An abridged version of this appeared in the paper today. Here’s the unedited full text of the interview, when Sudhish Rajagopal Kamath met Shah Rukh Khan.
* * *
It was, perhaps, most apt to have the most watched star endorse a watch. A watch so slick and premium, that for a moment you would think he’s endorsing a time machine. Oh well, okay, maybe it IS, really.
So after the Tag Heuer (we need to plug it in for it introduced us to him, though in reality, SRK introduced the watch to us) moved two hours past the scheduled start of press conference, we were ushered to his suite for the ten-minutes of a lifetime — a one-on-one with Shah Rukh Khan.
And, the spaghetti-sporting publicist with the hour-glass figure indicated: “Five minutes.” (Someday even Suderman will have a butli like that for secretary!)
Thus started our rapid-fire Q&A session.
Q: Were you disappointed that one of your best performances till date, Mohan Bhargav in ‘Swades,’ did not fetch you a National Award?
A: I’m no one to judge what my best performances are. It depends on what people say.
It’s a good film to make. I think I’ve performed as well as I could. I think I’ve put in that much hard work. I don’t want to sound bratty. But, it’s just that it’s a loss to the National Awards. And I believe that. I’m not being a bad sport. Also, a friend has got it so it seems wrong for me to say that…(shrugs)
Q:Did you like him in Hum Tum?
A: I didn’t see it.
Q: You’ve always said your personal favourite roles have been in ‘Swades’ and ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa,’ which, is a film you did quite a while ago. Why do you say that these films are your favourite?
A: ‘Swades’ because it’s so radically different. It gives you an opportunity. People keep on saying that, you know, one should do different roles. I can’t do a different role in a film which is exactly the same. With due respect, you can’t do an action film differently than actually you’re supposed to do it. Once in a while, you do get films for an occasion, a situation… The whole ideology of the film is so different. Then, you can rise to the occasion or at least you know film has a character. Sometimes, that film helps you make a character. Otherwise I’m a hero type. So, if there is a film where I’m supposed to be in love I’ll do it like a hero. But, sometimes, commercial cinema gives you enough space to make a character. ‘Swades’ was like that. ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ was among the first ten films I did and I grew up and learnt something. Then I think it happened with ‘Dil Se’ and ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’… they were made simultaneously. By that time, I felt I had done something, learnt something nice. And then again, I learnt something with Swades. I can’t explain the difference but people say you’re growing as an actor, etc. But I just felt that something different has happened to me. I’ve learnt some more. And that becomes very special to me.
Q: Did you plan something special for it, or did you just follow Ashutosh?
A: When people tell me I act the same I say I’m a director’s actor. It’s the directors who act the same. I take no credit or discredit for what I do in a film. I should never tell a director what to do. I’m a believer in a good story. As a matter of fact, I told him that Swades won’t be commercially big. And, to do a film like this after Lagaan… But then he said “My dad wants me to make this film.” So I said “OK, if your dad wants you to, then do it. But commercially it isn’t viable.” Because it’s a subject that can be a little heavy on you. And no one really wants to know about the good things in life. We just want to know about the songs and dances. So he just told me what to do. He was very clear on Mohan Bhargav. From the clothes to the hair…
Q: Are you allowed to talk about Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (KANK)? You see a “learning process” there?
A: You see, when you start doing it, then suddenly you realize it is different in a certain way. It’s been a bold subject for Karan. But, of course, it’s going to have the trappings of a Karan Johar film. And its not that he can’t make it differently. See, the stakes become very high when you make a film for 35 crores. So you need the trappings to be there. You can’t make a film for 35 crores and not know business. So it has to have… you know, it IS like that. Hopefully, I will do something new within the parameters set for commercial cinema.
Q: You’ve been working mostly with people who are your friends…
A: That’s not true. Everyone asks me. But I’ve worked with first time director Nikhil Advani.
Q: That was written and produced by Karan Johar.
A: Farah had never directed a film. Even Karan and Adi were first time directors when I did their films.
Q: You don’t want to work with the new breed of directors, say, from the Ram Gopal Varma school of filmmaking?
A: Ram Gopal Varma has been new school for the last eight years. (laughs) But he doesn’t give me a film. He comes and narrates every story to me. Then he says: “But Shah Shah Rukh, my daughter wants me to make a film that’s nice and sweet. She doesn’t want to see all this – the way I make films.” So, he comes and narrates everything to me… his ‘Sholay,’ ‘Sarkar,’ everything. Every film he narrates and then finally tells me “I want to do a Karan Johar kind of a film with you.” But, I already have Karan Johar for that… (laughs) Inshaallah, it’ll happen sometime.
Q: Is Mani Ratnam’s project Mahabharatha happening?
A: I am not aware of it at all.
Q: Bobby Bedi’s 100-crore production, Mahabharatha, they’re trying to get you, Aamir together. You guys haven’t acted together at all.
A: He’s mentioned it. Bobby’s an old dear friend. So one day he vaguely mentioned it.
Q: This film with Prabhudeva…
A: Somebody else also asked me this, is he directing a film they asked me. I don’t know.
Q: This smoking ban. You’ve welcomed this ban. And the last five years you’ve said that you’re trying to give up smoking. When are you quitting?
A: I gave it up three days ago. I did. (laughs) But, I’ve cut it down to ten cigarettes a day. Hopefully in the next few days, I’ll give it up.
Q: Your Dreamz Unlimited, it’s future. Do you see yourself making Dreamz Unlimited films soon?
A: It’s all fused together now. Under the banners of Dreamz, Arclights and Red Chillies. But we decided, due to our very special relationship, between me, Aziz and Juhi, that if we make a film together, we should share the profits or the losses. You know it started with Chalte Chalte, like Juhi said, “Look I’m not part of the film, why should I be part of the profits?” Very sweet people.
Q: One last question. What does it mean when you say ‘your interpretation of a character’? Like Farhan Akhtar’s ‘Don’ you said will be your interpretation of what Amitabh Bachchan did.
A: No, it’s not my interpretation of what Mr. Bachchan did. It’s my interpretation of the story. See, this is the way I think of doing scenes. My mind thinks like a person who’s born in 65 and lived in the 70s and 80s. I know people of my age and perhaps younger people.
Q: So is Farhan Akhtar’s ‘Don’ contemporary?
A: It is based now. The whole idea is to introduce it to a generation that didn’t see it. Like ‘Devdas’ was. But ‘Don’ lends itself to being a film that can happen now. It has the trappings of a good commercial film. The action is more stylized and… it has a lot of scope for a modern film.
Q: What has no one asked you yet? You’ve done some 2000 interviews. What has no one asked you yet? Your toe-nail size? Do you cut you toe-nails?
A: Do I cut toenails? I think somebody’s asked me that also. (laughs)
* * *
After the interview…
Suderman: Hey, I want a snap with you. At the end of the day, we are all fans, you know.
Shah Rukh Khan: Sure (gets up and poses).
Where’s the snap? Coming soon, watch this space! 😀