It’s past 10pm, and understandably, Mehboob Studio is desolate, especially with the Mumbai winter setting in. But inside his vanity van, one man is as energetic as ever — Shah Rukh Khan. “I think everybody is like this (energetic),” he says nonchalantly. Herein, the actor, who readies for his next release, Raees, opens up about his stardom and ‘real’ issues.
Is it difficult to be SRK?
Yes, and I wouldn’t wish it upon many people. I hear some actors saying that they wish they were Shah Rukh Khan, and I say, ‘Please don’t wish for it. It’s a pain’. I can’t explain the kind of patience, goodness, humility and the modesty you have to show besides the hard work you have to do, and stress you have to take. But I will still give my left and right arm to be Shah Rukh Khan again. But I won’t wish it upon others, as I don’t think they can handle it.
There is almost always an issue with every film you do. Is that frustrating as a creative person?
I am okay with whatever the need of the hour is. To me, it’s essential that a film that is made by 200-250 people reaches 20 crore people, because that’s what you make it for. I am fine with everything else that follows — meeting XYZ for whatever reasons, having ideological differences or sensitivity issues — because the bottom line is, the film should reach a lot of people, as that’s what I work for. I want that especially for those 200-250 people who work on the film. Har daur mein alag alag cheezein aati hai (things are different in every era). The only thing I have learnt is, do what needs to be done before the Friday the movie releases (smiles). I only believe in my film. I won’t cut off my nose if you tell me that it is disturbing you (laughs). But we are creative people, and I think we can work things out.
Recently, Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes made headlines. In India, many wonder why Indian stars won’t talk about real issues...
My take is that all of society needs to be like that. Get me a top television journalist who puts my views across as they are, without trying to add their own point of view. Then I would say something. I have said it before, and I rue the day I said it [shared my opinions]. It’s about how my views are put across, which is very sad. And then the same people ask, ‘Why doesn’t Shah Rukh say anything?’ No, I won’t say anything. You say it, but you can’t tell me what to say. You like Meryl Streep so much, please run her tape. God bless you; you have Meryl Streep saying it, so why do you want someone else to say the same thing again? Why do you want to be a copycat like you always have been? It’s stupid.
Do you feel Meryl Streep did the right thing?
I think Meryl Streep said a wonderful thing. We all have to be like that, and I am not talking about just artistes. Also, whenever something happens somewhere, they are like, ‘Why isn’t Shah Rukh Khan commenting on it?’ But I don’t want to. I am an actor, main koi vocal leader thodi na hoon.’ (I’m not a leader who is very vocal.) So, what the lady (Meryl) said is marvellous. She found a platform and she found people who appreciated what she said. In India, everybody has so many opinions that they want to pick on something others say. I think journalism in the US is different. Journalists there became stars and are now past that stage [of being stars]. And so did I when I was 10 years into stardom. I’ve reached a stage in life where stardom is taken for granted. Indian journalists are new stars. When they get used to it [stardom], I will speak my mind, as I know that they will then — like real stars — treat it [what I say] with respect.
Would you want to comment on women safety, especially after the Bangalore molestation cases?
I don’t know how politically incorrect or correct this is but regardless of what the act is — molestation, eve teasing or sexual assault etc. — it should be converted into a physical crime and not be called just a sexual crime. You are encroaching upon somebody’s space. You don’t even like somebody stepping on your toes. We all get so agitated even if somebody stands close to you in a lift. We have our own spaces so when you encroach upon a woman’s space — even through speech — it should be a serious issue. It has become fashionable to talk about these things but I don’t know how much effect it has. The essential thing is, every man and woman should know that there is a dignity of space for each other. When such incidents happen, we need to talk a lot about it, but also feel it a little more.
Rumours are that your son, Aryan will soon step into Bollywood...
In my home and family, there’s a minimum qualification to be an actor — you have to be a graduate. If you aren’t a graduate, I believe you can’t be an actor. I’m really sorry for all the actors who are not graduates. It’s not because I look down upon people who are not. But I am a graduate and I believe education has helped me beyond my limit. I have limited talent, but I believe education has helped me go beyond time and helped me become who I am.
