Shah Rukh Khan on his dream of bringing the Mahabharat to the big screen and about the importance of studio collaborations
Nayandeep Rakshit (DNA; April 11, 2017)

When it comes to Shah Rukh Khan, you know the man is acutely aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He knows how markets — domestic and international — work and is keen on taking risks, and that’s always a great mix for a movie entrepreneur of his stature. Here he talks about his dream of making his version of India’s greatest epic, Red Chillies’ way ahead, the importance of collaborations and more...

You have said that you want to make Mahabharat on a big scale. Is that happening?
It’s my dream to make the Mahabharat for the screen. It’s been for years now. But I don’t think I have the budget to do that. I would love to do it, but I don’t think I could afford to. Unless I collaborate. But not with Indian producers. There have to be international producers on board for this one because Indian producers and Indian films have a limited market. This one has to go out into the international markets. So you have to collaborate with someone who’s international. You don’t take up a subject like the Mahabharat and make it any less. It should be on the scale of a Baahubali or an even larger one.

Are you planning to collaborate with international producers anytime soon then?
I’m extremely busy. If I get there, it would be lovely to make that film. I have spoken to a few. Every second person wants to make Mahabharat. There’s nothing concrete happening yet.

With studios shutting down all around, do you have plans of making Red Chillies the next big Indian studio?
The studio model in India isn’t really a studio model. Studio models are Yash Raj or Dharma. They are actually studios. Yash Raj even distributes their own films, Dharma doesn’t as yet, but they do have affiliates who do it for them. So with due respect to all the studios that claim to be studios, they are all wonderful people and have helped me. Whether it’s a Chennai Express or other films, they are just leasing filmmakers, but they are not a part of the creative aspect.

Could you elaborate on that?
Mr Walt Disney was a part of everything and that’s why he created the studio model. And he made the film, and he sold the film and he borrowed the money or lost the money while the whole studio is backing him up. Similarly, there’s Warner Brothers or Columbia Pictures there. Here, in India, I think they came as distributors who are giving you money, taking your film and releasing it. They really don’t put any inputs in creating the content. They just hire the actors. I am not trying to create a studio, I just want to make it easy for my filmmakers. We can market it with our own people, and convince other people. It’s our film at the end of the day. I’m trying to do that. Who knows? I may fail completely and next year, when you meet me, I would be on the roads hoping somebody signs me up (laughs) or if it does well, it’s not to create a studio model or become a Warner Brothers, or Yash Raj or Dharma. I don’t think I’m as good as them. Visual effects are my core, so I will try and make more films around that.

Salman Khan and Karan Johar are now producing a film with Akshay Kumar in the lead. Do you think that will bring in a new trend?
It should be collaborative. And it should have been done a long time back. But it’s very good that Karan and Salman are making a film with Akshay. I wanted to do that. But the story and all didn’t work out. I’m sure he is really open to it. I think whenever there is an opportunity, as producers, we should make this happen. Firstly, we should get this correct. They should not be taken as individuals, as Karan or Salman. It’s Dharma and SKF. They are different identities, they are film producers. It’s about the company, not about individuals. So, two companies have come together to make a film with a big movie star. Similarly, we at Red Chillies do it too. Maybe, Dharma and Red Chillies, or YRF. Filmmaking should be collaborative. The more collaboration there is, in music, filmmaking, storytelling — you will have better films. Tintin was made by Steven Spielberg, who loved it and he produced it and let Peter Jackson — who owned it — direct it. It’s something Steven Spielberg always wanted to make and direct, but he found that Peter Jackson has it, he said, ‘Let’s collaborate’ and make it together.