When the Chennai Express rolled into town… ...it was a night to remember! Shah Rukh, Deepika, UTV boss Siddharth Roy Kapur and Brunch had some good filmi fun on a special Delhi evening.
Excerpts from the conversation :
Vir Sanghvi: Actually, while we were waiting for you, three significant things happened. First, not one person walked out. Second, people are slightly drunk and third, Shah Rukh Khan, even after 22 years in the industry, still evokes the kind of hysteria he did at the beginning. How many stars can you say that about?
Shah Rukh: That’s because it’s Delhi.
Vir Sanghvi: No. This happens all over India. Now, the obvious question, you are playing a 40-year-old in the film. Last time I spoke to you, you had said that you were fed up of playing a teenager, and that you were tired of the audience expectations… you wished they’d expect something different from you.
Shah Rukh: It’s just more comfortable playing a character of the age and stage I am in. But I am an actor, so if I have to play a 65-year-old, I will do it, if I have to play a 25-year-old, with a little bit of VFX, I will do that too. I will never be fed up of all the love I have.
Vir Sanghvi: What’s going on with Salman Khan? The last time, when we met at the HT Leadership Summit Katrina Kaif said maybe she would like you two to be friends. You said if it happens, it will be spontaneous, we will sort it out like adults. So have you guys sorted it out?
I had also said, it will be between just the two of us. But love, altercations, friendships, romance, are personal things. When these things get out, we see analysis that follows, but deep inside all actors are extremely mature about relationships. And we keep them personal. I already see the Karan Arjun 5 release because of the hug Salman and I had. It was courteous, gracious and loving of both of us. I think he appreciates what I did and I appreciate what he did. But what’s behind doors, we would like to keep behind doors. What’s happened between Salman and me, we will keep between us. Whatever happens between the Khans stays with the Khans.
So you both were gentlemen and resolved to act like gentlemen. There’s no hostility.. is that fair?
It’s good for younger people to see that mature people behave like gentlemen in public. It’s a good precedent for the youngsters and it’s nice. But I can’t say what we do indoors.
Vir Sanghvi: Deepika, when I first interviewed you, apart from the fact you were the daughter of someone we all admire, and you were a top model, people after watching the interview said, she’s very pretty, but she will just be another glamour girl. And now you have shocked the socks off everyone by ending up being a good actress. Was it easy?
Deepika: I didn’t give it that much thought. I was definitely disappointed. There was this one person whose columns had one aim – to pull people down. Her article pulled down four of us who had debuted that year. I cut the column out, highlighted what she had said and I would look at it every day. I put it on top of my study. I used that as a motivation to do better. That’s the way I look at life. I never get pulled down by negativity. I use it to work harder and improve whatever I can.
Vir Sanghvi: Deepika, the impression we have of you is that you are strong, someone who makes up her own mind, has motivation within herself and you don’t care about politics.
Vir Sanghvi: Let me ask Shah Rukh, whom I know reasonably well over the years. He’s always in an awkward situation. Even when he goes to the bathroom, he provokes a controversy. What’s it like living with this scrutiny?
Shah Rukh: You get used to it. There are some days I want to kill these people, some days I am like, let it be, move on with whatever I am doing. Depends on the side of the bed I get up from. It’s a life I chose, whether I like it now or not, whether I approve or not, whether I have changed or evolved, I have to accept it and move on. Especially for my family, I have to put out my best self. It’s not a good sight when your father comes home after beating up people in some stadium. It’s embarrassing and the kids talk about it. I have to control my temper. The other thing it has taught me is if I have to beat up someone, I will take him to the bathroom, so that no one photographs it!
Vir Sanghvi: You have never talked about the provocation or what you had to go through during the stadium incident. You have taken it in a cheerful way. Not in the sense of someone who faced intolerable verbal provocation and who reacted like any other decent human being. Isn’t it annoying not being able to tell the truth?
Shah Rukh: I am very well brought up, if I am not in the wrong or I think I am not in the wrong, but someone turns around and gives analysis and says, SRK is a spoilt star, he is ill mannered and takes things for granted, I am not like that. I listen to it and feel hurt and then ask that guy, why are you saying this? And he says, why don’t you make a statement? I think, on the stupid statement you made? No, thanks. It’s difficult being quiet but in the longer run, anyone’s silence is not to be taken as weakness. It’s like the silence of water. I am not weak, but if I say something, you will get your sound byte, but it will keep snowballing into something big. I will be like advertising for things I don’t get paid for.
