When King Khan gets on the podium to give vent to his feelings, it can be nothing less than a legendary vision. One of the most inspiring actors in the film industry, Shah Rukh Khan is not just a perfect amalgamation of talent but wisdom as well and that got reflected completely in his speech which he gave to the students of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and as expected, King Khan held the audience in awe with his ‘life lessons’.
Shah Rukh Khan was presented with the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University Chancellor HRH The Princess Royal in Edinburgh. He began his speech with utmost gratitude and moved ahead by sharing experiences from his movies which he calls “Life Lessons”.
So, here are the 11 amazing life lessons from his speech that made all of us speechless:
1) There’s no such thing as ‘normal’. That’s just another word for lifeless.
One of the first movies of my career was a movie called Deewana. I’m not sure why the movie was called Deewana (which in Hindi means madness of a particularly nice/romantic kind) but I have a feeling it had something to do with the guy who came up with the plot!!
So, here’s my first life lesson, inspired by the movie title Deewana: Madness (of the particularly nice/romantic kind) is an absolute prerequisite to a happy and successful life. Don’t ever treat your little insanities as if they are aberrations that ought to be hidden from the rest of the world. Acknowledge them and use them to define your own way of living the only life you have. All the most beautiful people in the world, the most creative, the ones who led revolutions, who discovered and invented things, did so because they embraced their own idiosyncrasies. There’s no such thing as ‘normal’. That’s just another word for lifeless.
2) If you ever find yourself cheated of all your money and sleeping on a grave, do not fear, a miracle is near, either that or a ghost.
Soon after I acted in Deewana, I became the hapless hero of a movie called Chamatkar. Now ‘Chamatkar’, means miracle: right and straightforward without any nuances. So, my next lesson is the following: If you ever find yourself cheated of all your money and sleeping on a grave, do not fear, a miracle is near, either that or a ghost.
All you have to do is fall asleep! In other words, no matter how bad it gets, life is the miracle you are searching for. There is no other one around the corner. Develop the faith in it to let it take its own course, make all the effort you can to abide by its beauty and it will not let you down. Use every resource you have been given, your mental faculties, the ability of your heart to love and feel for those around you, your health and good fortune: all of the thousands of gifts, life has given you to their maximum potential. Honour your life. Honour each gift and each moment by not laying it to waste. There is no real measure of success in this world except the ability to make good of life’s endowments to you.
3) Don’t let your fears become boxes that enclose you. Open them out, feel them and turn them into the greatest courage you are capable of.
Sometimes life’s gifts arrive wrapped in all the wrong damned wrapping too, at which point we have to learn to do two things with them: recognize them for what they are and gamble on our fear that they might be disasters. This brings me to my third life lesson inspired by two movies in which I played the anti-hero: Darr and Baazigar.
Darr means fear in Hindi and everyone always tells you that you ought to be brave so I’m not going to bore you with that idea. Instead, let me tell you this: Being brave means being shit scared all the way to the party but getting there and doing the Funky Chicken in front of all your teenage kid’s friends anyway. Let me just add on behalf of all the fathers of the world who have embarrassed their children by doing this…it takes a lot of bravery resolve and grit to do this.
So do it. Don’t let your fears become boxes that enclose you. Open them out, feel them and turn them into the greatest courage you are capable of. I promise you, nothing will go wrong. But if you live by your fears, everything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong and you won’t even have done the Funky Chicken.
4) It’s okay to be confused. Confusion is the route to all the clarity in the world.
I did a movie once called Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, in which I was the victim of a lover’s confusions and my next lesson is precisely that. It’s okay to be confused. Confusion is the route to all the clarity in the world. Don’t worry about it too much and don’t ever take yourself seriously enough to be so clear about your own ideas that you stop respecting other people’s. Our values are our values, they don’t make us any better than anyone else, at best they make us different. Always try to see the other person’s truth because like every movie has a story, every human being has one too and you have no right to imagine that yours is better than anyone else’s. You can leave that silliness to my esteemed colleagues and me!!
And if you thought the last two stories I told you were crazy, here’s another one in the reckoning for the Oscars for the weirdest screenplay: Guddu. Regardless of how rich, successful and famous you become, don’t ever underestimate the grace that other people bestow upon you just by being the recipients of your kindnesses. You might be able to buy your friend a Rolls for his/her birthday, but it’s no substitute for a patient hearing of your sulky rants on a bad hair day.
