If Shah Rukh Khan’s earnestness isn’t genuine, he is one hell of an actor. The man’s endless energy though is beyond dispute and leaves you wishing that it was infectious. Here to launch the Kolkata Knight Riders of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Shah Rukh show didn’t end when the curtains downed on the programme. It continued through meetings with team coach John Buchanan, captain Sourav Ganguly, obliging endless autograph hunters and interview requests. When HT met him, the afternoon had almost melted into evening and everybody but Shah Rukh looked tired.
What kind of revenue generation model do you have in mind, given that so much is riding on the IPL?
To be honest, and I’ll not be dishonest with you, I don’t know. Obviously there’ll be some money from TV, gate sales and merchandising but beyond that I don’t know. The expenses involved in paying the players, creating a platform for the team, travel, hotel etc are huge but I am not doing the figures. At the end of the year, we’ll see how much we have lost and then, maybe, I’ll have to dance at a few more weddings! But having started, I don’t want to hold back now.
Any reason for calling the team Knight Riders?
We got 105 names and I bounced them off children. I knew there would be names like Warriors, Kings and Indian (smiles). This name I think connects with the youth and goes with the philosophy of the team which essentially is: You play to win but you must do it with honesty and dignity. And that you’ve got to believe in yourself. I do.
I lost my parents early, lived in Delhi, work in Mumbai and now have a team in Kolkata. Things don’t always work out in life but you can’t stop believing.
Have you ever played cricket?
I have and though I wouldn’t want to say this with Sourav (Ganguly) around, wasn’t bad at it, especially during my under-19 days. I used to be a wicketkeeper, a pretty good one. I would train at the National Stadium with Mohinder Amarnath, Surinder Amarnath and Kapil Dev.
Your favourite cricketer?
Sourav Ganguly because of his personality and Sachin Tendulkar.
If you had to chose one among them?
Now, you are asking me whether Hema Malini is more beautiful than Zeenat Aman! Why must we compare? It is only in India that we do this so much. In Hollywood, people don’t say Robert Redford is a better actor than Robert De Niro. But here, you always hear stuff like Shah Rukh is not better than that actor or Akshay is better than Shah Rukh etc. I have admired Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, (Karl-Heinz) Rumenigge, Beckham and Ballack among others but never compared them. Just as I don’t compare the Beckham of now with what he was.
Your take on the fusion of cricket and entertainment?
Everywhere, after roti, kapda aur makaan comes entertainment and then professional sport. That’s how it’s been in the developed countries. India is on the threshold of that happening. And the format of Twenty20 naturally lends itself to entertainment.
To someone who has always spoken about his love for hockey, and played it too, how did you react to India’s inability to qualify for the Olympics.
I woke my son up, much to my wife’s disapproval and we saw the final. At the end, we were near crying. Yes, it hurts as an Indian and is hugely sad for non-Indians too but sometimes you need a jolt like this. This is not about whether K.P.S. Gill should stay or why Sandeep Singh wasn’t there. It’s about waking up and telling yourself that you now have four years to beat the best. And no excuses.