Madhureeta Mukherjee (BOMBAY TIMES; January 22, 2017)

Twenty-five years in the movie industry, Shah Rukh Khan has won some battles and lost some. He has seen the giddy highs of success and the lows of showbiz. But his stardom has never lost sheen, and his passion has not paled for a single working day of his life. Yes, he's crowned the King of Romance, but an actor with bonfire-like spark in his eyes and bullets for words, cannot stay away from action for too long. So here he is, packing heavy-duty punches, dialoguebaazi and high drama in the upcoming Raees, directed by Rahul Dholakia. Though he has a long night of shoot ahead of him, sitting comfortably in his Bandra home Mannat, he is all batteries charged, as he talks to us about his strengths, limitations, relationships, stardom and Salman...

You agreed to do Raees after 10 minutes of narration. Was it that, compelling?
When the story was narrated, I liked the flow. I don't understand screenplays, so I was just taken in by the way the film was unfolding. I, don't usually get to play characters who are less urban. So, I was quite intrigued by this story set in the 80 90s, a world that I left 25 years ago. Also, the fact it has been researched by journalists who know that world made it more interesting. I didn't know that there were different ways to bypass the law. Of course, it is wrong and it should not be done, but it was rampant in 1985. The way Raees rises, outsmarting his opponents and the police make it a fascinating story. Rahul was clear that he wanted to put it in a space that's a mix of real and popular cinema.

You said that no one can play Raees other than you...
Honestly, there are certain roles, which I know need to have a mix. There are characters that are bad as far as the story goes, but even without justifying their badness, there has to be some quality you can take out of the character that makes him stand out. In films like Darr and Baazigar, we didn't have to justify why the character goes on a killing spree. There will be some inherent reason, which could be emotional or physical. I knew I could pull it off, without glorifying the story. Even when I heard the story of Chak De! India, I told Adi (Aditya Chopra) that I am the only one who can do this. It doesn't mean that some other actor would play it less, worse or differently. I just felt for the character and knew I could do it.

Mahira Khan (Raees co-star) recently said that the one thing that she has learnt from you is how to be an actor, beyond being a star...
I don't how to play a superstar, I just believe that when you are on the set, you are supposed to act. I think if you overplay your stardom, you are being silly. A scene works not because of one person's great performance. The scene is more important than the actor or the star. And the whole film is more important than individual scenes. If you are making a film, you are the least important part of it, as an actor. So, why should I give myself more importance? My co-stars often say that I'm a giving actor, and I do as many retakes as required. It is because I feel that if my inputs and behaviour can encourage someone, then it's good. I have a lot of humility about my acting and I'm easy-going as an actor.

I understand that you aren't the kind of actor who locks himself in a room to go deep into a role; yet, a character like Raees would probably need more prep work than some of the urban characters you have portrayed...
As soon as I enter the set of my film, I become the person I am supposed to be. Well, in a film like Fan, it took me a while to get into that zone. I would tell the director to wait for a few seconds after the camera started rolling, because I had to remember the voice and body language of Gaurav. Likewise, in My Name Is Khan, it took me a while to keep my eye brows up and get into that mind frame before the shot. I always say that I don't have to believe in the character I am playing, I have to make you believe in it. When I hear some actors say... 'I can't believe in this part,' I want to tell them that it's not your job. Your job is way more interesting, which is making people believe what you want them to. I'm sure all actors have their own method. Which part of Don can I say that I believe in? When I play a good character, people ask me if I believed in the goodness, but that also means that I believed in the badness when I played it. For an actor, it is important to go into a place you don't know about and own it with your emotions.

You are active on social media, where people expect celebrities to voice their opinion on everything. While speaking out is good, do you think a lot of time is spent on discussion instead of real action?
I think it is important to feel and speak about it, but most important is that action takes place. This goes for all important matters. If you feel and speak earnestly, chances are that your conversation will lead to action. Sometimes, you have to say a little more if you want to trigger action. I can't judge why and what someone else has spoken. If you are speaking about something, I can't turn around and say, 'Why is she speaking instead of taking action?' Sometimes, as far as actors go...I hear people say, 'Aisa bol raha hai kyunki iski film release ho rahi hai'. I believe that more often than not, we feel for what we say. At least I do. I genuinely feel for the things I say. If I keep quiet, then I get berated for that too and people question, 'Oh, why isn't he speaking on that topic?' I understand it, but I don't think that I have to comment on it. I don't want to jump on every bandwagon and comment on everything.

Are you giving some thought to launching your kids Aryan and Suhana in the movies?
If my kids love acting as much as I do, they should be actors. I think Suhana likes acting a lot, and Aryan is more bent towards making films. He writes a bit and is studying filmmaking. There has to be a certain amount of education before they can think of doing this. I believe that just wanting to act without doing theatre or getting some sort of formal training might not work. I can share my experiences with them, but they should get exposed to an outside world, which will teach them something new, instead of learning what I am doing and what already exists. An actor should bring something new to the table and not what is already done. My kids should experience all that and figure it out for themselves. I believe you should love whatever you do. I hope they love it, and if they do, I hope they get an opportunity to be actors. It is not like I am chalking out their career path.

Salman and you've come a long way - from cold silences to great camaraderie. Nowadays, you both are even seen promoting each other's movies through tweets, shows etc...
I don't think the fact that we promote each other's movies is a sign that we have come a long way. I think that is incidental. Sending out tweets for each other is not a big deal. It's as simple as me telling Salman, 'Meri picture aa rahi hai...tu kar de'. Whenever I have a personal thought, including a birthday wish for someone, I don't tweet. People assume I don't like to wish them, but that's not the case. I don't wish them on Twitter, I just call them up. I don't need that platform to tell them anything. If someone I know asks me if I could send a message out for their film, of course, I would do it. If the platform that I have on social media can help the film, I will do it. On my own, just to show the world that I am wishing someone, I wouldn't.

Salman and I have known each other for 25 years and I have always had a lot of respect for his family. We could have a difference of opinion about a lot of things, and we do, as we are different people. But I will always respect what he expects me to do. There are some families in the industry that I feel for this way, like Chunky Pandey's family, Salman, Aziz Mirza, Juhi Chawla - these were people who were kind to my family when I started out in Mumbai. They supported me, so I can't have anything but respect for them.

Recently, you had said that you haven't won a National award because you didn't deserve it. Isn't that being too modest?
I didn't mean it with modesty. I meant that if I don't get an award, obviously those people think I don't deserve it. I don't do a role thinking that I will win an award. I do it because I like doing it. When someone asks me if I felt bad on not winning an award, I say no. I won't sit back and say, 'Oh, I deserved it and I didn't get it'. I won't even sit back and say, 'Oh, I didn't deserve it'. In their criteria of the best actor, I didn't fit in. I take it like that. Am I feeling bad? No! Do I wish I had won it? Yes! Who am I to say how good or bad I was? I am an actor, and I know my limitations. I know how well I can sometimes surpass it and at times, I can't. If I didn't know that, I wouldn't have been an actor.

After so many years in the industry, a mantle-piece full of awards and millions of fans, does winning a trophy still make a difference?
An actor or any artiste needs adulation. Okay, that's too strong a word. They need appreciation.They are different ways you get it. Sometimes, you hear applause. At times, it is critical acclaim, or box office success and money. Sometimes, it is awards and good reviews. And at times, it could simply be the good change your work brings. All are different noises of applause, and I want them all like any other creative person. So yes, the award is a form of applause. When I say applause, I am not saying it pompously that people should applaud me. I am talking about the appreciation. Am I bored of any of them? No! I want them all with the same amount of desire that I had when I had started out.