5) When life hits you with all the force of its resplendent rage, the Rolls isn’t going to give you comfort.
Sometimes things just happen, as encapsulated in another movie title of mine: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and you know what? They don’t always add up (that would be ‘One Two Ka four’ as the list of titles continues). So my fifth lesson is this: when life hits you with all the force of its resplendent rage, the Rolls isn’t going to give you comfort.
A friend’s grace will, and if you can’t find resolution as easily as you would like to, don’t panic. Everything evolves as you go along, Chalte Chalte as we say in Hindi (and yes, that was another movie I did but no more mad plots for God’s sake!!).
6) If you aren’t charged up about doing something, if you don’t have what in Hindi we call the “Josh”, the fire in your belly for it, then don’t do it.
It’s a waste of your time and more importantly, of those who pin their hopes on your endeavours too. Redefine yourself if you have to but do it on your own terms and just get on with it. In fact, like my character in the movie My Name is Khan, don’t forget where you came from and who you really are. It ought to be the compass by which you navigate through life’s vicissitudes. The North that keeps you oriented despite a series of misfortunes or a shower of privilege.
7) Stop whining and start moving.
One of the biggest hits I made was an unexpected one and for once the plot was neither meandering nor barking mad. I was the coach of a beleaguered women’s hockey team that went on to overcome its struggles and win a world championship. Its title was Chak De, an inspirational martial cry that Sikh soldiers used while lifting logs in order to make bridges across rivers on their campaigns against their enemies. It implies the will to get up and get on with it, which brings me to life lesson number seven: whatever it is that is pulling you back, it’s not going away unless you stand up and start forging your own path with all your might in the opposite direction. Stop whining and start moving.
8) Sadness and happiness have the same quality of transience.
Life is a balanced exchange of one with the other. And this is lesson number eight: Don’t attach yourself to either, they’re both going to change with the same certitude. Take them with the ephemeral spirit of their impermanence and manage them with a healthy dose of good humour. Laugh at yourself when you are despairing, shed a tear or two when one of my movie plots makes you hysterical with laughter (we did actually consider Guddu donating a single eye to his blind girlfriend and both of them waltzing into the sunset eye patch to eye patch). Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was the title of an Indian style family drama in which I was one of many heroes and it means just that: to be happy sometimes, and sad others, is the very beauty of a life lived in full measure. Why fail yourself by desiring one emotion and detesting the other?
9) Live from the heart.
Dil Se. Love. Love people, love the world around you, love animals and birds, and big cities and mountains, love dreams, love life, love your work, your friends and your enemies even if you feel least like it. Most importantly, my friends; love yourselves. Embrace all that this life has in store for you, let your heart be as deep as the deepest ocean and as wide as the farthest horizon. Know that it is limitless.
Love is not an excuse to grab or to hold or to own or to barter. It is the only excuse you will ever have to call yourself special. And if someone’s love lets you down, don’t fault yourself for not trusting him, fault yourself for not trusting your love enough to forgive his/her trespasses.
10) Live now. Live today.
You never know what the future will bring, whether there will be a tomorrow or not. I died at a shockingly young age in a movie called Kal Ho Na Ho which means exactly that. And I wasn’t even a smoker!!! I never let my two older children watch it to the end, we even filmed a whole alternate ending especially for them. Live now. Live today. You may not see it with your youthful eyes but NOW is as much time as you will ever get. Because tomorrow we will all be dead. And just in case there is no cycle of rebirth etc…why take a chance.
11) Study hard. Work hard. Play harder. Don’t be bounded by rules.
I don’t want to end this on a cynical note by reminding you about the reality of death. I want to let you all know that how important your today…your now is. Study hard. Work hard. Play harder. Don’t be bounded by rules…do not hurt anybody and never ever live somebody else’s dream.
Remember however many times you go wrong, no matter how many times you fail, despair, feel like this world is against you….in the words of Bob Marley…at the end, everything is gonna be alright. And in my words, “Hindi filmon ki tarah life mein bhi, anth mein sab kuch theek ho jaata hai. Aur agar na ho, toh woh anth nahi hai…picture abhi baaki hai mere doston.” Take it as the only truth you need to know.
Take it and believe it because the most unlikely to make it in Bollywood is telling you this…the most romantic hero who doesn’t look anything like chocolate or taste like it.
Experience speaks, Experience counts!