From taking people to their destination in his cycle-rickshaw, Waqar Khan, the hero of "Ishq Na Karna", has finally found his own vehicle to success, says ZIYA US SALAM
The other day when Waqar Khan went to the little known Durga cinema in the sleepy Uttar Pradesh township of Shahjehanpur, people tripped over each other to catch a glimpse. Some windowpanes were shattered. The police had to resort to a mild lathi-charge to disperse desperate autograph seekers. Matters little as many of them had, in the past, sat in Khan's rickshaw as he took them through the lanes and by-lanes of the nondescript town, earning a meagre sum to supplement the salary of his watchman father.The story was repeated in Bareilly. Then Etah. Then Meerut. Everywhere Khan went, the cinemagoers queued up. That's okay, but what has Khan done to get that kind of attention? Simple. He covered the journey from plying a cycle-rickshaw to donning the grease paint with a single stroke. He turned a hero, producer and director all rolled into one. The result? A Hindi film Ishq Na Karna, that boasts of songs by the likes of Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghoshal, and is now having a decent run all across the State. With credit to his younger brother Naeem for technical reasons, the film is likely to be released in Delhi too shortly.But how has Khan managed almost the impossible?
Well, that is a tale of blood, sweat and tears. Not to forget a dream that Khan always nurtured as he earned his livelihood in the quiet townships of U.P. As people sat in his rickshaw, Khan would chat them up in the hope that one of them might just be a dream merchant who would take him to Mumbai. "I used to hope that some day I would carry a customer who would take me to Bollywood. With every person who sat in my rickshaw, I used to hope that he might be a film director or producer. I also used to dream that one day Bollywood producers would send a car to fetch me," recalls Khan, who has graduated from plying a cycle-rickshaw to travelling in a Scorpio!
However, real life can be a harsh teacher, its lessons long and arduous. So Khan, as the eldest of five siblings, did his grind and sweat routine, went to Mumbai on his own. "Well, it actually was not so difficult, as I was born in Mumbai only, and my father worked as a watchman at a construction site for some time," says Khan, now 33. In Mumbai, he still took passengers to their destination every day even as he tried to inch closer to his own. "I started plying an autorickshaw. I saved something like Rs.40000 and started a business. It collapsed." So, he went and became a sub-dealer for autorickshaw sales besides being the Vice President of Navi Mumbai Rickshawchalak Sangh.Well, make it in Bollywood he did, but it was not easy. "I used to hang around the shoots. Many times the guards would shoo me off. At times, the producer or the director would scream at me and I would beat a retreat. I knew God would help me realise my dream," he says, adding quickly, "I just had to be in films."So, off Khan went again. Driving his autorickshaw, chatting up passengers again in the hope that one of them might just be the man he was waiting for. "For 15 years in Shahjehanpur and Mumbai I struggled on the roads," discloses Khan, again quickly adding, "I have made it now. But I am no Shah Rukh Khan. I have my feet on the ground. It is crucial that the film does well as I have borrowed money from the market, taken loans from friends and the autorickshaw union to finance the film. Fortunately, Ishq Na Karna is doing well. I have travelled something like 10000 kilometres to promote the film. Everywhere I have gone, there has been a mad rush. In Shahjehanpur, the unions of cycle rickshawpullers and auto drivers came to see me. In Meerut, they organised special shoots with me." The man is clearly proud.He has reason to be. On the anvil is Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen's Kohra where Khan is the hero. Then there is Under Trial with Rajpal Yadav, Shahjehanpur's Bollywood passport. Then there are media interviews with guys calling up from Hyderabad, Kanpur, Delhi... . The days of honing his craft standing in front of the mirror, or fuelling his dreams as he drove his autorickshaw are clearly over. Bring on the lights.