Posted by Fenil Seta
Shah Rukh Khan on the Raees-Kaabil clash, how it’s good for viewers, how he chooses his films and characters and more...
Nayandeep Rakshit (DNA; January 18, 2017)
A choc-a-block promotional schedule hasn’t managed to exhaust Shah Rukh Khan, but the weather has. As we settle down in his library at Mannat, “I just caught cold and feel a little feverish,” he says. But that hasn’t depleted his energy or high spirits. We talk about Raees at length and about his timeline of films and what led to those choices, his take on the Raees-Kaabil clash and more...
Rahul Dholakia’s cinema is starkly different from the one you’re known for. How important was it to strike a balance with Raees?
Rahul makes really offbeat, artistic films for which he has even won National Awards. But he had a reality-based and researched story that’s not based on one character but on a lot of people who did bootlegging, which was rampant in the ’80s everywhere. The idea was to set the film between 1985 to 1995, to make it more realistic, take a few moments from there as the background. It is not an expensive film, but it had a bigger scope. So I told him, ‘You could make this one like you make your other films — much cheaper — but with me, it will get a little big.’ I cannot go and actually shoot on the roads, we have to create sets. The action will have to turn out a little differently than what you have imagined. It won’t be shot in a day’s time. He really wanted to give this film that spin, because it was fictional. That’s why he came to Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani and me to guide him with the commerce part of it. He said that he will keep it realistic as much as possible within that world. That combination is very interesting. Zaalima is not the world of Rahul. Laila is not shot as a typical item song, but it’s part of the story-telling. All those bits make it a more watchable film than perhaps a regular commercial over-the-top film or an even reality-based offbeat film. Even the casting has been kept real. It’s like what we attempted in i; this is in that line of cinema.
You’ve said that doing a mindless film is difficult for you. Comment.
When I have to do an over-the-top commercial film — like a Chennai Express or a Dilwale or a Happy New Year, it’s something that I have not done too often. Flying cars or suddenly becoming a guy who turns out to be a world-class dancer or fight eight to 10 guys in the mud... that’s exciting as an actor. That’s a space I had not gone into. It’s as exciting as doing a Fan. I don’t know why people don’t realise that just doing something which has a serious swing on it. Is it that I should like only ballet? Can’t I like dirty dancing too? It becomes very strange when people think of actors only in a classical mould. Only when he does a Fan or a Dear Zindagi, he’s meaningful. But as an actor, it’s extremely enjoyable to even say lines like ‘Hum shareef kya hue, puri duniya hi badmaash ban gayi’ or just get into a car and fly off, do a Vin Diesel a la xXx (smiles), or have eight-packs and fight in the mud, or win a world dance championship. All these are flights of fantasy. And whether I’m playing my own fan or I’m playing a guy with a chiselled body beating up another guy in the mud, both are fantasies for me. To make them your own as an actor, is exciting.
What excites you more - a character you already relate to or the one you aspire to be?
You want to play a character which is a flight of fantasy and is different from who you are, but can you own it and make it your own. Thing is not ‘Should I play my kind of a person?’ or ‘Should I play someone so different from me that I’m excited now.’ Whether it’s Raj, Rahul or Don, and even in Baazigar or a My Name is Khan, none of these characters are me. But can I somehow expose myself within those characters? Can I be me, take my emotions, manners and put it in that character, so that I can own it and believe a part of me is in them? That is the exciting part. Not just playing someone. But then again, playing someone like G.One or Batman is quite exciting but still, it’s again whether I can have an essence of me in it. Even if it’s a machine. As an a ctor, I don’t have to believe in every character I play. I have to make you believe what I’m playing. I find it redundant when professional actors say that they really believe in their roles and that’s why they do it. No! The job is to make the audiences believe in what you are playing on screen. Art is not what you really believe but something you want to do and something you can make others believe in. So if I’m trying to sell you a thought about this guy being nice, grey, happy or sad, those emotions should be invoked in you.
What is the most daring thing you’ve done in life?
Sat on a giant wheel! (Laughs) I’m terrified of sitting on ferris wheels actually, so there can be nothing more daring than that. But I also believe that if you do it, then obviously it wasn’t something daring enough. If you ask me in terms of personal or professional life, no I haven’t done anything that I can talk about.
Have you ever landed up in jail?
I have been caught by cops many times in Delhi. For jaywalking or hanging out at night, or getting out of parties really late - I’ve done all that. Things used to be really strict in Delhi that time. We would have naakabandis a lot initially. So we got caught many times and we weren’t jailed, in the literal sense. But we would be taken to a police station and reprimanded or given a warning. Sometimes, you would have to call your parents! So I have been just about outside jail many times when I was young (Smiles).
Most films have not worked in 2016. Do you somewhere feel that had the Raees-Kaabil clash been avoided, it would have been better for the industry as well?
For individual films, yes! But as far as business of that period is concerned, it will be the same business. I heard someone discussing that. For example, if the business was going to be Rs 300 crore or Rs 200 crore for both the films, assuming both films are very good, that same money will come to the industry from both the films. It will be shared differently by the two film producers who are coming together now. Had it come out individually, one would have taken the entire Rs 200 crore. Now, depending on how the business goes, it will differ. But the total cumulative amount will remain the same. I don’t think it’s bad for the industry at all. It’s rather nice for the viewers, they have choices.
But had it been a solo release, don’t you think Raees had the potential to be your biggest money-churner ?
Yeah, individually it would do better. That’s what I said. The businesses now will get shared. But then again, we don’t have too many theatres to accomodate two big films as yet. If there was another 1000-1200 theatres more, it would be all right. But two films coming on the same day individually won’t earn as much as they would have. That’s logical. But there’s no other date, yaar! I have tried my best to shift it around. We were initially supposed to come on Eid in Julu, then I tried to get it in September-October, but Ae Dil and Shivaay were coming. Then I tried to come on December 9, but Befikre was coming. In between, I had Dear Zindagi, too. So unfortunately because of the delay and my injury, it is what it is now. Otherwise, even if we had come on Eid, it would have still clashed with Sultan. There are 200 films and just 52 weeks, so then some will have to come together. It’s unfortunate but a few years from now, when the number of theatres increase -- which I hear is already in process --- and if we reach another 1,200 screens, two films coming on the same day won’t be a problem anymore.