By: Pratishtha Malhotra
The release of the film is done and dusted and the man who takes the burden of each and every film on his shoulders so heavily is finally relieved. The year has opened big for Shah Rukh Khan with RAEES and the VFX wing of Red Chillies getting honored in Paris and he is grateful. He is exhausted but the smile on his face never wears out. I meet with him at Mehboob Studio to chat up about the sweet smell of success.
Isn’t this the sweet smell of the calm after the thunderous storm. Are you relieved?
When someone has been working for a very long time, what happens is that they are already in the minds of the people. I meet mothers and they tell me that their second child also loves me. If you look at all my films historically, they open very well as a lot of people come very excited to see the film. Now that causes two problems for me personally. When so many people are coming to watch my film, I hope and wish that I can give most people what they have come for. And secondly, if I am doing the same thing again and again, I start having problems with that as an actor. You know, if you give the audience something new and it doesn’t work like FAN, I get heartbroken, not discouraged. But if you are trying to do something new and it works, the happiness just doubles. I am in the business for a very long time so I can sense the fact that this is the film which more people are liking. So I am kind of relieved from that sense of responsibility. Main Khush Hoon, Ki Itne Logon Ko Khushi De Saka… Before the release of a film, I keep sitting on the black sofa at my house… my family knows what I am going through that time. I keep sitting on it and don’t do anything… no phone, no TV and only meet my kids that time. So they can make out what zone am I in at the moment. It’s like I have taught my son for his mathematics exam and when the result is coming, I keep thinking. I had taught him, I hope sab theek thaak ho jaye … Even if he makes a mistake, I feel that I must have not taught him correctly. So it is that feeling that I go through. Thankfully, that feeling is over now as the reports with RAEES are good now.
Amitabh Bachchan has been praising you… Isn’t that the ultimate stamp of approval?
It is wonderful when someone we have grown up watching says, “ Tumhara Gussa Mujhe Bohot Acha Laga” because he is the Angry Young Man… actually, he is the Every Man…! I felt very nice when he tweeted because it is an ode to stars of that genre, Amitji being the foremost. I have grown up watching Dharamji, Amitji, Rishi Kapoor saab, Shashi Kapoor…. so when someone out of these people praises something that I have done, I feel that I must have done something right. Ab Mujhe Yakeen Ho Gaya Hai Ki RAEES Theek Thaak Hai..
The year has begun with fireworks for you with RAEES romping in good numbers to Red Chillies’s VFX wing being honored in Paris. Also, these 25 years have been golden…
I think it has been a great life. Whenever I pray for someone, whether it is my children or people that I feel closeto. I always tell them that I hope they all get my life. Professionally it has been fantastic. You can have few ups and downs. I don’t think I have had very many downs as I have been very fortunate. It has been a good life! Strangely, what my life will be remembered will be by the work I do. Everything else will take second set to it. I really appreciate the fact that my family understands it. I am a public figure, I have to do what I have to do. Even if I don’t take my problems home, my family has to bear them. My daughter calls me once or twice a week, my son calls me once in two weeks but in the last four days as the film during the release of the film, my children have called me multiple times in a day and strangely I missed the calls as I wasn’t expecting them. I know they will just call to ask how I am or to tell where they are but I know in their mind they know that Papa’s film is coming and we need to be with him. I think it has been a wonderful life and hopefully, I have enough strength mentally and physically to keep doing some interesting stuff. I am in that position, in that mindset and have some really wonderful filmmakers coming forward. If you work for so many years, it is very seldom that you have the new breed of directors still very excited to work with you. It is a good space for me that I can be in cinema of their language and still try to bring something new with my experiences of 25 years.
You started your career with negative parts and now that you play one after many years, what has changed?
When I was younger, I was very good at action because I was a gymnast, runner and was physically very fit. Unfortunately, no one gave me many action parts to play, so I did BAAZIGAR and DARR to begin with. Now, maybe it is too late. But whatever film I get, whatever I am called upon to do so I do yaar! It is not that I have proven with RAEES that I can do action. Rather, we all have proven with RAEES that substance and popularity can go hand in hand. This film required action but Imtiaz’s film has no action. So whatever the film desires, I would like to do and do to the best of my capability. But on set, I really enjoy doing action…It’s fun!
You’ve always maintained that you enjoy being evil on screen and despite the blood and gore in RAEES, one never cringes. As an artist, are you creatively satisfied with being evil now?
You’re right about the action part. There are some gruesome bits in the film, like the meat fight by virtue of the location itself. While doing it and even while watching it I was a little like, ‘How is it turning to be?’Rahul, myself and most of my team when I am working with them, I do insist upon them that our film is not meant to be in that zone of gore. It is a popular film. I think children can still take it but I can be wrong, maybe you should not show them so much violence but then there is a certification. But I design it for women. The parkour fight in the film, the riot sequence… the music is geared in a way that it somehow becomes more lyrical than the intensity. In the scene, I am hitting people with a metal rod. But instead of highlighting that, what we do is highlight the music which makes you feel that it is poetic in its way. I do take care of that for sure. I will never do action which is hurtful beyond a level- personally, I don’t mind watching it as a viewer. I’ll tell you something, even now for Malaysia we had to cut so much of our film. In London, we cannot show some of the blood coming out so what to do. What I feel is that if you are making a popular film like RAEES, to take care of it and I don’t think it takes away from creativity. I think whenever there is a compromise situation, if you think creatively, it is better. You can think of a nicer way of doing the same thing.
25 years later, does your stardom ever reflect on the material that you are making? Do you feel you need to tone it down to represent your popularity?
If you have been working for so long, then the responsibility on you increases. I always say that love is unconditional and I believe in it genuinely and this will sound strange. When I go back home after failure or success, the love is there as it is unconditional. So I feel that people love me so much that if by mistake I don’t do something very good, they will still love me. They know that there is no selfish reason behind it, but I was just trying and when I will do something correctly, they will love me the same. That is why I have strength to try out certain things. I feel a lot of pain when something doesn’t go right especially when I decide to do something different like FAN.