Watch Raees trailer
Karan Johar says only he will launch Aryan…
I don’t think they are being launched right now. But Karan means it both jokingly and seriously (laughs). Aryan does visit my film sets sometimes, and I am very proud. He came the other day just to learn about lighting; not to see his father act or learn direction, since he was specialising in the field of lighting in the first year [of his college degree]. He sat with the cameraman without even asking me. He was there for two hours, just learning the techniques. He told me, ‘Papa, it was nice.’ So he didn’t visit as a producer or a hero’s son, or as someone who wanted to learn acting. I feel, ‘Let him learn the craft and then see if he has the same love for acting as I do’.
But it must be tough for you to send them away...
It’s heart-wrenching to send them away. They also find it difficult and why should they leave a nice house and good schools here, but they know it’s important for them. So I’m assuming that they will finish their education. They have done well so far. I think seeing a view of the world is nicer, especially for cinema. Why do European and south American talent reach the international stage before us? It’s because the access to that world is closer. Indians still don’t have it. Slowly, these doors are opening. I hope Indian film-makers including my son and daughter, can take Indian cinema to international levels.
Watch Zaalima song from Raees
We have heard Suhana also loves acting…
My daughter is in the 11th but she has to graduate. She loves acting — on stage, television, films or street — and she is quite a good actor, at least for her age. So, I would like to encourage her. But the encouragement will happen only post her graduation. My son has never shown interest in acting. But of late, he has started showing interest in film-making and got into UCLA and USC (USA), which came to me as a tremendous surprise but a pleasant one. He has completed his first year, so there are three more years to go.
Does it feel like you have completed 25 years in Bollywood?
Not at all. I am still excited to give interviews or promote my films. I don’t know what the fate of a new film is going to be, but I am as excited as I used to be. I love making films. I can’t even explain it to anyone. Even my family, my wife and children say, ‘You get up in the morning and do the same thing every day. How can you do it?’ But we [actors] love to make films, and people have their perceptions about why we do it — ‘He wants to be richer, wants to make a blockbuster, wishes to be a bigger star or get an award’. It can be anything, but the bottom line is, it has to be something heartfelt. I don’t even know how 25 years have passed. It seems like yesterday that I started working.
What would you rather be — a star or an actor?
It’s difficult to explain, but I am an actor and I have always been. In fact, in my first interview, I had said that I want to play character roles. One of my friends had told me, ‘Aisa mat bol; sab character roles dene lagenge.’ (Don’t say such things, or else you will only be offered character roles.) But I said I want to play characters and never wanted to do hero-type roles. I think that’s why I did films like Baazigar and Darr (1993), which other actors refused at that time. I believe that I can play a different guy every time, and hope to pull it off in a commercial format. Once you are a star and have had huge success, you don’t want to. I know Dear Zindagi (2016) is not going to be at that level, but it’s beautiful to play that role, so one can keep mixing it up. Sometimes it goes right, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I’d like to believe that I can act a little.
You are apparently doing a cameo in Salman Khan’s Tubelight, which has again set tongues wagging…
Salman and I were planning to do something together on the business front. But then he sent me a message saying, ‘Nahin karte hain yaar. Phir se log kahenge ki hamara jhagda ho gaya.’ (Let’s not do this. People will say we started fighting again.) Some relationships are personal. I should tell you a secret — stars know everything. We had our issues, but they were not at all like what was written. The third party never understands what happens in a relationship. There was a time when Salman and were waiting to be friends again just to stop it [the rumours], because it was so stupid; we felt silly after a point. We are grown up, mature people and we’re not crazy. I find it odd when people say, ‘friends turn foes’. When I moved to Mumbai, his family was wonderful to me. We were never foes. Salman and I are very different people. We still don’t agree on a lot of things. But I will always respectfully agree to anything that he says.