Vir Sanghvi: Have you worked out the media roller coaster? If there’s a small controversy, we in media blow it up, then we come to you and say, give a response, you give a response, then we go to the next guy and say, SRK said this, you have to respond, then we have a story. The media blows it up when you give no response…
Shah Rukh: I have been trying to include media people in my list of fiction story writing now. I have figured it out. I am not cynical to analyse it like that, but you move on. You say, what the fish! Is it okay to use bad language here? This is a trick question, the actual one was, is it okay to smoke here? (Laughs) I will behave myself.
Audience: You can. You are a Delhiite!
Shah Rukh: Yeah, but if smoke in a public place, there will be another controversy.
Vir Sanghvi: At the session at HT summit, you said some things that the audience loved. You were yourself, you felt at home, you talked honestly to the people here. But even then people went out of way to create controversies.
Shah Rukh: I feel at home in Delhi. I know the mentality, thought, education, upbringing. We all are the same, we are alike. If I get into trouble in China, I can come to Delhi and says, arrey yaar panga ho gaya hai, aa jao. And I know -- not because I am a star -- but Dilliwalahs will take their hockey sticks and say, chal chal, and hua kya hai wo baad mein puchenge. I believe in friendship and love like that. I have lived like that. I also know there’s huge amount of honesty, sincerity, earnestness and goodness. Not only here but in the way we all have been brought up. When push comes to shove, I can call out to my roots.
Vir Sanghvi: You are always held up as a classic example of an outsider in an industry that is now dominated by families. And you got to the top. You stayed at the top. But you are also an outsider in the Mumbai sense. You are from Delhi but you have conquered Mumbai.
Shah Rukh: I like to be a bit humble and say, I have conquered the hearts of people around the world and India. The city doesn’t matter. Dilli ne mujhe janam diya aur Mumbai ne pala, khana peena wahan se aata hai. Janam bhumi Delhi hai. I don’t want my children to get stardom as an heirloom. They need to do their stuff. I will be proudest if they don’t become actors. I will be proud if they do. It’s their choice. I don’t want to start with the family business of Khans. There are enough Khans in the industry, we don’t need another one, unless I change to my name to something else, maybe Arora.
Vir Sanghvi: You are known across the world as a symbol of manhood. You are giggling?
Shah Rukh: I am personally very shy, even in films the stuff I do, I have trouble doing it. My actor friends will tell you. Deepika will tell you. My concept of manhood anyway is different. The more gentle you are with women, in behaviour, treatment, physicality, the more macho you are. I am like that. I have no problems in letting a lady know I will take care of you. And, I will not take care of you by saying, roses are red, violets are blue, and I will smash anybody who looks at you. I will look after you, I will hold your hand, I will open the door, I will feed you. I was teaching my son how to behave with women. My wife got very upset thinking I was teaching him other stuff. The only thing I told him– the less you have to stand in a crowd with boys to tease one girl, the more manly you will be. Manly is the gentlest, kindest and sweetest you can be to ladies. Vir Sanghvi: Deepika, you have known Shah Rukh from when you were starting out. Now you are one of the most admired actresses, has he changed?
Deepika: He has not. Not at all. He has become more beautiful, I am saying beautiful because he likes people to say he’s beautiful. He is becoming more the person he is – his beauty, his charm, his innocence, his childlike behaviour is only growing.
Vir Sanghvi: How was it doing your first movie with him?
Deepika: He never made me feel I was a newcomer. He never made me feel like he knows everything and now will teach me what to do. In fact, he always made me feel that I was there because I deserved to be in the film, because I was damn good and I knew what I was doing. He could have made me feel like he’s the biggest star. He didn’t. Believe me, there are many who do that. The success and nice things people had to say about me post Om Shanti Om was thanks to him and Farah [Khan] for making me feel the way they did.
Vir Sanghvi: Deepika, after you made it as an actress, there was talk about your love life, and your responses were seen as outspoken? Is that how you are?
Deepika: I am actually not like that. People always said I am pretty politically correct, and I think too much before I speak. That’s the way I have been brought up. That’s how my father is. But as far as the relationship was concerned, we both believed we should be honest about the way we felt. But sometimes that’s not respected, and was taken advantage of. It was a learning experience for both of us. Our frankness took away from what we were there in the industry to do – make good movies, entertain the audience, be loved for who we are. And we are human beings, love is part of everything else we do. It affected all of that. The experience didn’t change me as a person, but taught me a lot, and fortunately or unfortunately, made me more cautious.
