There’s never a dull moment when Shah Rukh Khan is around. Be it cinema or art, the superstar always has something to say about a subject; this stems from the fact that he is a rather well-read man.
Here, the actor talks to us about the challenges of being a public figure, and about dealing with the highs and lows of his career.
An actor’s life, and his or her successes and failures, are often laid out for public scrutiny. What does success mean to you?
Success cannot be owned. It’s strange, but you just have to let it go. You might have achieved something, but if you don’t get an award for it, it’s alright. It (your success) has a much bigger life than you do.
But failure can be tough to deal with…
Yes, losing can become very personal. I deal with it by genuinely closing up and becoming very quiet, and spending a lot of time with myself and my kids. But then, sometimes, I also get scared, because I don’t want to transfer that sadness to them; they can sense it. But my sadness is never a result of my failure at the box office.
I feel really sad when I am unable to deliver something to so many people who I am emotionally important for. It is like telling my son that I will have lunch with him, and then not turning up on time because I got stuck. I don’t feel it (the sadness) because Rs. 200 crore nahin hua (my movie couldn’t make Rs. 200 crore). People assume I must be worried. But it (film-making) is a business, and it gets by. I have seen too many failures to get disturbed. But yes, the disheartening part of failure still hurts.
Stardom comes with its cons. Do you feel suffocated when you’re constantly judged by the public?
It’s not tiring or claustrophobic. Very early in my career, I realised that you can’t go around explaining yourself. I find it wrong when celebrities explain themselves; even on social media. You don’t need to do that. Whatever people think or perceive of you — good, bad or ugly — is an imagery they have constructed from the persona you’ve created. I also feel that actors should not take their personas too seriously.
Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about image management and all that… [But] I feel that you should just be real. Many times, I’m questioned, “How can you just wear this and go out?” But that’s what I wear. In my film, I’ll wear what I am told to.
Very early on, I realised that, as an actor, you have to be very closeted, even if it is with blinkers on, or even if it’s strangely lonely. You just need to get up and decide what excites you. Understand what you want to do, and how happy it will make you at the end of it all.
Do people’s perceptions of you ever bother you?
Sometimes, yes, but not the blatantly extreme ones. But sometimes, some people’s points of view do [affect me]. See, I feel I must be really emotionally important to them, for them to have such strong views about me. I must be making a difference to their lives, for them to really care that much. Having said that, they (people’s opinions) have their own little pricks and pins, and you do feel them sometimes.
The teaser of your next, with director Rahul Dholakia, shows you in a very different light. What can we expect from it?
It is not really like Scarface (1983), but it is in the same zone — in a little disturbed, bootlegger-type, mean space. I’m very mean in the film. Everyone’s scared of me in it.
There are some movies that become turning points for actors. Which films have been game-changers for you?
For me, the first few films like that would be Baazigar (1993) and Darr (1993). Then Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994); that movie was nice. I don’t know if it did well commercially, but I loved it. I learnt a lot from it. It changed me as an actor. And I always believe that every five, seven or 10 years,there comes a movie that turns you around.
Then, from being a bad guy, I went on to do a film like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). I remember, somebody who watched this film with me told me that it would flop because “everyone thinks you’re negative and can’t play a good guy”. But then, suddenly, I became the biggest romantic hero with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998).
I enjoyed doing Don (2006) and Devdas (2002), because they were [originally] and still are classics, and starred some of the greatest actors in this country. I don’t think I have done them (those roles) better; I can never claim so.
Then came Swades (2004) and Chak De! India (2007). My Name Is Khan (2012) [was a turning point] for Karan (Johar; film-maker) and me. I really enjoyed Chennai Express (2013) too, because I had never done a film like that… an out-and-out commercial film.
I also enjoyed Om Shanti Om (2007), because it was spoof-ish. It was the first time we had a reincarnation story — though I had done Karan Arjun (1995) previously — that was set in the ’70s and ’60s. It was interesting.
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