Gauri Khan, the director of Red Chillies Entertainments hates the spotlight and largely goes with gut feeling when doing business. Being a mother and wife is far more important than producing films, says the woman who has just launched a state-of-the-art lifestyle store. The first lady of Bollywood speaks to Shubha Shetty-Saha
Gauri Khan can easily be called the First Lady of the Hindi film industry as the wife and better half of Shah Rukh Khan. Khan is also a director in SRK’s film production company, Red Chillies Entertainments. She is most visible as a glamorous “superstar wife”, at filmi parties and social events. But in real life, she says, she is much more of an all-rounder.
As we chat about what must rank as a magical life so far, Gauri tells us about all that she is — an entrepreneur, a fashion diva and at the same time, a mother and a wife. We are at her latest venture, the lifestyle store The Design Cell. The products at the store are a mix of functional, quirky and glamorous. A bit like how she herself is, we ask.
Gauri Khan poses alongside a luxury car in Mumbai. Pic/AFP
No, says Khan. In direct contrast to her husband, who admittedly likes everything ‘larger than life’, she prefers blending into the background, focusing instead on the work at hand, in projects she is passionate about. “This may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t really like being in the spotlight. I run away from limelight. I would rather blend into the background and watch others. If it is to promote my business, I would do it, but if it is to just talk about myself, I don’t know what to say,” she says, flashing a smile.
Like most middle-class Indian girls, Khan says she didn’t know what she wanted to be as she entered college. “Every month, I would dream of different professions — a designer, a dancer or even a painter ... there were million dreams. This is what came out of all those dreams,” she says, looking around her store proudly.
“It is a passion, almost an addiction, for me to travel the world and to collect the best things from everywhere. I didn’t plan anything. I just started storing things at my friend Sussanne Roshan’s store. And then I had a eureka moment: why not start a store myself? And within three months, this was done,” she adds.
Having spent most of the past decade and a half bringing up kids and playing a supporting role to her superstar husband, she feels the time is ‘perfect’ to become a full- time entrepreneur. “Aaryan (her elder son) is in London studying. Suhana (her daughter) comes home at 5pm and gets busy with her studies. AbRam (the youngest son) is so young that I take him along wherever I go. I bring him to the store every day. He is around all the time so there is no hassle,” she reasons.
But hasn’t she been the boss for years anyway, not just at home but also of Red Chillies Entertainments? Khan catches us unawares with her answer: “Even though I am the producer of most films that come out of Red Chillies Entertainments, films are my last priority. Being a wife and mother is the most important thing for me. And then this store of mine,” she says. And before we can recover, she delivers another knockout punch. The lady, who is known as a fashionista, tells us she “hates getting dolled up” and going to parties. “I just do it when I have to,” she says.
As we leave, we ask her what kind of support her superstar husband has provided for her latest venture. “Financial support,” she says before adding: “And emotional support too”.
Film: The Wolf of the Wall Street
Book: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Destination: Everywhere. I love travelling
Born: October 8, 1970, Delhi
Education: Honours in History from Lady Shriram College, Delhi
First job: Director, Red Chillies
Mantra in life: Make your hobby your work. Everything else falls into place
Best advice I ever got: I never listen to any advice. I do exactly what I want to do