Shah Rukh: I want to be clear, she throws caution to the winds when with me.
Vir Sanghvi: Shah Rukh, even when you are 40 something, people still speculate about your love life…You find that strange?
Shah Rukh: (Laughs) The kind of stuff I do, and the love I share with people I work with can be misconstrued. Sometimes, it’s unfortunate that I lose out on people I am very warm and close with, because of the talk. And, sometimes, I have enough good people who say, it’s all right, let people say what they have to, we will still be around.
Vir Sanghvi: Does that scare people off? You are seen twice with Shah Rukh Khan and you are front page news.
Shah Rukh: I like being nice and loving to people. I would never be improper or wrong with a person I am with, especially someone of the opposite sex. Sometimes, the things being said can be very hurtful, depressing and saddening. I go out in public and keep a happy face. It has to be done because of the job I do. But at times, it’s unbearably sad.
Vir Sanghvi: I watch TV and see the crap you have to go through. Is he having extra children? Has he made a statement that’s communal? What’s happening with his family? Isn’t it annoying that every statement is twisted and every personal happy event becomes fodder for the media?
Shah Rukh: It’s hurtful. I go quieter and quieter. I get lonely and lonelier. I get sadder and sadder. But this is the life I have chosen. When people talk of movie stars being in an ivory tower, I understand it now. It’s not out of choice that I block everyone out, I would like to share my life with everyone, because I am made by everyone, but I am human and certain things hurt so much, you keep withdrawing. Maybe, one day I will be darkened out.
Vir Sanghvi: You withdraw and protect the real Shah Rukh…
Shah Rukh: I have an amazing team of people who protect me from a lot of crap. I have a good team of girls, and actresses who protect me. But however much you try, you cannot avoid the hurt. Talking about it makes me want to have a drink. Well now, I feel like a drink. Vodka with Sprite, please! This s**t is depressing me. Vir, talk some happy things.
Vir Sanghvi: Deepika, you feel the real him is lonely?
Deepika Padukone: I feel a lot of love for him. I get upset when I read things about him, when people say things about him. My protective side comes out, as his does. When you know the person he is – his only agenda in life is to give love, make people happy and smile. It makes me sad. The only thing I can do is be around and feed him, make him smile and try and make him forget everything.
Vir Sanghvi: People who know you say, the one thing that characterize your relationships and friendships is that you give more than you get.
Over the years, I’ve got so much, that I don’t how to retain it anymore. I like to give because I like to entertain. You tell me to dance, I will. You tell me to crack a joke, I will. I have never taken the status or job any more seriously now than when I started. The more I get, the more I want to give back. Someone just said, you have this desire to be loved and liked. I do. What’s the harm? If I want love and am asking for it, I am okay with it. I have no ego in saying that every person I meet should be touched by my happiness. I will be happy. If the person who a gave me a drink while driving back says, wo launda acha tha, I will be happy.
What do you think of movie critics?
Everybody’s got to do what they have to do. I have to make a film from my head, my experience of the things that go into moviemaking. And, it’s their job to talk about the movie based on their experiences, what they expect out of the movie they go to see. It will always be dichotomous and on two different paths. I have got to believe in the film myself and hope I am able to convince the audience. I don’t call your office every day and tell you how pathetic you were at getting that contract. I will listen to what you say, but can’t follow each diktat. It’s an opinion. I hear it. But I need to create my own stuff and convince them. It’s a creative process. Da Vinci didn’t listen to others about Monalisa. I am not comparing but giving an example.
I have said to people who said SRK just wants to be liked. He doesn’t want to be unpopular. He’s never met a person who he cannot charm. But he knows there are enough ways to monetize apart from movies, he makes the movies he wants to make…
I would sell my soul for anything. I make a compromise with the advertising I do or dancing at weddings, as long as I can make a movie without making a compromise. I would like to fail with the biggest failures than go with small successes. I would never make a compromise with a film I do not wish to make. For everything else I am available.
Deepika, the audience loves you. How does it feel to be a big star?
Deepika: I am not a big star. Not in front of him. I feel awkward but thank you, it feels lovely. It keeps me going.
(Photos: Jasjeet Plaha, Manoj Verma, Raj K Raj)
From HT Brunch, August 18
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