In the months after the box-office debacle of the 2018 movie Zero, Shah Rukh Khan toyed with the idea of abandoning acting for cooking. At an event in Mumbai on Monday, he told a crowd of journalists, fans and social media influencers that he had thought of opening a restaurant named after his production company, Red Chillies.

The blockbuster performance of Pathaan means that Khan won’t be turning restauranteur any time soon. (According to producer Yash Raj Films, Pathaan has grossed Rs 543 crore worldwide and counting). Meanwhile, Khan’s reputation for speaking extempore at events, mesmerising crowds with his repartee and ladling out self-deprecating humour all indicate that he has an assured side line in public speaking.

The 57-year-old movie star was predictably the highlight of the Pathaan team’s first media appearance since the film’s release on January 25. Khan’s publicity efforts until then had been restricted to moderated interactions on his Twitter handle. Apart from videos posted on Yash Raj Films’ YouTube channel, none of the production’s key players has given interviews about the movie yet.

The Monday event was held at the Taj Land’s End hotel in Bandra, a few doors down from Khan’s home, Mannat, where crowds gather every day to take selfies and hope that their hero will appear on his balcony for a darshan.

What Khan makes of these appearances was among the topics for discussion at the event. No questions were invited from the media scrum. Popular radio jockey Anuraag Pandey played host and interviewer, although Khan stole the show from him ever so often.

Before the stars arrived, Vishal-Shekhar’s earworms from Pathaan, Besharam Rang and Jhoome Jo Pathaan blasted on a loop, turning some critics into dancers and lending the occasion the feel of a raucous block party. Here are some of Khan’s memorable moments from the event.

A reality check

In an indirect acknowledgement of the Hindutva attacks on Khan and Pathaan, the actor said, “There were times when we had to make calls to people to make them release the film with ease, and they did that.”

He invoked Manmohan Desai’s comedy Amar Akbar Anthony whose main characters represented a Hindu, Muslim and Christian to praise the Hindi film industry’s secular culture: “Deepika is Amar, I am Akbar, John is Anthony.” In addition to fulsomely praising all the members of the production, from producer Aditya Chopra to the costume designers and technicians, Khan sent up a thanksgiving prayer or Pathaan’s success to “Bhagwan, Allah, God”.

John Abraham, Deepika Padukone and Shah Rukh Khan at a celebration of Pathaan’s box office success in Mumbai. Niharika Kulkarni/Reuters.

Amazing grace

Khan has a reputation for generosity and humility, qualities that were in full flow at the event. “God has given me a permanent balcony ticket,” he said about the fans who throng Mannat every day, waiting for him to make an appearance.

On Pathaan’s golden run: “This is an experience that’s yet to sink in. Maybe we will be more grateful to God.”

He had the highest praise for John Abraham, who plays the antagonist in Pathaan. “The backbone of Pathaan is Jim, played by John,” he declared. Khan even strolled across to Abraham to plant a kiss on his cheek, making Abraham blush.

When one of the fans screamed, “Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan are back,” Abraham said, “Let me correct you. Shah Rukh Khan isn’t back. He had just gone for a loo break.”

Showing his vulnerable side

“I have forgotten those four years in the last four days,” Khan said, indirectly referring to his challenges in the recent past, from the Zero fiasco to his son Aryan’s arrest on trumped-up charges in a drug trafficking case.

He acknowledged the pressures of delivering box office results: “We all have good and bad days.” He admitted that he too had dark moments when he was “low on confidence”. He added, “I am proud to say I feel low sometimes, I feel sad sometimes, I lose confidence. But the weaker you are, the stronger you get.”

Khan claimed that he has a “specific bathroom” in his home in which he locks himself up whenever he want to cry. “When you are sad, go to the ones who will give you love,” he advised.

Love is all you need (and happiness)

Among the most-repeated words at the event was “love”, followed by “happiness”. Both these emotional states are embodied by Khan both on and off the screen.

Khan showered love on the fans at the event and beyond, praising them for sticking by him and propelling Pathaan into the stratosphere. “I want my films to release with love,” he said.

More on the subject: “Filmmaking, film watching, is an experience of love. A film is a mode of happiness, you should come out and enjoy it in love. It is my genuine desire to spread happiness. I am the unhappiest when I can’t do that.”

Shah Rukh Khan, singer?

Might singing also be an alternate profession for Khan? He sang the first line of films songs for each of his co-panellists, prompting a mock-exasperated head shake from director Siddharth Anand at one point. Anand was greeted with the title track from his film Salaam Namaste. Padukone was serenaded with Main Agar Kahoon from Om Shanti Om, her first film with Khan.

And… action!

While Khan has done a few stunts in Farhan Akhtar’s Don films, Pathaan is his first full-fledged action role. His ideal was to be the guy in a singlet with a woman on his arm and a gun in his hand, he said.

After working on his first Yash Raj Films production, the 1993 thriller Darr, Khan was approached by Yash Chopra’s son Aditya Chopra for what Khan thought was a rough-and-tough role but turned out to be Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

Some years later, Aditya Chopra narrated an action-based plot to Khan, but that film never got made. “When he finally narrated the opening scene of Pathaan, I thought he was lying,” Khan said. “I thank him that he has kept his promise. I hope Adi takes me more in action films now.”

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