‘I have become more reclusive’

Interview with Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan

Updated - April 21, 2016 03:42 am IST

Published - August 15, 2014 01:03 am IST

Shah Rukh Khan. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Shah Rukh Khan. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Twenty-six years after he made his acting debut with the TV serial “Fauji,” India’s most articulate Bollywood star is ready to unveil the trailer of his new film “Happy New Year,” releasing this Deepavali. On Tuesday evening, 48-year-old Shah Rukh Khan spent over an hour and a half at his office with Sudhish Kamath to talk about his career choices and the journey so far. Excerpts.

Do you ever feel trapped in a mould you have created every time you have to spread your arms… almost in every other film?

I work a lot in popular cinema. So there are parameters for that. So within those parameters, you are in a mould. You play the hero type. I always have the choice to break it when I feel like and go do a “Chak De” or a “Swades” or a “My Name is Khan” or a “Paheli” or an “Asoka.”

At least in the last five years, I’ve not gone to work because I have to. I’ve never gone to work because I need the money. I’ve never gone to work because I’m bossed around. I’ve never gone to work because there is nothing else for me to do. There is no other reason for me to work but the fact that this is really fine.

And every film takes a life of its own beyond the pages that are written.

When somebody from the market says, there has to be ‘X’ amount of this in the film, we do that. Because it’s a populist world, it’s a populist market, it’s populist cinema. But I also say, “Let’s try to change that. Or let’s not do that because there are so many, say, romantic songs like that.” So the change might be small, just a little beyond the parameters of commercial cinema, but that makes it exciting.

How do you react when critics say Shah Rukh Khan is Shah Rukh Khan in every film?

I downplay my acting prowess. I don’t take myself seriously but that does not mean I’m not a serious actor. I say I have five expressions… because I like to play it down.

I’ve done a lot of acting that I’m proud and arrogant about. I’m one of the few actors to have educated myself in theatre. I’ve done street theatre, I’ve done impromptu, I’ve done commercials, I’ve done plays for kids, I’ve done a Punjabi serial, I’ve done TV shows, I’ve done advertising and I’ve done cinema. I’ve risen in the ranks. And you don’t rise in the ranks over 25 years without knowing your s***. But it’s very boring to talk about how biriyani is made. And it’s nicer to taste it. And that’s what I do.

People say the same about Rajinikanth too, but do you need to act is the question.

Rajinikanth is a superstar. I am not a superstar. I need to work, I need to reinvent, not just myself, even the cinema around me because I can control that.

So when someone asks me: Can you do a comedy? The last one I did was “Baadshah.” So I thought I’ll do a retarded comedy and do it in the mould people like. I didn’t think I’m an actor of that genre. Let me pull all the reserves I have and let me get into that world of “Chennai Express.”

Before that it was “Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” which had to be done in a certain poetic style. To convince people that such a man exists. It is a love story… a triangle between God, a woman and a man. Of course, the arms will rise because it is popular cinema. Of course, the romance will still happen because it is popular cinema.

So the mould I try to attach myself is always different in popular cinema. I try to change it a little, challenge it…

To be honest, “Swades”, “Chak De”, “Asoka”, “Paheli”… easiest films to make. Because being real, being honest, is easy. Just sitting there and depending on the line, the words, your eyes and just the story is much easier than believing in a dream which is unrealistic and unachievable: I am going to mess with God. I will fly with electricity. I will win the World Dance Championship.

It is a huge leap of faith for an actor to believe he can pull these things off.

As an actor, put me in a real space and 80 per cent of your job is done. You put me in a hockey field and I am a coach. You put me in a space in the world your film is set in and I don’t have to do anything. But unreal characters are totally dependent on your dream and your belief in them.

Autism is a difficult thing to do but you know that space. You’ve met people like that. “Devdas” was easy to play because all men are like that.

Larger than life is difficult to play because there is no limit to largeness. How large can you make it? Can I catch you by the scruff of your neck and then pull you into the screen into the most unbelievable world?

Like veteran French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière says, ‘Fiction sometimes goes deeper into the truth than fact.’

Fiction is wanting to achieve your most deep-rooted desires.

I want to fly. You can’t. But it’s a desire. It’s amazing fulfilment. Fiction is fulfilling what most people desire. Reality is not what you want to do. It happens.

Would you say that’s why “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” is still playing at Maratha Mandir, in its 20th year, because manufacturing consent of parents for their love story was fulfilment of a desire of the younger generation?

I’ve seen only two things people give for anything that works or doesn’t work — reasons and excuses. When it’s successful, I’ve seen people give reasons and make them their own. When it doesn’t, they give excuses. I have no idea, yaar.

I’m sure you have had 20 years to think about why that film resonates so much.

May be because everybody is waiting for a boy like that. And there is no boy like that. He is fun, naughty, sweet, caring, respectful to parents and he makes everything alright. You are waiting for Raj. I have had a girl tell me she married Ramesh because he reminded her of Raj. Somewhere down, we created an epitome of the perfect boy.

Is Rs 300 crore the new benchmark for films to surpass where success is measured through box office collections?

“Chennai Express” was the first film to do Rs.200 crore. Numbers can always be surpassed. Dreams are fluid. I want my film to do well so that I can make a bigger film. If “Happy New Year” does well, may be I will go mad and make “Ra. One 2.” I want to get the superhero genre right.

How do you think you have changed over the last 25 years, temperament wise.

I have become more reclusive. I like spending time with me more than power parties. The world is growing bigger, people always want to talk to you. You see flashbulbs and hear voices all the time. More on Twitter. There’s just too much light in my face. I still want to do as much work but I would like to close the door a little more often. I have found myself entertaining people beyond the call of duty. Sometimes just to survive, sometimes for friends … but after 25 years I’ve done everything. There is no more reason to do things unless I am happy. When people ask me come here, there, to see their film, mujhe nahin dekhna hai, yaar (I don’t want to) … I just used to make films. I want to keep it that simple. I don’t want any other knowledge. I used to walk down to my house during “King Uncle.” I walked to Mehboob Studios at 6.30 a.m. and when I walked back at 2 p.m., people stopped to talk to me … “Deewana” had become a big hit. I never saw the film. I didn’t even know when I became a star.

Watch the trailer here:

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