He has been charming audiences with a variety of emotions and blockbusters since he debuted with Deewana in 1992. But even 25 years later, Shah Rukh Khan is still as passionate as he used to be, and his audiences also yearn for him in equal measure. “It doesn’t seem like 25 years,” says the superstar, as he talks about his children, his creative process, films and cooking.
Not many people know that your father was in the hospitality industry. Does your love for food come from him?
Not many know about this, but I want to open a restaurant. I want to cook Italian food. I’m like (boxer) Jake LaMotta. When he became fat, he started a restaurant where he used to cook Italian food and serve people. I want to be like that. When I become fat, I want to open a restaurant near Juhu or somewhere, and serve people. I really love cooking. I’ve never had the time to do it. My father and mother used to cook. I’ve started learning how to cook Italian food. I think I’ll look very sexy in just an apron. Of course, most of the guests will run away if I’m only wearing an apron (laughs), but I want to serve people.
Have you already started experimenting with cooking?
I have been doing it at home, and I’m now making a kitchen for myself. I have bought all the accessories. I was in Europe for three months, so, I learnt from a lady was part of our team and used to cook. And I will keep learning. But seriously, I like to do it for my children. I don’t know how to interact with them, and I’m not someone who imposes. But the one thing that connects all of us is ‘khaana aa gaya hai’ (the food is here). When I cook for them, I don’t feel like I’m encroaching on their space, but khaana toh khayenge hi (but they’ll have to eat food). I like the process of learning. Inshallah, if I get time, then I will be making food for people in another six to seven months at least, at my place. I enjoy it, and it’s very therapeutic. Plus, I have some nice pans and pots.
Talking about films, how do you look back at your journey in the industry?
Recently, during an interview, a lady was quoting a couple of dialogues from my films, and I didn’t realise that I had said them [in my films]. I don’t even remember many of my songs. I don’t remember half the things I have done and I haven’t seen half of the things I have done. But I enjoy doing it and I really don’t feel like 25 years have passed. I read about it sometimes, and some people tell me, ‘you’re 50 and you’re working with 25-year-old girls’, but that doesn’t bother me. I am not saying that I am living in a shell or in a bubble and I have gone mad. I am not a self-obsessed mad person, but it doesn’t seem like 25 years. It feels like yesterday.
You are a big star. Do you think you have to strike a balance between being an actor and a star?
I don’t know why, but lately, I have started wondering if my stardom or my personality is weighing down my acting capabilities. So, if I do a romantic film, people say, ‘he is playing the same lover boy’, and if I don’t, then they complain that I am not playing a lover boy. I don’t know (smiles). I do what I feel like doing in the state of mind that I am in [when I’m signing a film]. I have done that before, and have seen failures as well as successes. Be it a romantic film or a gritty one, I am equally happy. To me, as an actor, the process is really fulfilling. So, Rahul, Raj and Raees — all have been fulfilling. And then, of course, I also hope the audience accepts it, as their applause matters.
Watch Zaalima song I Raees
You have done theatre too. Is there a big difference between being a theatre actor and a film actor?
I come from a theatre background. So, I find myself more akin to people who discuss the nuances [of the craft]. But even in a commercial setup, Farah (Khan), for instance, has her own way of discussing nuances. And as an actor, I’m very malleable; I am like water. Actors should be like that. I believe it’s not important for an actor to believe what he is playing, but to make you believe that something is happening. A lot of actors might say things are otherwise, and they aren’t wrong. But I personally disagree with that. I have my own persona, but I want to make you believe what Asoka (from Asoka; 2001), Kabir Khan (from Chak De! India; 2007), or Mohan (from Swades; 2004) believed in. Shah Rukh doesn’t need to believe it. That’s an actor’s job.
Do you get the time to go through the process of a theatre actor?
Depending on the film, I do spend a lot of time on voice and other details. I normally don’t show my preparation process to my director unless it’s a physical difference, like my part in My Name Is Khan (2010). I work in a ‘solo zone’. Creativity is a solo endeavour; it’s not a public engagement. I spend a lot of time with the characters that I play, even if they are not at all nuanced. There’s a joke about me spending a lot of time in the bathroom, but my bathroom is like a living room, so I sit there and I think. I record things, watch them and read a lot. I keep my enactment a secret, and then I try to surprise the director as much as he surprises me about his ideas. So, there is a process. Sometimes, films are not so nuanced, and commercial films don’t need to be, but I have a process, and I take it seriously.
Do you talk with your kids about creative things?
Aryan (Khan), got into this big college for a four-year graduation course all on his own. He asked me for some help from me on how to go about it. He made a film and got chosen amongst the top 10. So I was like, ‘oh, isko is cheez ka shauk hai’ (Oh, he is interested in this). Every month, I also give him a list of five films that he should watch. And he sends me a message saying they are very boring (laughs). There are some great ones in the list as well. And I am like, ‘itni acchi picturein reject kar di usne’ (he has rejected such good movies). He didn’t like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983). I always recommend my classics to him, but I have realised that I can’t teach him, as he has a mind of his own.
Do you also plan to train Aryan (son) for the world of cinema?
I genuinely believe that in the next four to five years, with due respect to Deepika (Padukone), Priyanka (Chopra), or Irrfan (Khan), who all deserve to be on the international scene and are doing their bit to pave the way [for Indian actors and cinema], international platforms can be created for Indian cinema. All of it will be done by youngsters. So, if Aryan is studying there [in the US], he may learn from there, and figure out how to probably be an assistant to someone like Steven Spielberg instead of assisting Shah Rukh Khan. That’s a billion times better. Then, he can come back to India, make a film and take it international.
We have heard Suhana (Khan) is also a fantastic actor...
Suppose, if Suhana goes to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), where the patron of theatre is Judi Dench, and she talks to her for 10 minutes, I think that would be worth more than me talking to Suhana for 10 hours. I respect Judi Dench a million times more than myself. And if she is able to retain that quality of acting, then she can bring it to India and take our performances international. I’d rather my children do that. But at the end of the day, you never know, you might hear that Karan Johar is launching them (laughs).