Following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Anupama Chopra`s King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema.
Dreams come true in Dalton. The small, unimposing town in Georgia, mostly known as the carpet capital of the world, is a setting for miracles. Bhavesh Sheth knows that.
Bhavesh, a portly, spectacled man with curly hair and an eager manner, stands out in Dalton. He is among the handful of Indians living there; only 2 percent of the town’s 27,912 residents are Asian. Many of these are doctors, but Bhavesh is in the motel business. His father, Ramesh, runs a Super 8 Motel located near the Dalton Convention Center. It is a family business. Ramesh is the general manager and Bhavesh the assistant manager. Their wives also help to manage the two-star, 102-unit motel.
Bhavesh has never lived in India. His father emigrated in the early 1970s, and Bhavesh was born in Canada in 1974. Ramesh went where there was work. Bhavesh grew up in Detroit, Houston, and Tennessee. He visited India with his parents when money and time permitted. But in 1999, in accordance with his parents’ wishes, Bhavesh had an arranged marriage with Tejal, a girl born and brought up in Gujarat.
Like millions of Indians across the world, Bhavesh connected with India through Hindi films. His parents watched them regularly, usually on video. The grainy pirated prints couldn’t take away from the power of these fantasies. Each time Amitabh Bachchan died artfully on-screen, Bhavesh, only nine, wept copious tears. Ramesh assured him that India’s most enduring superstar was only “faking it.” As he grew older, Bhavesh continued to watch Hindi films avidly. Tejal was also a fan. Their son Kishan, born in 2002, was seduced by song-and-dance before he could talk. So when Temptation 2004, a Bollywood rock concert performed by some of Mumbai’s leading actors, came to the Gwinnett Center in Atlanta, there was little choice. Bhavesh cashed in his birthday and marriage anniversary gifts and bought tickets at $150 each. By the time he called, the best seats at $200 were already sold out.
Temptation was a typically Bollywood blend of actors lip-synching popular songs and dance performances interspersed with comedy routines and fan interactions. It featured six leading stars, each enacting a different temptation. The biggest draw was superstar Shah Rukh Khan. The two-month-long tour was sold out in sixteen cities across Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Each venue, with seating ranging from 7,000 to 20,000, was packed. The most expensive tickets were between $300 and $400, but the steep prices did not deter fans. In Toronto, so many people were turned away from the gargantuan Air Canada Centre, which seats 19,800, that a second show had to be organized three days later. In London, two shows were done back to back. In Antwerp, the hall was packed with immigrants. These were Indians who had immigrated to Holland via its erstwhile colony Suriname, where Indians were shipped between 1873 and 1916 as indentured labor. Being several generations removed from India had not diminished their passion for Bollywood.