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“I don’t think anybody ever spent so much to make me not look like Shah Rukh Khan”

Last time we met Shah Rukh Khan, just before the launch of The Hindu Mumbai, our conversation had stretched long while the tea turned cold, was left untouched. This time it was literally a midnight camp at Mannat for a group of journalists trying to catch the star, on the eve of his new release, Fan, before he gets busy with the IPL season. The hours of wait were filled with sandwiches, tea and endless journo gossip even as the star took a few short breaks between the many interviews, and a long one once to catch up with his son Aryan.

Almost the last in the long queue we caught up with a visibly tired but still raring to go SRK as he chit-chatted with IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla about the opening ceremony. Reassuring us with a “don’t worry” on us wondering if we won’t end up taking too much time and helpfully holding on to our mobile for clearer, sharper recording he made for a short but sweet conversation on the twin roles of the fan and the star he plays in Maneesh Sharma’s Fan.

Looking back at your performances one realises that there have been quite a few split personality, multiple identity or double role films — Duplicate, English Babu Desi Mem, Don, Karan Arjun, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Baazigar, Om Shanti Om, Ra.One… Where does Fan fit in with this genre of SRK films?

The concept of the film is very different from those you mentioned. You could have made this film with a star and a fan. But then the pitch in it was that he should be a lookalike. We could have still found a lookalike, a young boy may be. But the further pitch was that it had to be played by the same actor. Which was also ok, afterall you are doing a double role which has been cracked successfully ever so often with technology. But the whole point of the exercise was that at the end of the film nobody should say they are the same people. We could have taken different people and made this film but then it wouldn’t be as fantastic. It would be any other story like XYZ.

If we have the same people and at the end of the film you come out saying “ye dono alag the” or at the beginning of the film you forget in the first ten minutes that it’s the same guy doing the two roles. The challenge was that. You would want to remember both the roles may be, or one more or less. But they both had to be two totally different people and dignity of both had to be maintained. They are both right, or wrong, neither is just black or white. Have we managed to do it? When you see the film, in the first ten minutes or the last half hour and say “oh that wasn’t Shah Rukh”. If you are able to come out of the film and say that the other boy was good, that’ll be nice. I hope I have been able to play the other boy well.

To forget that the boy is Shah Rukh is a big deal, a very big deal…

Yes, it is a very big deal. It’s a character created by five six people. Maneesh’s writing, Adi’s belief, the VFX, costume and makeup people’s inputs, my acting. It has been created by several people’s personalities. And what we all think is a guy who should not be Shah Rukh. I don’t think anybody ever spent so much money to make me not look like Shah Rukh Khan. So much so that if you ask me about Gaurav (the fan) I would say you should interview him separately. It’s all so schizophrenic and dichotomous. I don’t know what to say about him. Gaurav is a most unique character. It’s a beast created by many people with their thoughts on what a fan should be.

Every fan is different so everyone has given different inputs. The whole has become more than the sum of its parts. Every fan will see a part of himself or herself in Gaurav. Being a fan is a very generic, universal, normal thing. To curb it to just one point of view—that of the actor—would have been uncalled for. It’s a free-flowing, not organic, very set-piece, very rehearsed, practiced, crafted character. The voice, the walk, the losing weight but those things get hidden under the overall feeling of a fan.

I would have assumed that in this fan-star binary you would have felt closer to the other role, that of the star…

For the other role I can say that it was difficult because I am a superstar but am not playing myself. The flamboyance is gone. He is more real, practical, grounded, patient. He is a star on the wane or on the rise but he is not me. He is not Shah Rukh Khan. We have taken away the flamboyance of the Billu Barber star. He is not a big guy, dancing or singing. I made him a little more real, human and a lot less mad than I am in real life. He is more of a proper father, husband. More boring, little more scared than me. He is a guy in his private, quiet space. It’s an extremely different take. Adi and Maneesh would not be so unfair as to say that “you are playing Shah Rukh Khan in real life”. That’s too personal. They had a character in mind. For me to play a superstar and then remove myself from it to be a star that I am not was more challenging.

And yet I had to retain the generic-ness of what people think a superstar is. Gaurav is really cool but I would say Shah Rukh played the other role damn differently. There is a scene in the film in which a rich man tells me “itna paisa diya hai, c’mon deliver the job”. I would beat up the guy if he spoke to me like this in real life. My character loses it for a second but then says “I am on it sir”. For reasons of decency he has to maintain a stoic silence, swallow his pride and just go away. In a real world it may happen like this but I, as a superstar, live in a very unreal world.

Did you identify with Gaurav, the fan, in any way or is he completely out of your zone?

