He’s completed 20 years in the film industry. And if there’s one thing Shah Rukh Khan is not willing to be modest about, it’s his status as the undisputed King of Bollywood. "I was first offered the film Salman is doing for Yashraj," he reveals. "But I didn’t take it up due to paucity of time," he adds, reacting to the news of his bete noire Salman Khan having signed his first project (Ek Tha Tiger) with Yashraj Films, till now, considered a lone bastion of Shah Rukh’s.
"When people ask me if I feel disturbed about them signing Salman, my answer is that I don’t feel anything. I don’t want to sound pompous but in the stage and age that I’m in, what matters to me is what I do, not what others do. In any case, Yashraj makes 20 films in a year. I can’t act in all. Even Karan (Johar) is making a film without me. I wish him all the best," he says.
Ask him what he thinks of Salman poking fun at superhero films (Shah Rukh’s production Ra.One is a sci-fi superhero flick) saying ‘he doesn’t want to wear his underwear on the outside’ and he smiles: "I have a sense of humour and will take it as a good joke."
Recent reports even suggest that Yash Chopra shared his contract with Salman to convince the latter that he would get the same remuneration. "I don’t sign contracts with Mr Yash Chopra," he snaps back. "I don’t make my living out of films. In the last 15 years, I’ve never asked my producers what I’m being paid. Kings don’t ask... I’m not a Badshah for nothing. I don’t need to ask for things."
In town to announce Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer’s tie-up with the host of Formula One in India, Buddh International Circuit, Shah Rukh says he’s unfazed by companies opting for younger brand ambassadors. "I’ve always had a relationship with brands I endorse. Pepsi was with me for 14 years before they decided to go for a fresh face. If they want to opt for someone younger, it’s their right."
On the touchy subject of cricketer Sourav Ganguly, who was dumped by Khan’s Kolkata IPL team and joined rivals Pune Warriors, he says, "I wish Dada good luck. I don’t know who the people of Kolkata will support in our match against his team. But Gautam (Gambhir) and I are working hard to make sure we win. I want to jump from Howrah Bridge screaming ‘we won for Kolkata’."
His eyes light up at the mention of Ra.One. “I’m making a movie that’s technically the most superior this country has ever seen,” he says, adding that he’s pumped in an unbelievable amount of money into it (reported to be upwards of Rs150 crore). “I told my wife, Gauri, how much we’ll lose on Ra.One, even if the movie is a hit. She said, ‘Divide what you’ve got from this industry by 20 and compare…even if we lose twice as much, it’ll still be worth it.’”
Doesn’t the thought of losses make him anxious? “If I don’t have the capacity to fail, I won’t be half the star people think I am. Ra.One for me, is a case of putting my money where my mouth is. If I’m King Khan, I have to behave like one.”