Did you know Shah Rukh Khan didn’t even hear the script of My Name Is Khan (2010) beforehand? The superstar says he has never ever asked for stories from his filmmaker friends.
You’ve just produced a high school musical, Always Kabhi Kabhi. And you talk very fondly of your school (St. Columba’s, Delhi). Does it take you back to your school days?
My school was very strict; run by Irish brothers. They were all amazing teachers, but very strict. I used to get caned everyday. I think that’s not allowed anymore. But I used to get whacked everyday for my long hair. And I was sent from the school every week to get my hair cut on the roadside, which is why my hairstyle has never gotten better. It used to be very embarrassing at assemblies. The Irish brothers would call out for me in their strict tone, "come here". And I would be promptly told, "Go down the road in Gole Market and get a haircut from a roadside barber." I’d reach the place in the morning and he (the barber) would have gook in his eyes and bad breath. The first thing he would ask me is, "Which cut do you want: Dharmendra or Amitabh (Bachchan)?" I remember (actor) Amrita Singh used to be my childhood friend in Delhi. Sometimes she would take me swimming. Once I went underwater swimming after a haircut on the roadside. When she came out, she said, "Over the water, you look ugly, under the water, you look scary." But when I see Aryan and Suhana, I realise schools have become easier now. You couldn’t be a badmaash (truant) in my school.
We heard you’re hardly sleeping these days due to work?
I sleep very little anyway. I have an issue with sleeping. I feel life passes you by if you sleep. And it’s a waste of life if you finish it off sleeping. Of course, I’m told otherwise — that if you’re an actor, you should sleep well to look good etc. But I never believed that. Actually, I have been very busy with RA.One post-production. Always Kabhi Kabhi (AKK) was handled by (director) Roshan (Abbas) and his team. In fact, I feel sorry sometimes that I didn’t actively participate in the film.
Recently, you spoke of an urge to do a romantic film. Are you really missing the romance now?
I always feel childish and young, but nowadays, I sometimes feel strange doing certain things I have done well in the past. I have to convince myself that I can still do this and pull it off. I keep mentioning an incident from the Om Shanti Om (2007) sets. I was shooting a critical love scene with Deepika (Padukone) and I kept telling (director) Farah (Khan), “Can we take it from a wide angle, because I’m feeling shy doing it.” The dialogue went something like, “Mera dil tumhe chahta hai and all (my heart loves you).” I don’t know why that (shyness) happened; maybe because I’ve said it (the same thing) so many times in my films in the past.
What’s happening to your film with Yash Chopra?
When I work with people I have worked with for years, I don’t even ask what they are doing. I’ve reached a stage in life where I need friends who have done films with me. And Yashji is more than a friend. He is like a mentor and a wonderful human being; besides being India’s greatest filmmaker ever. So, he asks me, “Beta aa jao, picture karni hai (Son, come over, we need to do a film).” And I always reply, “Haanji, aap bas bata do (Sure, just let me know).” He called me a few days ago and said, “Tu toh milta hi nahi hai yaar (you never meet).” So, I said, “Kya karna hai milke (what’s there to meet).” He told me, “Sun toh le kya karna hai film mein (at least listen to what has to be done in the film).” And I replied, “Aap karlo jo karna hai, main aa jaunga (you do what’s to be done, I’ll land up).” So he asked me, “Kapde kya pehnega (what’ll you wear?).” I said, “Nanga aa jaunga main, jo accha lage pehna dena (I’ll land up naked, make me wear whatever you like).”
More details please.
I can assure you that it’ll be a grand Yash Chopra film. But I don’t know the cast yet. I keep reading about Kajol or Katrina… (laughs). I, for one, don’t know if they are doing the film or not. Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) also asked me a few days ago, “When are we starting the film?” I told him, “You tell me when you want me to do it, and I’ll come.” I think they want to launch in November. Yashji, out of love, asked, “Should we launch on your birthday?” I told him, “Mere birthday pe kar do, apne birthday pe kar do (do it on my birthday, your birthday), I will do it.”
You’ve turned down several good films including Munnabhai MBBS (2003), Lagaan (2001), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and recently, (Yashraj’s Salman Khan starrer) Ek Tha Tiger...
Every film has its own destiny. I’ve always had a very strange spiritual relationship with movies. I have let go of a lot of films I could have participated in. But I left them, sometimes for ego, sometimes because I didn’t like someone’s face, and sometimes because I couldn’t understand the film. And all of them are really wonderful films. But when I see them, I never feel envious or jealous, thinking, “God, I should have done this picture.” I believe every film has its people written all over it.
But still, things seem to be going fine for you!
Initially, I came in a huff to Mumbai and rushed to work. And I didn’t know what was happening. I still don’t know what’s happening to me. I have a big house, corporate presence, a production house, besides a mega star status. But I have no idea how it all happened. I don’t know.
2011 looks superb for you with RA.One and Don 2.
Both RA.One and Don 2 are very special films. With RA.One, I hope to introduce the culture of technically advanced VFX films in India. And Don 2 is special, because I did the film when I was down with a shoulder injury, wondering whether I could do an action film. Now, I have completed both of them, so it feels good. While RA.One is very technically slick, Don 2 will be very tough, and I call it a macho film. Actually, my son likes me to play the cool and tough guy. And I really hope audiences too like both the films.
You met Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio for Xtrme City. What’s happening?
I have the script of Xtrme City, but I still have to go through it. I have been very busy with RA.One, AKK and the Indian Premier League. So, I’m going to sit down now and read it. Yes, I met Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio in Berlin. They, including Paul Schrader, are very happy with the script. A few days ago, I sent them a mail saying that I’m going to read it, and we hope everything turns out well.
Is Leonardo on for the film?
I have no idea about two things right now — heroines of the Yash Chopra film and the hero opposite me in the Martin Scorsese movie.
Have you met Vishal Bhardwaj regarding Two States? And is the Angoor (1982) remake happening with Rohit Shetty?
I haven’t met Vishal yet. He’s been patiently waiting for me because I was busy with RA.One post-production. We still have to work out details and lock the final script. It would be an honour to work with Vishal. And since I haven’t met him, I have no idea about the casting of Asin either. Actually, I haven’t met anyone. I really want to move out and read new scripts from other directors, but I have been too caught up, especially with RA.One.
Are you worried about people’s reaction to RA.One and its box office results?
Box office is not in my control. You can make the biggest or worst film without knowing the result. I believe you should only say good things about life in films. And belief isn’t knowledge-based. It’s instinctive; based on reflexes. And you can’t doubt your reflexes. That’s how I have lived my life as an actor and filmmaker. It goes wrong more often than not. But as long as my films break even, or even if they lose some money, it’s fine, because things will be fine. I know for a fact that whatever films I do for my production house will bring in the money, and Mashallah, they do. So, if I have a few rider films (films done for money alone) with me as an actor, then I can bring in money for the kind of films that, on the face of it, may not bring in the moolah. I don’t earn a single penny from my company as a producer. I have built this company to be self-sustained. There might be a year when my big films don’t do well, so I won’t have money to produce smaller films. But if a big one like Om Shanti Om does well, I can produce Billu (2009), which in a way did well for us in terms of money too. As long as I have that freedom, I will continue this way. But if I don’t have it, I’ll stick to safer films. Because I have 600 people working in my firm, we have to pay for those jobs too.