Here is the full transcript of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s TED Talk on Thoughts on Humanity, Fame and Love at TEDTalk Conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Thoughts on humanity, fame and love by Shah Rukh Khan at TED Talk Conference
Namaskar. I’m a movie star, I’m 51 years of age, and I don’t use Botox as yet. So I’m clean, but I do behave like you saw like a 21-year-old in my movies. Yeah, I do that.
I sell dreams, and I peddle love to millions of people back home in India who assume that I’m the best lover in the world. If you don’t tell anyone, I’m going to tell you I’m not, but I never let that assumption go away.
I’ve also been made to understand there are lots of you here who haven’t seen my work, and I feel really sad for you. That doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m completely self-obsessed, as a movie star should be.
That’s when my friends, Chris and Juliet called me here to speak about the future you. Naturally, it follows I’m going to speak about the present me.
Because I truly believe that humanity is a lot like me. It is. It is. It’s an aging movie star, grappling with all the newness around itself, wondering whether it got it right in the first place, and still trying to find a way to keep on shining regardless.
I was born in a refugee colony in the capital city of India, New Delhi. And my father was a freedom fighter. My mother was, well, just a fighter like mothers are. And much like the original homo sapiens, we struggled to survive.
When I was in my early 20s, I lost both my parents, which I must admit seems a bit careless of me now, but — I do remember the night my father died, and I remember the driver of a neighbor who was driving us to the hospital. He mumbled something about “dead people don’t tip so well” and walked away into the dark.
And I was only 14 then, and I put my father’s dead body in the back seat of the car, and my mother besides me, I started driving back from the hospital to the house. And in the middle of her quiet crying, my mother looked at me and she said, “Son, when did you learn to drive?”
And I thought about it and realized, and I said to my mom, “Just now, Mom.”
So from that night onwards, much akin to humanity in its adolescence, I learned the crude tools of survival. And the framework of life was very, very simple then, to be honest. You know, I thought — you just ate what you got and did whatever you were told to do. I thought celiac was a vegetable, and vegan, of course, was Mr. Spock’s lost comrade in “Star Trek.”
You married the first girl that you dated, and you were a techie if you could fix the carburetor in your car. I really thought that gay was a sophisticated English word for happy. And Lesbian, of course, was the capital of Portugal, as you all know. Where was I?
We relied on systems created through the toil and sacrifice of generations before to protect us, and we felt that governments actually worked for our betterment. Science was simple and logical, Apple was still then just a fruit owned by Eve first and then Newton, not by Steve Jobs, until then. And “Eureka!” was what you screamed when you wanted to run naked on the streets. You went wherever life took you for work, and people were mostly welcoming of you.
Migration was a term then still reserved for Siberian trains, not human beings. Most importantly, you were who you were and you said what you thought.
Then in my late 20s, I shifted to the sprawling metropolis of Mumbai, and my framework, like the newly industrialized aspirational humanity, began to alter. In the urban rush for a new, more embellished survival, things started to look a little different.
I met people who had descended from all over the world, faces, races, genders, money-lenders. Definitions became more and more fluid. Work began to define you at that time in an overwhelmingly equalizing manner, and all the systems started to feel less reliable to me, almost too thick to hold on to the diversity of mankind and the human need to progress and grow.
Ideas were flowing with more freedom and speed. And I experienced the miracle of human innovation and cooperation, and my own creativity, when supported by the resourcefulness of this collective endeavor, catapulted me into superstardom. I started to feel that I had arrived, and generally, by the time I was 40, I was really, really flying. I was all over the place.
You know? I’d done 50 films by then and 200 songs, and I’d been knighted by the Malaysians. I had been given the highest civil honor by the French government, the title of which for the life of me I can’t pronounce even until now. I’m sorry, France, and thank you, France, for doing that.
But much bigger than that, I got to meet Angelina Jolie — for two and a half seconds. And I’m sure she also remembers that encounter somewhere. OK, maybe not. And I sat next to Hannah Montana on a round dinner table with her back towards me most of the time.
Like I said, I was flying, from Miley to Jolie, and humanity was soaring with me. We were both pretty much flying off the handle, actually. And then you all know what happened.
The internet happened. I was in my late 40s, and I started tweeting like a canary in a birdcage and assuming that, you know, people who will peer into my world will admire it for the miracle I believed it to be. But something else awaited me and humanity.
You know, we had expected an expansion of ideas and dreams with the enhanced connectivity of the world. We had not bargained for the village-like enclosure of thought, of judgment, of definition that flowed from the same place that freedom and revolution was taking place in. Everything I said took a new meaning. Everything I did — good, bad, ugly — was there for the world to comment upon and judge. As a matter of fact, everything I didn’t say or do also met with the same fate.
Four years ago, my lovely wife Gauri and me decided to have a third child. It was claimed on the net that he was the love child of our first child who was 15 years old. Apparently, he had sown his wild oats with a girl while driving her car in Romania. And yeah, there was a fake video to go with it. And we were so disturbed as a family. My son, who is 19 now, even now when you say “hello” to him, he just turns around and says, “But bro, I didn’t even have a European driving license.” Yeah.