Shah Rukh Khan gets candid on that state of mind,biting the Hollywood bait and more
A digital game launch for Chennai Express,a visit to the sets of Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma,Comedy Nights with Kapil and Indian Idol among a score of other activities,the blitzkreig around Chennai Express is archetypal Shah Rukh Khan.
The film,a breezy romance with oodles of action,flying cars included its a Rohit Shetty film after all is taking up a good amount of his time. The pairing up with director Rohit Shetty well known for his laughter riots is a first of sorts. Shetty had initially planned upon a remake of Angoor,but ended up narrating a love story complete with side-effects to the superstar and the next thing he knew,he had Shah Rukh Khan on board for a megabudget production. Chennai Express also brings Khan together with Deepika Padukone,who he launched in Om Shanti Om,an earlier home production. Given her remarkable progression ever since and their crackling on-screen chemistry,there is much excitement on this jodi as the one to watch out for.
On the personal front,theres been a happy development with arrival of son AbRam and something of a rapprochement with buddy turned foe Salman Khan at Mumbai MLA Baba Siddiques iftaar party. His business ventures are beginning to reap dividends and new ones like Kidzania are on the brink of take-off,so it would be fair to say that things are looking good. However Khan,busy as ever,is clocking in impossible hours devoted to the cause of film promotion It is in Film City,on the sets of Kapil Sharma show that one is supposed to meet him.
His arrival on the sets is delayed due to various reasons,but once there the show rolls seamlessly with the audience delighted at the prospect of seeing Khan in person,patiently answering their questions and asking a few of his own. The high point of the show is when a young fan in the audience,who has rechristened himself Rahul,as a homage of sorts to various Rahuls played by Khan,is moved to tears while hugging him. There are several others all equally enamoured of Khan in their own way. Off the sets too,there is a mini rebellion brewing -photographers waiting for their turn at clicking the stars are turning belligerent while a privileged few,known to TV actor Ali Asgar are queuing up for a photo-op. Accompanying him is director Rohit Shetty who after a short appearance on the show is in a discussion with him. Fortunately,the uncertainty draws to an end and I am allowed to conduct the interview with the superstar in the drive between Film City to Taj Lands End. Between the two destinations,we cover some distance in the interview primarily about movies and then some. Excerpts:
You just trotted out a clever pitch for a scooter and a pen on Kapil Sharmas show so what would your marketing pitch for Chennai Express be?
The marketing of a film is only about informing people about a film that is coming. Because you have a product which is already recognisedits a Hindi film you just have to inform of the type of film that it is. This is a comedic film,but a film could be a romantic film,a Yash Chopra kind of film,a superhero film thats all that you need to inform people about. So if a film is comedic,you spend more time on a comedy show. On a show with Barkha Dutt where she says “We the people”,we are talking about marriages of people from different states. We take the available elements from the film and talk about it,so that people get information about the product,in this case a Hindi film. Normally a salesman tells you that,but for films I think it is the duty of every star to be a salesman of sorts,without taking away from the beauty of being a star. I hope that when you have bought the ticket that you are aware of what the film is. I dont want you to be shocked,surprised or disappointed. Come knowing that this is what you paid for. Like Ra.One is a superhero film which is one of the least liked,understood or made genres in India so you tell people in a louder or in a wider voice.
Chennai Express by virtue of the director Rohit Shetty himself,you know what kind of a film it will be. There is a brand of cinema that he makes,so we dont need to tell people what he is doing. Its just a feel of the film comedy hai,gaana hai but Rohit himself is such a big brand that we just need to inform people ki nau (9) tareeq ko aa rahi hai,hope you enjoy it.
What according to you are the highlights of a typical Rohit Shetty film?
The standout thing is that I like to believe that he makes very good family entertainers that are clean,sweet and funny with songs and dances,larger-than-life,of course. And since it is coming during a holiday period Eid when families sit and go out together,hopefully everyone from the age of seven to 70 will find something in it. Perhaps seven is too young… maybe everyone from the age of 10 to 65 will enjoy the film (smiles).
Last year before the release of Jab Tak Hai Jaan,you spoke of Hindi movies showing greater intimacy but the last few years have also shown different kinds of love stories like Vicky Donor,Raanjhanaa and now Chennai Express,an action packed love story. Do you think the romantic genre will now have several subgenres outside of the popular romcom?
