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Shahrukh on Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani pre-release

Have you postponed the release of the Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani?
No. Since the film is called Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, we want to release the film around Republic Day. We had thought of advancing the release date to Diwali, but since we still had to complete the background score, we thought it better to stick to the original date. Everyone - including the producers of Mela and Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai was inquisitive about our release date. We've told everyone that it's January.

Usually when an actor turns producer, there's a grave risk of the film going over-budget. Has your film gone over- budget?
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani is an expensive film. But there's nothing spectacular about it. There's nothing in it that you haven't seen before. It's expensive because of our working style. We haven't cut corners or compromised on quality. We've shot with two-three cameras. See, when we have the money, why should we be stingy? My partners often warn me against spending so much money. And if the distributors are willing to lend me the money, why should we be kanjoos?

Aren't 12 assistants on the sets a bit too much? It's being said that too much time and money is being wasted on elaborate discussions.
It's the company's prerogative to decide whom it wants to employ. There are so many departments of film-making. And you need people to look after them. I admit that we have some absolutely raw staffers. But they are young and enthusiastic. Though they don't know much about the film-making process, I'm sure they'll learn on the job.

It's rumored that you've shot almost 2.5 lakh feet of raw stock for Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani...
Films don't go over budget because of raw stock. Raw stock is the cheapest thing in the film. Yes Boss was made with the average one-and-a-half lakh feet of raw stock used in Hindi films. Ours has extended by one lakh feet. We haven't gone overboard. We've made the film from our hearts. We haven't bothered about table profits.

Are you satisfied with the end product?
No, I'm never satisfied with my efforts. It's a good film, no doubt, but I've just begun. I want to make even bigger films. Probably that's what prods me to work harder each day.

You mean if you aren't satisfied, you'll make more and more expensive films?
If I like the subject and if I get financers willing to support my project, I'll go ahead and do it. I've been in the industry for the last seven years. I've done many big films. This industry has given me a lot. Now I want to return something to it. Making my kind of films is my way of paying tribute to this industry. By the way, it's a misconception that all my personal expenses involving my home, my cars and other material things are met by my production company. Believe me, all the distributors' money has been judiciously invested into the film. For example, I scrapped a song because I wasn't happy with the lyrics. I got it redone. Any other producer might have had a chalta hai attitude. But not me. Everything must be perfect.

Talk is that Karan Johar is assisting you in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. Is it true that he's shot certain patchwork scenes?
There is no doubt that Karan is helping me in the film. But he's involved with the costume department. He's in charge of our look and the clothes we wear in the film. The look of the film is very youthful and modern. Since Aziz Mirza and I have absolutely no clue about clothes, Karan and Manish Malhotra are handling that department. As far as his directing Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani is concerned, people can say anything. They can say that Karan has directed the film. Or for that matter Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Sashilaal Nair, Aziz Mirza, Santosh Sivan and I directed the film together. Ha!

As an actor you're at the top of the charts. What are your experiences as a producer?
Every producer I've worked with has given me a free hand. So it's not as if I'm out to fulfill my unfulfilled wishes through my production house. I love holding the negative of the film in my hand. It gives me a high. I'm grateful to this industry that's given me so much. I want to give it a production house that works on modern techniques. So I'm finally putting my money where my mouth is. I haven't made this film to make money. I've bought new cameras, trolleys, cranes and other latest equipment. I'll hire these out to other production houses, too.

You have several incomplete films. Except for Mohabatein, you haven't started any new film. Is this because you want to complete Phir Bhi... first?
The backlog has nothing to do with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. My film can't be blamed for delays in other projects. My dates had been evenly distributed. In a month, I keep ten days for my film and 20 for other producers. Besides, I don't do more than four films a year.

But this year you had only one release, Baadshah...
Yes. But I was committed to four other films as well. K Sashilaal Nair's One Two Ka Four has been delayed and so has Josh. I feel it's wrong to start a new film without completing my backlog. Now my film is over. So is Sashilaal's. Even Josh is nearing the finishing line.

