The word ‘barber’ from Billu Barber has been snipped out following protests from the Mumbai Hairdresser’s Association. The latest controversy is the fallout of an innovative publicity gimmick—500 posters of the film were distributed amongst hairdressing salons across Mumbai.
None of the posters have been put up. Instead the word ‘barber’ has been painted out of billboards and is also being removed from the film’s prints, wherever possible.
Despite the unexpected storm, Shah Rukh Khan is cool as he reiterates that he has no wish “to hurt anyone’s sentiments” and moves on to discuss other “issues” with Vajir Singh.
As star-producer you dominate the publicity of Billu even though Irrfan Khan is playing the title role.
(Smiles) You will be seeing a lot of me in the film too. In fact, there was too much of me so we edited out two scenes, but the item numbers remain. And Marjani was a good way to flag off the promotional campaign. It’s a surefire hit. But rest assured, there’s no attempt to mislead the audience. <b1>
But as Billu’s superstar-dost aren’t you once again playing an over-the-top character?
People have a preconceived notion about a superstar.. his life and get-up. He should be buzzing around in helicopters with dozens of security guards around him. He should be wearing jazzy golden jackets and dark glasses. There’s no getting away from that. Also, it was a good way of showing the marked contrast between the friends and their worlds.
(Smiles) But let me assure you that I’m unlike the image people have of a superstar.. I’m a very normal guy.. I’m the way I was shown in Luck by Chance. I don’t wear leather jackets with King Khan written on them. But as a producer I had to show how village people perceive a matinee idol. They believe that we even bathe our pets in milk and sigh, “Kaash hum uske kutte hote.”
In Luck by Chance you have described stardom as “insane”. Is it?
Zoya (Akhtar) wrote that line, so you will have to ask her. But having said that, I admit that these last 20 years still seem like a dream. I find it hard to believe that I’m such a huge star.. and I don’t blame others for saying Shah Rukh Khan is a fluke.
What happened to me, at times, does seem crazy. Imagine getting the Padmashri at 40.. brushing shoulders with the 50 most powerful people in a Newsweek poll.. having a statue in a French museum and Madam Tussauds.. making it to the cover of Time magazine.
I’m the No 1 brand today even though I do nothing special. I don’t consider myself a great actor. But I’m the happiest superstar in the world because I love the people I work for. <b2>
Are you still in touch with those who helped you when you were a nobody?
I am still a nobody so I don’t need to be in ‘touch’ with them. My childhood buddies still abuse me. There are friends I made in Bombay — Aziz (Mirza), Juhi (Chawla), Karan (Johar) and Adi (Aditya Chopra).. for whom my doors are always open and vice versa. I may not be emotionally available to them all the time but they don’t complain. (Smiles) If you complain, you are not a friend.
You were well represented by your friends at the recent IPL auction but was it a wise move to stay away?
What would I be doing there except put up my hand to make a bid? Jinhone haath uthaya, God bless them. It’s an amazing show of money and power. I went the last time.. it was exciting and scary too. This time we could only buy one player so there was no reason for me to attend when the rest of my team was there.
The economic slowdown doesn’t seem to have affected the IPL?
(Smiles) Meri toh jeans bhi phati hui hai. If the sponsors don’t come on board, we would feel the effects of the showdown too. Chal gaya to kartab.. nahin to haadsa (If it works great.. if it doesn’t it’s a tragedy).
Last time we got the best sponsors, merchandising and made money despite not performing that well. Inshallah, this time, we will do better even if I may not be able to get the really big brands.
The ad budget has been cut. I have put up 105 hoardings for Billu. A year ago, I could have got no more than 65 for Om Shanti Om for double that amount. Get the math?
Yup, so then why didn’t you back out?
My son likes watching the IPL matches. He now wants me to buy an island in Alaska.. anything for him. When he grows up he will always respect and love me for owning a cricket team.
On the business front, it’s good to have a gestation period. We lost in the first round last time and saved money. It will be nice if we can move up this season and still break even. I would be ready to lose money, any day, and see my team up there.
You’re injured again so will you be cheering at the IPL?
I’ll have to be there.. but I’ll have to be careful in the crowd. I have to be careful till March 30. The matches start on April 10. Inshallah, I should be fine.
The surgery is in nine days, right?
It will be in the next nine days. The pain was excruciating when I was shooting for My Name is Khan in Los Angeles. It’s not as bad now since I took injections which kept the pain at bay for a month. But now the effect is wearing off and it’s getting uncomfortable again.
The sad part is that this had to happen during Billu. I hope the film is a hit and I don’t have to promote it more. If we need to do more publicity I will send Lara (Dutta) and Irrfan (Khan).
Weren’t you asked to avoid shooting?
My doctor did ask me to avoid travelling to the US but I thought chhoti si baat hai.. theek ho jayegi. I got the MRI done in LA and was asked to go in for surgery immediately because it was already too late. I didn’t tell Gauri and the kids because I didn’t want them to worry.
You’ve always sacrificed your health for your work.
(Smiles) Yeah, I work by not taking care of myself. Right now, I’m a little irritated with myself. I wanted to start building my body and get into better shape. Now I can’t.
Buzz is that your next film, Raavan, has been put on the backburner?
Really? I didn’t know that. We need to work on the script.. have a complete storyboard so we don’t overshoot. We’re planning to hire VFX technicians from Hollywood. Raavan will happen, it’ll just take a little time.