Just when I was beginning to think that he was no longer interested in a Diwali ‘dhamaka’ (blast) the ‘badshah’ (king) began gearing up for some box-office fireworks with his Rs 150 crore superhero fantasy-adventure. For a month now, Shah Rukh Khan has been jetting to all parts of the country to promote his most ambitious home production. By now, everyone knows that RA.One is the bad guy and G.One is the good guy. And the film is about animated characters turning real.
Back in January, however, when I met Shah Rukh in Singapore during the Zee Awards, all I heard was that his film was Rajinikanth’s Robot rehashed and Ajay Devgn’s Tooonpur Ka Superhero recycled, with a bit of Terminator and Superman thrown in. “Yeah, RA.One is a copy. After 20 years that’s all I can do, copy others,” he quipped sarcastically.
The dark frown cleared as he went on to tell me that he was making the film to give something back to the industry that had given him so much. “I’m not competing with Hollywood but I have flown down ten Oscar-winning technicians to train my team here. I want to show the world that even using in-house, indigenous techniques, we can make a VFX-loaded film that is slickly wow,” he asserted.
The film’s first look had just been unveiled and the reactions were ‘wow’. “It’s all about colours and electricity,” the creator-producer smiled, sipping his ‘chai’ (tea). “G.One is blue… RA.One could be red. And its message is encapsulated in a single line… The heart is the weakness of human beings but in superheroes, it is their strength. I want to be a superhero with a heart.”
Shah Rukh’s much-needed break after a rigorous three-hour dance rehearsal extended to 40 minutes before the show’s organisors butted in and pulled him away for a much-delayed press conference. His “Can I finish my cigarette first?’ and “Shouldn’t I change out of this sweaty tee?” protests fell on deaf ears as he was dragged away and I was given a dressing down for keeping 200 foreign journalists waiting. Today, as I wait for G.One to take centrestage, I remember chatting with Shah Rukh, down to decades, about some of his other Diwali sparklers.
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge in 1995 marked the beginning of his Diwali ‘raj’ (rule). And Raj, Shah Rukh confided, was a guy like him. “When I was courting Gauri, we too had our share of family problems. But like Raj who refuses to take Simran away, I too refused to elope with Gauri. And eventually, I was able to take my ‘dulhaniya’ (bride) home with her father’s blessings,” he said.
Two years later, he brought in the festival with Dil To Pagal Hai. Rahul was nothing like Raj. Love makes him hurt, and he in turn hurts the girls who love him and is unapologetic about it. “We’d shot a scene of my taking Nisha (Karisma Kapoor) to the airport and on the way saying sorry. But later, we decided to edit it out because Rahul would have never apologised. Love doesn’t make him a better person, it makes him a dog,” Shah Rukh pointed out. Yet, not just Pooja and Nisha but millions of girls across the country across the world were ‘pagal’ (mad) about him. And Shah Rukh Khan, they still are.
The following year, Karan Johar’s directirial debut, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, brought to the screen another Rahul, who was the father of an eight-year-old daughter. By then Shah Rukh was a daddy himself and admitted that when he was holding the newborn baby in his hands, he was reminded of his son Aryan’s entry into the world. “But Anjali’s daddy was different from Aryan’s daddy. He reminded me in some ways of my own daddy. I guess because he was more grown up,” Shah Rukh mused. “When Aryan is eight, maybe I will be that way too.”
Cut to 2011… Aryan is almost 14, daughter Suhana is 11 and Shah Rukh who turns 46 on November 2, is grown up. May be today he feels as mature as Rahul… May be not… I can still see a childlike father making a RA.One in the hope that the film will turn him into a superhero in the eyes of his children… The eyes of all children… A superhero with a heart.