in a suit, sat in an inside room, facing blaring lights from desi television cameras. But the main door to the theatre was never opened and the fans, who had been in the line since the early part of the afternoon and had bought DVDs, did not get a chance to see him.
A bouncer, and an NYPD cop blocked the entrance to the inside room. For next 45 minutes, the bouncer yelled and blew his whistle in a desperate measure to control even this small crowd.
The bouncer was finally heard saying: "I am so disappointed in you. I have never seen people behave like this before."
To that, a man replied: "Because Shah Rukh has never come here before."
Finally, by 10 pm Khan decided to leave, again from the side entrance. The television cameras and lights followed the star, who gave a nervous smile and blew kisses in the air.
Once outside the theatre, he hopped into an SUV and the NYPD cop who looked like a movie star was seen driving the car away.
By now, it was pouring again.
The front of the theatre was still jam packed. Standing under umbrellas, the fans could not believe that Khan had left and their afternoon and evening had been wasted.
Would they now protest and boycott Khan's movie?
"No, no," a groups of girls said as they laughed and screamed. "But this is so unfair. They should have organised it better. This is so upsetting."
And then one Indo-Caribbean woman walked past muttering to herself, "I am so disappointed in him." She would not give her name, but added "It's very, very bad."
Photograph: Mohammed Jaffer/SnapsIndia
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