I just saw Adis (Chopra) new film Manishs (Sharma) Shudh Desi Romance woh kuch alag kism ki hai,hamaari Chennai Express kuch alag kism ki hai. The inherent thing is that love is 100 per cent the universal factor. But yes,it depends upon the language that the director wants to speak and tell you the film in. But it would be misleading if we start demarcating and picking on little moments and say,Arrey,yeh small town ke liye hai. Its not just for small towns. It is introducing you to a world that perhaps big town people are not used to. And when I make a big town film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,then perhaps we are introducing small town people to a world of romance that perhaps they are not used to. In a way it is novelty for a certain section of people and for the other,identification. Whichever kind of love story you tell,it is novelty for some and identification for others. And I think truly I have written this in my book the reason you can become a star or a film can become a star is because its novel or it is identifiable. Its so new that you are overawed by it,or,you feel,arrey,yeh to apna hi hai.
These are the two reasons you can take to anything. If you are a reader,you will either be overawed by a writer or,you will stick to the writer you identify with and both will be appealing to you. In films too,there is no demarcation. It is a way to get both kinds of people readers or audience,whatever people that you want to be your target audience,that you know,inke liye naya hoga doosron ke liye,apna hoga. Thats how you kind of define a storytelling. When I tell my children a science fiction story,I know that to my kids who are young and read science fiction,its something identifiable. For my mother-in-law,I hope I can over awe her,wherein she feels,Arrey,yeh kya nayi baat kar raha hai. So thats how it is. As a storyteller thats what I believe in.
From being part of a very successful television show early on in your career to what you see now on television,would you say cinema and television require different kinds of stories?
I dont watch television too much because almost all shows are talking about saas and bahuand with all due respect,I come from an upbringing where I dont understand that. I see it sometimes,but I am from Delhi and I dont quite understand it. It does not mean I dont like it. But its not something I identify with or get overawed ki,Wow,aisa hota hai? But yes,maybe TV tells different stories because when I was in America about four-five years back and I was sittiing with some writers (for Ra.One),they used to be so clear when they discussed stories. They would tell me,You know Mr Khan,this lends itself to a television story. It needs to be explained. So,I guess that a certain demarcation is there that perhaps some stories are better for television because they need that telling or that kind of breathing space,and some stories are more cinematic and need to be told in two-two and a half hours. And you need to be able to figure that out.
How do you choose the directors you work with? Are they always your friends and why did you agree to Rohits film?
How come I have never heard this question asked of other stars? See,when I have completed a film I am always in a certain state of mind. In the last two-three years I did Jab Tak Hai Jaan,which was a pure intense love story,there was Don, Ra.One which were very challenging and so I was in a state of mind when I thought lets do a comedic film. After doing this film,I am in a state of mind that let me do a realistic film. How often does it happen that you are in a state of mind to do a certain kind of film and it happens? I dont design films for myself. I hope some director comes along with it,but nobody has (for a realistic film),but at that point of time when I finished Jab Tak Hai Jaan,I wanted to do a happy,funny,entertaining film wherein I am taken care of ki aapka sense of humour hai,aap mere ko batao kya karna hai and as an actor,I will try to do the best that I can. And suddenly Rohit met me. He had a film with UTV called Angoor,which I loved and while he was leaving he said,Sir,mere paas ek aur kahaani hai,suna doon aapko kal? I said okay and it was very funny. And I was in that state of mind too. As a matter of fact,I was scared whether it was just me or would other people find it funny too. For the first time in my career,I got the whole office staff together and said,You know I heard this story last night and I would like everyone to hear it,and I want to know if everyone finds it as funny as I do. We had a narration and Rohit is so sweet,he came with his entire team and narrated it to 40 people. Everybody fell down laughing. Rohit makes the best comedies and everything just fell into place and I am glad I worked with him. Its an honour to work with him because he is sweet,he knows his job,is so well mannered and gentle for an action /comic director. I had a great time. So sometimes things fall into your lap when you are in that state of mind. Chennai Express is one of those.
So is the realistic project likely to transpire with director Ashutosh Gowariker? Or would it be Anurag Kashyap?