Your films with Ram Gopal Varma, Rajkumar Santoshi and David Dhawan were announced long back. Why haven't they been launched?
They haven't been delayed because of me. Rajkumar Santoshi's film will only start after he narrates the story to Aamir Khan. Aamir is also busy with Lagaan. I've given my word to Bharatbhai Shah that I'll do Rajkumar Santoshi's film. But I haven't even spoke to Rajkumar Santoshi as yet. I haven't taken the signing amount for this film or for David Dhawan's film or, for that matter, even Aditya Chopra's and Karan Johar's next films.

Coming to Aditya Chopra's Mohabbatein, what was your criteria for working in a film that has such a huge cast? Besides, Aditya's introducing his brother Uday in the film.
There are some people with whom I've had a long association. I don't question them when they approach me for a film. People are more important to me than scripts. Before starting a film, it's important to me to be able to sit and discuss my ideas with the people I'm going to work with. As far as the Chopras are concerned, they know me very well. And when they have Shah Rukh Khan, how can they not make full use of him?

Is it true that you asked for 50 per cent of the overseas price for Mohabattein as your remuneration?
False. I've heard this rumour, too. Yash Chopra is too senior for me to talk money with him. The Chopras and I respect each other. I'm priceless to them in more ways than one. As they are to me. I know they'll pay me well. When I do Mohabbatein, it's not money that's important. I think of the respect and fame I'll get by doing this film. I've done Darr, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Dil To Pagal Hai with the Chopras. Can you tell me the price I should have got for those films? I became Shah Rukh Khan because of those films.

Another allegation against you is that you've limited yourself only to big producers and directors. You've become inaccessible to smaller names.
That's not true. I meet people and I keep reading new scripts on my computer. It's not true that I've limited myself to big names. Remember, I've worked with Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra, too. But Aditya Chopra is Yash Chopra's son and Karan is Yash Johar's son, both are big names. Besides, the two young directors are your friends. Excuse me, it's unfair to discredit them like this. It's a fact that they were just assistants when they approached me. So what if they were born as Yash Chopra and Yash Johar's sons? What was Yash Johar's position after Duplicate? Karan was at a disadvantage. Many people warned me against doing Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. They told me it'd harm my career to work with a flop producer. But today Karan is a happening director. People had warned me against Sashilaal Nair's film, too. They said Nasir Ahmed isn't a big producer. But I don't listen to such advice.

The rumour in the market is that Aishwarya Rai won't play your sister any more in Josh. She'll be your friend
Who told you this? As far as I know, there's been no change in the story line. It's surprising how people cook up stories about me and my films. Earlier they used to say that Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was directed by Yash Chopra. Then they said that Dil To Pagal Hai was directed by Aditya Chopra. Now they are saying that my film is being directed by Karan Johar. I'm the common factor in each of these rumours. Ha!

Some of your directors feel that you interfere a lot in their projects.
Who says so? Probably those whom I haven't worked with. There's this misconception about me. It's impossible that any of my directors would have said this. Well, if someone is saying that I'm the interfering sort, then I can't defend myself. Yes, I interfere. And it's better people realise this before they sign me on. I interfere so that my close-ups are better. Yes, I'm self-centred, an egoist and selfish. If anyone still wants to work with me, then you have to wait for two more years so that I can interfere in their films, too.

Tell me, what went wrong with Baadshah?
Maybe I should have interfered more. I feel the film has quite a few loose ends. It could have been edited by a further 20 minutes. But I loved the film. I'm keen on making Baadshah Part-II. Actually, everyone enjoyed the film. I thought it was a film for the masses, but it turned out to be a film for the classes. I made Aryaan see the film. It was the first film of his life and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Now he keeps singing the title song.

You've become quite a socialite. You're seen at every do in the city.
Really? I go where my wife goes. I'm happy going out. I have parties at home like everyone else. But if Shah Rukh Khan has a party, it's called socialising. Frankly, I feel awkward at parties. But when friends call, I make it a point to attend. But I love going to a coffee shop with friends. That I've been doing ever since my days in Delhi. If that makes me a socialite, maybe I am.


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