How to identify with him? If I were to put him in a larger context he is a lover. If people identify me as the greatest lover in the last two decades then I identify with him. He just loves and he loves unconditionally, innocently, like a 25-year-old who doesn’t understand the magnitude of his right or wrong. He is not a psychopath, he is not a dangerous criminal. He is a guy who loves. At 25 you are allowed to do anything, believe in anything. At 25 I could have been like this, not idolising someone but say in my decision to do a film like Darr. Even now I am a little like that. I am too positive about a lot of things.

As a star with zillions and millions of fans what is the boon/bane bit about them?

Lack of privacy or that extra bit of effort to touch you—that doesn’t rattle me. When I meet my fans I am not being gracious, I am being grateful. By telling them that I love them I am actually thanking them. I come from a middle class family, I have become a big star, I have all the trappings of stardom—I am financially well off, happy, have a lovely family. I can only thank people for liking me so much. I am alright not going to a restaurant and eating, I didn’t want to. The fans have given me the opportunity to buy that restaurant and keep it in my house if I want to. There is no price to pay really. I wanted to be a movie star—the biggest, most loved, hugged. I don’t want that to go away. This is what I live for. I get very disturbed when people are not nice to someone who admires them. Every little opportunity I get to meet the people who have made me who I am, I take it up. Whenever I am low, down and out, things are going bad and when the fans hug me or touch me even after a bad film I wonder that I mean so much to them, that I matter. Normally you matter only to your family but if you have a family of billion people I think it’s a blessing. Someone told me that there is this burden of expectations. Well, then don’t be a superstar. Be a regular guy.

Have you known any of your fans personally? By name?

Names I wouldn’t know of my own family members. I am bad with names. I don’t want to make my fans feel that I am being patronising. They are equals. They are even more equal than equals. I know a lot of them around the world. The German girls are amazing, they meet me, never trouble me. I can actually leave my kids with them to look after. I have so much faith in them.

Have you been an ardent fan of anyone?

Being a fan, being in love requires time. Being in love is a luxury. I was 15 when I lost my father, 20 when I lost my mother. I started working when I was 15. If I wanted to be a sports fan I didn’t have the time for it. Before I could become a fan I became a star. Now I am AbRam’s (his little son) fan. I have the luxury of sitting and watching him, taking a picture with him, writing something for him. I love Michael Jackson, Madonna, I have met them but not taken a picture with them. I liked people but never had time to idolise. You idolise someone when you have time to become like them. I had to work, make ends meet, look after myself and my orphan sister. Before I knew it time had gone to be a fan. May be later when I am free I will be a fan of someone.

Romance, song-n-dance make way for VFX in Fan. Is the film a very different zone for typical SRK fans?

What is a fan? You will love me no matter what I do. Personally I am not very romantic, I am very awkward doing the romance that I do. Songs have been a bane of my life and then to be known for the stuff you are uncomfortable with! I wanted to be a character artiste when I came in to the industry. By some quirk of fate I have become the most romantic hero.

How was it working with a new, young director like Maneesh?

Maneesh I have known for long, from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi when he was the AD. He has a very different mindset which is Dilli. And I am like that. We have a lot of commonality so it was good to go back to that rawness and say that this is what I came to do and now I have got the opportunity. It’s not that I have lacked opportunity. It’s just that everything doesn’t come the way you expect it to. I don’t write films for myself but I like doing things which I haven’t done before even if it’s an action thriller which has been done ten times by someone else. I did a love story, DDLJ, five years after the launch of my career. It was new to me. Rohit Shetty’s Chennai Express I did because I had never done the amazing, over the top humour. Suddenly with this film I get to be the actor I wanted to be 25 years ago. Someone has to give me an opportunity. Everybody gets caught by the stakes too. Here’s this kid who doesn’t give a damn. It’s nice to have someone who takes the chance. And then you have a producer like Adi who won’t go wrong with it. It is very brave of Maneesh to cast me in a film which is unlike mine.

How do the VFX of Fan differ from say that of Ra.One?

Ra.One is in your face VFX, this is more breakthrough than it. It will push the boundaries of VFX to a different level in this country. It took us eight days to shoot the interval scene and nine months to see what it looked like finally and that scene is just two and a half minute long. Seven seconds of what you see on screen has been worked on by 300 people for seven days. It’s never been done in the world. They have done it for two-three minutes in Captain America. Ra.One was a very difficult film to make. This has happened because Ra.One happened otherwise you wouldn’t have the knowhow. Having said that it is ten times more difficult film than Ra.One. And you will come out of the film asking “par VFX the kahan”. We assume in India that VFX is flying, guns and cars. But this is just a film about two men. With just one of two flying shots.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 3:01:21 PM |

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