We are discussing-we have three subjects that we have been discussing for the last one year actually. I dont know if I am at liberty to talk about it but yes,we are discussing. Anurag is an old friend. I have known him from the time he was an assistant director hamara Dilli ka connection hai. Mere ko daantta rehta hai. Sir mere ko picture banani hai,kab bana rahe ho? So I have told him whenever you want to make a film,call me two months before that,tell me how many days are required and shoot the film. Dont tell me the story because your belief is stronger in terms of the kind of films you want to make. Dont make my kind of film,make your kind of film.
And there is Sanjay Leela Bhansalis film too…
Yes,Sanjay has two subjects and one really fantastic big thing,so I keep talking to all of them – they are all friends. Everything has to fall into place the actors,the technical part of it budgets and my state of mind as an actor. And sometimes even if I like another film better,I always tell them dont wait for me because nobody should wait for anyone. So yes,they are all friends and we talk discuss etc; should I tell you the names of all the people that I am talking to?
Sure,if its not strictly off-limits.
Theres Vishal Bhardwaj,there is Manish (Sharma),there is Rahul Dholakia,there is Racy whose film ABC I want to act in. Its a very good role.
And is there anything coming up on television?
Abhi itni picturein ki baat kar raha hoon to TV mein kahan se kaam karonga? (laughs) Nothing. I have talked with a few people,but it would have to be something different,so there is nothing concrete right now.
You were also supposed to buy a football team?
I dont have that team. I had a chat with Dempos who are friends. The whole league system is going to change so I am waiting for that. What I will try to do is I have a sporting company,so I will give the job to them. We keep looking at sporting opportunities,but at this time about that Dempo thing we need to wait and watch.
Is the edutainment park Kidzania in which you have stakes,up and running?
We are hoping to launch it by the end of August or September. I think 50 per cent of it was done last year but you need people trained to look after the children. Its very close to my heart. Its taken a little long so that when parents come with their little children they can feel confident that they will be taken care of,so that training is going on. Inshallah,at this point we hope for end of August,but give or take two months.
Are there any new entertainment/film-making facilities that you are setting up?
I need to set up facilities that benefit me now. I spend a lot of money setting up the businesses. Whenever you have a new business,it goes into the gestation period and I spend a lot of money on infrastructure. I have done it for VFX for 13 years now. We are fortunate and honoured and humbled that Krrish is being made there,but now we dont know which is the next big film we can make because nobody makes films like that. And these are expensive things. But my dream is to make a studio,to own theatres or to be someone,who is giving back to the industry in my own way.
Given the recent trend,have you acquired the remake rights for any films or books?
If somebody tells me that this film has been made and its a hit,my logic is,good,but its already been done. Lets try and do a film which people will buy the rights of,instead of buying the rights of something that has already been done. In no way am I taking away the importance of these films,but I dont think I have done a remake of any sort in my career of 55 full-fledged films. Yes,if a director is making a film in Hindi and in a South Indian language its fine because its an original film. As for book rights,I had bought a book from my friend Anuja Chauhan,but we didnt make it into a film. Now I think Shettys (Arti,Manmohan and Pooja) are making it. They have bought the rights. I didnt have time so I gave it up. The kind of books I like and want to turn into films Life of Pi,Shantaram at this point are not affordable. They are too big for most film-makers,including myself.
Given Hollywoods interest in our stars/actors even if it is for a small role,would you agree to a special appearance in a Hollywood production?
If its a friend making a Hollywood film,maybe yes,but I would like to do a Hollywood film if it returns back the respect that the Indian audience has given to me. I would not like the Indian audience to go in for a Hollywood film and say,Why did you do this? If an offer comes-which is not there at this point of time and hardly likely to come I would do a film which makes my Indian audience very proud because they have made me very important. So I would like them to feel ki wow! This guy is showing his walk,strutting his stuff and being given the same degree of importance as in a Hindi film.
Any Hollywood actors you would like to cast in your productions?
Sure,if the role demands it. I would love to cast Monica Bellucci. I love her. She is fantastic. And there is Gerard Butler who is a friend too.
Keeping in mind the frantic promotions,do you get to spend enough time with baby AbRam? Who does he resemble Gauri or you?
At this time he doesn’t miss me,so he doesnt know whether I am there or not,but yes,I get time,I go back home sometime or the other. He sleeps all the time so I can drop in whenever I feel like. At this time,he resembles someone who is untouched by journalism or anyone and I would like him to be like that for as many years as he can be.