Saturday, December 19, 2015

Shah Rukh Khan

"If I'm staring down at so many people from a huge hoarding, claiming to be Badshah Khan, then I should be deserving of that"

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From this week's issue of Super Cinema)

The phenomenon called Shah Rukh Khan is hard to describe. But the fact that he has a heart-melting effect on most women irrespective of their age, gives a glimpse of it. Not to mention, even at 50, he raises the bar for most men when it comes to love and romance. Cut to off-screen! Here he is, sitting casually in front of you at his office, just passionately talking everything about movies and confessing things about himself that make you forget his starry stature. That he is well-read, articulate and has so many experiences to share, makes a conversation with Shah Rukh Khan, almost enriching. Over to the man himself! 

The moment it's a 'Shah Rukh Khan film', people assume that the film will garner a good opening, but what's your state of mind usually like, before a release?
One only gets tired before a release, there's so much to do, that there's no excitement, as supposed to get over in the first week of November but it took a little longer so it was more chaotic. I don't know the exact price of a ticket but when we promise a big film na like say 'Raees' or 'Dilwale', it's important to live up to that. I call them the superhero films of Hindi cinema, and we call a large audience to watch it. Realistically, cinema is a product that people buy without seeing. So, before the film releases, it's important to tell the audience what they might be in for, if they come to watch the film. I can sit down, relax and think that people will come to watch the film. But as a company, we feel that it's our duty to tell people about a film before hand so they don't feel cheated. It's said that I do a lot of marketing to get that extra money on the opening day, but that's not true. I am not really concerned about that because if the film is good then eventually it will do good, for example 'Chak De! India' had a 55 per cent opening but it was good so people came to watch eventually. I know that before 'Dilwale' released, someone must have saved money to watch the film. Personally I feel, it's my duty to inform people that don't spend your money without knowing what you're coming in for! 

Does the variety in terms of a Fan' or 'Raees' after a 'Dilwale' reflect your inclination towards cinema that's largely creatively satisfying at this point?
I am creatively satisfied by every film. As a matter of fact, I was talking to Varun in London a few days back and I was telling him that a lot of times people assume that the popular cinema is not creative. When I came to Mumbai, I was from theatre and I'd done very serious stuff. In fact, after 'Dil Aashna Hai', Hemaji thought I was a serious actor like Naseer Saab. So when she saw me dancing in films like 'Chamatkar' or 'Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman', she was disturbed and she told me, 'I thought you were a serious actor so I didn't make you dance in my film,' (laughs). At the age of 50, it takes a lot to stand with a girl on a mountain, hold her dupatta and romance with a feeling of conviction. Who does that in real life? It takes a lot, especially for an urban educated guy like me. I realised early on, that the fantastical part of acting is the most difficult. Hence, a lot of serious actors don't look so convincing while doing such things. So, I'm not justifying why I do it. But the problem is, when you become a star, before you even know it, like in my case, a lot of compulsions come in. 

Because that's what people expect you to do?
Yes. Adi (Aditya Chopra) and me were going to make an intense, fight film instead of 'DDLJ'. But Adi told me, 'now you're a big star, so let's make a love story first.' So he made 'DDLJ' and it's still running. Then we thought, chalo ek aur love story banaate hai. Hence, I do these big films, and then if I can pepper it up with a bit of realism in terms of films like 'Chak De! India' or 'My Name Is Khan', it gets better. But it's unfortunate that a film sometimes takes 150 days to make, so you cannot do too many films. When I was setting up the company I didn't have much time, but now that I have good people to take care of things, I can give more time to acting and do smaller films which are different as well. I want to do films offbeat films like 'Fan', and still do quintessential blockbusters! 

So, how do you bring a balance between bringing in the quintessential SRK element to a character and yet make it different for your own satisfaction?
That's difficult because if I'm going to play the quintessential SRK, how differently do I even play it? But you try. For instance, in 'Dilwale', the young portion, may remind you of me. Because unfortunately, what Kajol and I have done is so classic, that people haven't forgotten it. So I even told Kajol, let's do our walking-talking scenes differently, so we've not taken it completely to 'KKHH' or 'DDLJ' level. Then there's a second part which is very different, where my character is older and quieter with a tough exterior. So, that is what helps me go out in the morning and act. Then there's a 'Fan' which is completely opposite to what I am. That can only happen if directors come up with that. Maneesh Sharma came to me with a story of 24-year old fan who looks like Shah Rukh Khan. Aanand Rai comes to me with a story of a dwarf, I find that interesting and challenging. I cannot write stories for myself. But everyone doesn't come with that. I meet some offbeat directors who I really like, but they tell me, I want to do a Shah Rukh Khan film. However, I want to do the kind of films they make. When you try to mix the two, it becomes a mess. Supposedly, if I work with Anurag Kashyap or Vishal Bhardwaj, then I want to make the kind of cinema that they make. Everyone feels they will make me do a love story different, but nobody knows love more than me, so, I will do it just the way I've been doing it (smiles). 

