Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum
and spend the day with me tomorrow,” Shah Rukh Khan invited. “I’m
doing three shifts and they’re all at Film City itself.” Ashoka -
The Great was being shot at the helipad, Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Ghum on the
sets near the main gate and Devdas, on the set at the lakeside. “In
fact, my vanwallah is so pleased with me that he’s only charging me
for two shifts,” he said with a gleam in his eye.
Working at three shifts a day, Shah Rukh Khan has no more hours left in the day to call his own or to give anyone else either. He grimaces when asked for an interview. He’s already been talking for hours on end in between shots. And no, the thought of an interview doesn’t fire him. “I don’t like myself,” he grinned. “When I look into the mirror, I feel like, `Hey, what the hell are you doing? Why do you talk so much about yourself?’ I don’t like talking so much about myself anymore. I’m bored sick of the topic.”
So we discussed other things. But obviously, Shah Rukh wasn’t serious when he said he didn’t like talking about himself. It’s probably because he’s surrounded by the usual possé of sycophants that accompany any star in an entourage, and SRK is more intelligent than most to recognize what the people around him are. Sure, he has a lot of friends and they have no option but to follow him to his shoots if they need to meet him, because of his utter lack of time. But he knows his friends too.
His home production Ashoka, directed by Santosh Sivan is almost complete. It has been considerably delayed, considering that Santosh is used to shooting and completing his films within a couple of months (but he doesn’t use stars normally). The delay, naturally, is thanks to the presence of Shah Rukh and his heroine Kareena who is currently doing a large number of projects. But SRK has arrived at a policy in the course of the last one year that he’s only going to do a very limited number of films and he’s been as good as gold and kept his word.
Currently, barring the last schedule to complete a song (the music’s by Annu Malik) for Ashoka, he’s midway through Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. And he has put all other projects on hold till he’s more or less completed these three films. Talking of these three films, SRK’s great gripe was that he doesn’t get to wear normal clothes for the most part in all these films.
He launched into a tirade when Karan Johar came to tell him that his shot would be delayed. “What the heck, hey, I’m not wearing any more salwar kurtas in your film,” he yelled at a laughing Karan. Turning to me, he said, “In Karan’s film, I’m wearing these feminine, heavily embroidered salwar kurtas; in Ashoka, I’m wearing dhotis, and in Devdas, again I’m wearing all those antiquated dhotis and elaborate kurtas. And in all of them I have these shawls and dupattas draped over my arm, so much so that I feel like Aishwarya Rai.” He mimicked a swaying feminine sashay with his hands thrust out. “I’ve begun missing these dupattas when I’m wearing jeans and T shirts, I’ve gotten so used to them, I think I’m beginning to lose my mind”, he concluded with a breathless grin.
Talking about the roles that he was playing, SRK was excited about the films that he was doing. They’re all different. “I’m being really picky about scripts today. Karan’s films are sweet, romantic films and I may yet do such roles in another four or five films before I consciously pack up the romantic image. Ashoka is a different film in any case and Santosh had narrated a brilliant film to me, backed by a complete bound script. I thought that these Southies have such a brilliant visual sense in any case. And the way Santosh narrated it to me, got me really excited. When Sanjay Bhansali came to me with the bound script of Devdas, after a three-hour narration, I thought to myself that Devdas is the kind of role that comes along just once in a lifetime.
“There are a few roles that one can play only once in a lifetime. Like a madman or a Devdas, because of the kind of alcoholic that he was. I want that, after this film is made, when people talk of Devdas, they say – Shah Rukh Khan. I mean, their identification of the character with me has to be complete. They have to forget everyone else in the past who has played Devdas.”
The funny part, according to Shah Rukh, is the different ways in which the three directors function. Santosh shoots eighty-five shots (in SRK’s true style of exaggeration) in as little time as possible. Karan calls SRK early and ends up giving the ladies first priority so he’s sitting in his van all dressed up with nowhere to go. And Sanjay, on a good day, takes two OK shots after trying for half the night to just get the sway of Madhuri’s hair to fall correctly, at the end of which, they’re told that they’ll continue the shot the next night. “I love each of these directors and their films that I’m working in”, SRK states in mock exasperation, but with real warmth in his tone.
It’s 1.00 a.m. and SRK is still full of beans, talking at 786 miles an hour. When did he rest and wasn’t he finding three shifts a day strenuous, considering that he was anyways doing only three films? One would think he didn’t need to do it. “It is strenuous at times when my knee starts acting up once in a while. Barring that, I feel lost if I reach home at midnight. It’s as if something’s wrong with me on the days when I pack up early. I’ve gotten used to these schedules now. But every once in a while, when I get really tired, I have to go easy on the pace. Then I work out of the office. It’s not as if the work ever eases down. There are so many things to do.”
And in the midst of all this, there’s the Dreamz office to take care of. Thankfully Jai and Bobby are handling most of the work there and ensure the smooth running, though every spare moment that SRK has, he puts in at the office. Now that Juhi is heavily pregnant, her activities in the office have been restricted, though she does stuff like reading scripts. which won’t strain her physically. They are all really like one large happy family and it’s great to see the harmony in their relationship. Aziz Mirza is there of course, like a benevolent father, really concerned about Shah Rukh and Juhi, and the newest entrant in the office is little Aryan. He’s around whenever Shah Rukh is at the office for the simple reason that for SRK, that means more time with his son.
Whenever it’s possible, Shah Rukh even takes him to the sets. (Between Shah Rukh and Gauri, Shah is the indulgent one while Gauri is strict and watchful.) So little Aryan runs riot, away from Gauri, with SRK fondly looking on. And on the sets, Shah makes sure that he’s the one to feed Aryan, so they do get to spend quality time together, even in the midst of Shah’s chaotic schedules.
Is he making a conscious sway from acting towards direction? “No, I’ll always be an actor first. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m such a star. It’s only people’s reactions that give me an indication – the regular fans, as well as people in the business of entertainment. It’s one of the biggest businesses in the world today and it’s very satisfying to know that one has been part of it. We Indians haven’t even started realizing the potential of the business we’re in. Some of the offers that come my way even startle me. And I’ve a sharper nose for the business than most of the actors. Gauri and I sit and discuss them and we get amazed. Sometimes we think there must be a catch somewhere.”
The reactions from the industry to Shah Rukh’s doing only select films is as expected. Everybody tries to pressurise him emotionally, but he doesn’t succumb because as he says, “There’s only so much that I am going to do and that I want to do. That much I’ve decided very firmly. I need to keep some time for me to do the thousand and one other things that I want to do.” After all, it’s not humanly possible to do more than three shifts a day, is it?
“My silence was misinterpreted as a ban!”
A free-wheeling interview with the otherwise unwilling Khan!
you made a statement, some time ago, that you had banned the press?
you feel that at least a section of the media went overboard with
unfavorable comments while writing about you?
dancing at people’s weddings and doing too many ad films don’t you
think you are spreading yourself too thin?
how important is making money to you?
do you react when you see your own films? Especially
your old starrers.
have these past nine years in the industry taught you as a person and as
does acting mean to you?
have you not signed any fresh films?
it true that you turned down Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir?
do you feel about Amitabh Bachchan, the TV anchor?
you already donated the fifty lakh rupees that you won on Kaun Banega
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