Bollywood star 'King Khan's' global appeal

Shah Rukh Khan at a performance in Morocco
Image caption Shah Rukh Khan has a tremendous fan following around the world

Taufeeq, the owner of a DVD shop in Marrakesh's Djemaa el-Fna square, still relishes the time when he saw his idol - Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan - in the flesh.

He could not shake his hand or speak to him, as there were thousands of other fans screaming and jumping to get a glimpse of the star.

But, he grins broadly as he says: "I can tell others I was there too."

December 2 last year was a historic day for Moroccans, when Khan stepped out of his car and was mobbed by fans.

He had come to take part in the Marrakesh Film Festival and was treated like royalty - literally.

He was the guest of Morocco's King Mohammed VI, who bestowed the prestigious L'Etoile d'Or national honour on him - the first Indian to be granted the accolade.

I met Taufeeq more than three months later, but he and his Bollywood-mad friends were still gushing about the star's visit.

'Biggest star'

Khan won over the Moroccans when he said his deceased father wanted him to visit Morocco because he believed it was the most beautiful country in the world.

Festival director Ilham Aborro knew Khan's arrival would be a momentous occasion. "He was the biggest star of the show. We decided we will call others, but we will invite him too," she said.

Image caption Shanti, a German, says she is a "big fan" of Shah Rukh Khan

Khan, perhaps fully aware of his popularity abroad, tries to attend film festivals. He is most likely to go to Marrakesh again this year. He has been to the Berlin Film Festival three times.

Julia Wessel, editor of Ishq, a Bollywood magazine in Germany, calls him a true "global ambassador of the Indian culture".

"When he came to the Berlin Film Fest the media asked him a lot of questions. He came across as witty and clever and the media loved him," she said.

Khan is now the most sought after Bollywood star in Germany.

A staff member of the Cinemax multiplex in Hannover, where the actor's movie Don 2 had been playing, declared: "If you are talking about Bollywood in Germany you are talking about Shah Rukh Khan."

A young German woman named Shanti told me she was a "big fan" of Khan.

"But my mum is an even bigger fan," she said. "She has a poster of him pasted on the bathroom door and she wants to move into Mannat [Khan's home in Mumbai]."

Loving Khan

Indeed, the actor seems to rule the hearts and minds of many German women.

Shanti's love for Khan appears quite deep. She, along with two friends, spent a whole day in Hannover recording a song from Khan's movie Kal Ho Na Ho. She had skipped work to do this, just for fun.

Germany's love affair with Khan began with the screening of his blockbuster Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham on television in 2006.

Image caption Shah Rukh Khan's Don 2 was screened in Germany

He achieved instant stardom in Germany, especially with female admirers of Bollywood films.

Khan seems to be equally popular in other parts of Europe too.

In 2009, when promoting his film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, he asked fans to participate in a dance competition. Entries were to be sent on video.

Some amateur dancers in Madrid - united in their love for Khan - got together and recorded a dance sequence which won the competition.

And of course, there is the star's Morocco fan base.

New Bollywood films are rarely screened there so cinemas showing Hindi films rely heavily on Khan's old hits.

"Old films too do very well. We recently screened Pardes which had Khan playing the lead," said the manager of one cinema.

"There was pandemonium. Too many people turned up. They all wanted to enter the movie hall. They smashed up the glass door," he said.

'Shah Rukh sells'

Khan's status as the number one star in his own country may be debatable, but outside India, he is the undisputed "King of Bollywood".

Wherever I went people asked me if I had met the star.

A Moroccan man stopped me in the bazaars of Marrakesh and asked: "Do you know the king of Bollywood?"

I asked: "Hrithik Roshan?" He laughed triumphantly at my feigned ignorance and declared proudly, "It's Shah Rukh Khan, man."

I once interviewed the actor in 2005. I was lucky to have had 20 minutes with him.

At that time, he was busier than ever. I asked him if he was over-selling himself by endorsing just about any consumer product.

He replied: "Shah Rukh sells. Period."

Indeed, Shah Rukh Khan sells, so much that this time, my request for another interview went unanswered.

More on this story