Shah Rukh Khan talks to Sudhish Kamath about his tryst with technology in 'RA-One' and a phenomenon called Rajnikanth
Turns out that the King Khan of Bollywood is a die-hard Rajni fanboy. “When I first came to Mumbai, he was shooting a film with Mukul Anand (‘Hum'). I have wanted to meet him ever since. Now, to think that I am breathing the same air as him is an honour,” he told journalists at the audio launch of “RA-One” in Tamil at Sathyam Cinemas. After a quick photo-opp session with Mani Ratnam, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Santosh Sivan, Soundarya Rajnikanth and Abhirami Ramanathan on stage, Shah Rukh Khan briefly shook a leg to the Tamil version of ‘Chammak Challo' for photographers.
Khan plays Shekhar Subramaniam, a geeky games developer who creates a robot called RA-One (Random Access Version One) because his son wants him to create a game where the villain is more powerful than the hero.
During an exclusive eight-minute interview after the event, SRK spoke candidly about his admiration for Rajnikanth, “Enthiran” and the portrayal of South Indians in Hindi cinema. Excerpts:
What's been your creative involvement in the development of this film. Your name is in the screenplay credits on IMDB?
No, no, no. I'll never take the screenplay credit. It's too dangerous. To be a director or a screenplay writer is a more dangerous job.
So your involvement in production is just limited to playing producer?
I am hardly a producer, yaar. I have a production office but the nitty-gritties of it are taken care of by people who do the hard work. I just take the credit.
You were in talks with Shankar for the film that became ‘Enthiran'. Did ‘RA-One' start around that time?
We started working on ‘RA-One' six to eight months before that. I also told Shankar sir that. I narrated the story to him and told him I wanted to do something similar to ‘Enthiran' in terms of, not the story, but the human versus technology. But our timings just didn't match, we couldn't do it. Having said that, I had thought of it then. When I read ‘Robot', it was a marvellous script but the way it was finally done with Rajni sir and Shankar, it was one of the finest films I have seen. I have seen the Hindi version of ‘Robot' twice with the children and we were clapping till three in the morning. It was fantastic. I hope ‘RA-One' is at least ten per cent of that.
I remember that somewhere down the way you wanted to make it in 3D?
We wanted to do it in 3D but with so much of new technology that we were using, with respect to visual effects, we wanted to do something we could do as much as possible at home. So I didn't want to take on one more thing. We had got the cameras in London for two days but we didn't want to get it wrong. But then Prime Focus showed us what they could do (by conversion) and it was so marvellous.
You've spoken in Tamil in ‘RA-One'.
Yes, when I get angry in the film, I break into Tamil. That's the part I had to dub myself. I had to keep asking: ‘One more, one more.' The way South Indians have been portrayed in Hindi cinema has always been exaggerated since the days of Mehmood in ‘Padosan'. Let me be honest. The film is commercial. I would be responsible for having taken it a little over the top. I hope it's not too much. I apologise if I have. My mom is from Andhra Pradesh. So when she gets angry, she breaks into a Hyderabadi dialect. I have done a little bit of that.
We don't have too many South Indian characters in main roles in Hindi cinema. Do you think this sort of integration will bridge the North-South divide?
I was very keen. He (Shekhar Subramaniam) was soft-spoken, gentle and a little geeky but very intelligent. Whether it is stereotypical or not, I believe that everyone in the South is highly intelligent. Having said that, I think the age has come where there is no North-South divide. My son who is 14 likes watching actors from my era and Amitji and Rajnikanth. And when ‘Robot' came out, for ten days, his Blackberry status messages were about Chitti. So I think that barrier is broken down.
When people here make Rajni jokes, they say it is to celebrate the phenomenon but don't you think the same jokes are used to ridicule him in the North?
I don't think so. When you take his name, it is celebration, whether it is Kashmir or Kerala. We celebrate. I truly believe that. When you meet him, he's a simple humble man, well-spoken, kind-hearted. What he does in a film is for you and I. He doesn't do it for himself. The audience today recognises that. When I meet my children, I ask them if they get embarrassed at school because of what I do. They say ‘no', you are not like that at home. ‘You are Papa at home.' You want your children to be educated and have a good life. But when we go to the set, that's the beauty of it, we are all actors. I wouldn't say it about Rajni Saar but I say it all the time about me... that we actors are like clowns. We do that to make you laugh. If you recognise that, you would never, never be derogatory, you'd celebrate it. We celebrate a Jackie Chan.