A fortnight ago, when I met Nimrat Kaur who gave me a very articulate interview for this column, she told me she is the biggest Shah Rukh Khan interview fan. She used to collect his interviews.
Many of my journalist friends agree his are always among the best interviews they’ve done.
As I’m waiting at the Red Chillies office, his publicist Mandvi Sharma tells me, “Time for him is a very different concept. For us, it is about being on time. For him, it’s always about the time he spends with people.”
It’s not that much of a wait for me this evening as he shows up soon enough.
“It’s part heist, part Bollywood film,” he tells me after showing me the trailer. “ Happy New Year is a commercial happy-go-lucky entertainer, the ultimate Bollywood film. Farah wanted to make this before Om Shanti Om .”
I tell him about Nimrat’s admiration for his interviews and ask him if he preps for them.
“Ninety per cent of the time, the interviews are about the film I am participating in. And when I’m doing a film, I believe in the 140-150 days of work that I have done. I believe in what I do. I believe in that thought. However random, strange, new, fantastic, good, bad or ugly it may be. That’s why I am part of it. Belief makes you articulate. When you believe in something, there is no way you can be inarticulate about it. This is what I’ve lived for the last 200 days. Every year takes a year of my life. I’m 48 now. I’ve done 55 films. Somewhere 55, 40 or 30 years of my life have been taken away. I’m happy that whatever I have done, I’ve done from a position of choice. Being in a position of choice is stardom.”
“Also, I have no idea of when I have interviews. I don’t read what I have said. I see it. OK, it’s there. I appreciate how it’s written but I don’t read what I’ve said because I’ve said it. And I always believe I sound more articulate than I am because of the person writing it. If I were to write what I said, I don’t know where it will go. All those who have told you I’m articulate have probably written it more articulately than I’ve sounded. Honest truth.”
This was my fourth interview with him in ten years. So it’s not just that.
“Well, a lot of people have an interview face. They have an interview persona. I have a party persona. I have a house persona. But I don’t have an interview persona. I am not an actor or a star when I’m doing it.
I say what I feel now. So it may change. Two days later, I may feel differently… and I have no issues.
When people tell me I’m contradicting myself, yeah, it’s fine. So? I’m contradictory. They say you should have just one thought. No, I have 17 thoughts. So I may put them all in the same interview. So you liked white? Yeah, but you wear black. Yeah. I might like white and wear black, but what does that make me… am I schizophrenic? No. Or I am. It’s all right.”
We talk some more about the sameness in people and stories and the conversation drifts to how different Happy New Year is.
“I have never made a film without a core. The point of Happy New Year is that God gives an opportunity to every loser once in a lifetime. Nobody celebrates losers. We have maybe 40-50 icons in the world of 8 billion. The rest of them are not winners. We are always celebrating the minority – a superhero, beautiful people, stars. Not everybody who wins is happy. Look at Robin Williams.”
So does he see himself as a winner or loser?
“I’m basically a loser. I always want to make the next one. I’m satisfied because I have belief but I am also greedy. What can I do in the next one? If I've not been able to entertain… it’s my thing in life. Everybody who comes to me, whether it is a meeting, or a film… everybody comes to me with a desire, will he entertain? I’m the performer, entertainer, the jester, you’ve come with the hope of being entertained. If I break that, that’s disturbing.”
That’s why he goes beyond the call of duty entertaining people.
“I hope they go back thinking that I have entertained them… that’s winning to me but that doesn’t last more than 4-5 days. Nothing lasts for posterity. Nobody remembers anything. People don’t remember parents. When Pyaasa released, they panned it.
You don’t make anything for posterity. Your time in space is where you are. Nothing else exists. I don’t have any nostalgia. I’m not 75 and when I’m 75 why would I watch my film? Celluloid is amazing but it’s not life lasting.”
How long have you been making films, he asks me.
“Fifteen years,” I answer.
“Because I want to make them.” “Why don’t you for a change make films for others, anyone but you?”
“Why,” I ask.
“For the first six years of my career, I did what I wanted to do. I told Hema Malini I am a serious theatre actor and I am not going to be running around trees. I refused loverboy roles for six years. So finally when Aditya Chopra pitched DDLJ , it seemed different to me. I hadn’t done something like that. People thought I was going to kill her off. I liked that I could defy expectations. So I did it. I was 32 when I was pretending to be in college with a chain around my neck that said cool. I felt ridiculous but I did it. But the point is you never know what you can become until you start doing things for others.”