But at 50, and having spent 25 years at the movies, there's no dip in your dedication or drive to keep getting better.
Yes, production wise, if not anything else. I thought 'Ra.One' was quite amazing. It was so hard to work on. At my age, there was no reason for me to wear those tight pants, be in sweat and go mad with physicality not knowing what's happening. But I gave it a shot, because I think, very honestly speaking, perhaps I'm not deserving of the commercial or artistic success that I have got in the last 25 years. It's a big cross to bear that you wake up in the morning and you're the biggest star of the country. It sounds very good and happy - King Khan but, somewhere, as a consciensous person I keep feeling that have I done enough work to deserve this? I go to meet the head of states and strangely, I represent India as an ambassador in a certain sense. I don't think I have that body of work or perhaps have that kind of talent. Every morning I feel that if I don't deserve it which is why I should push myself, so that eventually, at least by the end of my career I feel that I deserved it. The worse thing is not to know whether you deserve something or not. My son when he is giving an exam or running a race, he is clear that it shouldn't happen because he is my son, it should happen because he deserves it. when I see nature like this, in my heart also I feel that I should work hard. Maybe if I'm lacking in talent or creativity or in the films I've done, if I can cover it up with drive and hard work, then in my heart I will feel I will deserve it. If I'm staring down at so many people from a huge hoarding, claiming to be Badshah Khan, then I should be deserving of that. Can I tell you a small story?

Please do! 
I had an actor with me, Haider bhai in 'Circus'. He was the ringmaster. One day, he trained the tigers, lions and he said, we'll not tie them. He released them. We were all shocked. He went in, and all the four tigers and lions came out. Then later, we asked him why did he do that and he told us, 'My son should know that I was the ringmaster.' He would anyway know I was the ringmaster, but I should deserve that. As an actor it's important that you deserve it. So, if someone says Shah Rukh Khan is a superstar, I should be able to rightly agree to it if I've worked hard. 

Many actors have turned producers, and also share the film's profit. You turned producer pretty early in your career, but are you always more inclined towards the creative aspects or being an actor first?
I've never taken profit as an actor, I've never taken territory as an actor. In fact, my fees are decided after the film is made, I've never even demanded fees. It's a very simple logic, if I'm produceing the film, I'm taking a risk. I became a producer very early with 'Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani' and we lost money. Then we made 'Asoka', we lost money. Later we made 'Chalte Chalte', and we just about brok-even. From the outside it seems very easy but it's risky and expensive. Also because I'm a stylish producer, so I want things to be big and cool with best equipments and everything. I have never gone and told anyone to give me a fifty per cent share in the profit. Even today, if you ask any producer or director who've signed me, I tell them you decide the price and give it to me, because as an actor I'm not saleable. I'm priceless. As an actor you cannot buy me, that's one thing I've kept for 25 years. I read in the papers that this is the amount I charge for my films and I wish I could take that much. As a producer, I have put in more money into my company than taken it. I'm very well to do, but not because of films. I'm well to do, because of shows, commercials, and talent - I can host, do television, dance on stage. I work so much because I like the good life, but I never use cinema to earn money. Once I've done it - with 'Guddu'. I've bought a house with it. 

As a person, you're so deep and philosophical - is it because living so many lives, characters and meeting so many people has made you richer? Is that also what Hindi cinema has given you?
Not may be consciously but when you have experiences of meeting so many people, you are richer. Coming in touch with such wonderful people of different thoughts is enriching, especially all the ladies, and people like Rahul Rawail, Yash Chopra, Mani Ratnam, and now the younger guys, who are friends. But, I'll be honest, that I've not taken as much as I've given. In every film you do, a part of it gets left behind. People may not see it, and I don't want any extra appauds for that. I'm a very shy person in real life. When I was a kid, if there were guests at home, I would hide under the bed and my mother used to call me anti-social. Even now, if I go out to public place which is not my zone, I get shy. For me to do stuff that I do in films, even if it's saying a simple line, I find it very awkward. To dance like that, to take off my shirt, to run after a girl, it's not my personality. It's a big deal to expose myself to the world, every day, for years now, and I'm doing that12 hours a day, so if I calculate then 12 years of my life have gone on set. I still shake. I know my lines and my technique, I'll never be wrong about that! I'm an educated actor. But very often when I'm doing a song or scene, I hope people don't come to know I'm so bad at this because it's not in my nature. My friends and my co-actors know it. I never come out of my bedroom without fully dressed. Even people who work at my house wouldn't have seen me in shorts. Only one day my kid came and pulled me out. I feel awkward being open, and then all my life, I have just done that - laughed and cried in front of so many people. So, it's strange in a way. 

What is it that you love the most about Hindi cinema?
The good part is that there is existence of so many different creative minds, especially now in the last ten years. You're allowed to do so many things that you want and we haven't stop making more films. Indian cinema is making about 800 films a year, we have a very loyal audience. We're one of the few countries left that has super stardom. You don't find such stardom in so many other countries. The western world is also now looking at our market. So, we are very loyal to our own cinema. 


  1. Loved the interview! Why is he always so charming and deep and intelligent and witty!!!

  2. The better part of the interview is when you accept what is your flaws and accept it publicly. It somewhat states that you are always bigger than your failures and that you have the ability to overcome it. The interview covers this well. Like the questions and the answers. Makes me admire the guy! Honestly I am not a Shahrukh Fan, but would like to know more about his personal life or sharing after reading this.

  3. The better part of the interview is when you accept what is your flaws and accept it publicly. It somewhat states that you are always bigger than your failures and that you have the ability to overcome it. The interview covers this well. Like the questions and the answers. Makes me admire the guy! Honestly I am not a Shahrukh Fan, but would like to know more about his personal life or sharing after reading this.