When I entered the YRF studio I presumed Shah Rukh Khan sporting a stubbled look on his tired face, would be in no mood to give long answers, only to realise the energy he has and the humbleness that floored us all.
In a candid chat with the King Khan himself, we got some really interesting scoop about his idea of a fan, why he doesn't revisit his own films and much more.
Excerpts from the conversation-
Q. Were you little surprised when Maneesh Sharma bounced you the idea of 'Fan' considering he is relatively one of the new directors in the industry?
A. When I am ready to work with new girls, why shouldn't I work with new directors?To be honest, I have always said that I have never worked with an actor. I have only worked with directors. I think age has nothing to do with that. The Prime Minister Pitts has rightly said that to judge a person's intellect, creativity or maturity by his age is the most immature thought in itself. I don't get to meet too many people. When Maneesh called, he seemed like an educated boy, a young film maker in America. I got my opportunities like this. I wouldn't have been an actor if Juhi Chawla (in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman) hadn't agree to work with me or Rahul Rawailsahab (in Anjaam) or Yash Chopra didn't think I was good enough. It has nothing to do with age or relative newness. Once I interacted with him I can sense that he is a special film-maker. One night, I chanced upon Band Baaja Baaraat at home. Adi (Aditya Chopra, producer) had sent the film and I really loved it. I called up everyone I knew -- Anushka Sharma, Vaibhavi Merchant... I didn't know Ranveer Singh (at that time) or even Maneesh even though I had worked with him in 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' -- to tell them what a beautiful film it was. The clincher (for Fan) was the story, it's so difficult to do something like this. Only a young person would want to do a film like this because you're a little stupid when you're young. There's a strange belief (in oneself) when you're young. I had it too. Every hero said no to 'Baazigar', but that age, I said haa haa kar denge (yes, I will do it). I remember Yash Johar asked me, what have you done to your career? But then he said, no problem, it will work. At that time, I didn't even know what a hit film was. I am not a regional person but it's fun working with a Delhi guy. We have some strange things to share while talking.
Q. Were you surprised that someone asked you to play a superstar?
A. The premise of 'Fan' is very interesting. Maneesh has graciously said that the movie star in the film is of my calibre. There's a fan who loves the superstar immensely and things happen when they meet or don't meet. I am playing a 24-year-old as well as a 50-year-old. Just that thought is so nice. There's nothing to choose after that. I've played a superstar in 'Billu' as well, but that was a guest appearance.It's not 'exciting' that I'm going to play a superstar; I am a superstar! (laughs)
Q. How was it to unlearn being Shah Rukh, and play the characters of Gaurav, a fan and Aryan Khanna, a superstar?
A. This is the biggest takeaway for me from Fan -- how not to be Shah Rukh Khan, in both the roles. Playing a superstar is very difficult. In the beginning, we had more retakes for Gaurav, as we were trying to figure out how he would be. But later when we got the characters, Aryan needed more retakes; we didn't know why it wasn't right, maybe it was too much of Shah Rukh Khan. 'Fan' has actually given me confidence. I am a stylized actor. There is nothing wrong in it. If you become Shah Rukh Khan, being all that, you should have all that. But honestly as an actor, this is the nicest thing. Maneesh had a very clear idea of Gaurav, the VFX, the make up, the costumes, the cinematography. Since he knew me so well, he could make me unlearn myself. 'Fan' is a good beast created by seven-eight people. I always say that films are collaborative not democratic.
Q. Initially you weren't quite satisfied with the VFX of the film first. What kept you motivated?
A. We saw the first test three months after the shooting. As a matter of fact, I did not want to shoot it then as I was in the middle of Happy New Year, and injured. I would have to shave and come quickly on the sets but I did it anyway because we needed those three months to see if it would work or not. We saw it, improved upon it, liked it and then suddenly someone from the team said it wasn't looking good, and we agreed. At night we came back. We didn't know what to do. Then we just had a few drinks sitting outside, feeling very depressed. Adi was like now you guys decide whether you guys want to do it or not. Later, the VFX guys and make-up artist came up with an idea. I think it was just the faith of everyone and eventually things shaped well.
Q. You have been a star since a very long time. Has stardom ever hit you?
A. People always tell me that you have no privacy. But I have no qualms of being a star. I have been fortunate enough to live like a star for 25 years and I would like to die as a star.
Q. Is there anything that you miss doing being a superstar?
A. I can do everything. There is nothing that I can't do. As a matter of fact, God has been kind. Maybe I can do more things that other people cannot do. So I miss nothing being a superstar. Yes, there is a sense of being alone at times. In fact everyone has that..the director who is making the film..we all have these moments when we have too much of responsibilities and burden of getting it right. But I like being reclusive. So I was made to be a star.
Q. Your family has always been your biggest support system in whatever you do. Will we see Aryan having a family in the film?
A. Yes, Aryan has a family: a wife and kids. The way we wanted to promote Fan..we wanted the film to be about Gaurav and then the star. Maybe there hasn't been space for some fine performances- Deepika Amin is my colleague from the theatre days, Waluscha De Sousa is an old friend, Sachin sahab's daughter Shriya Pilgaonkar, Sayani Gupta plays my manager in the film. However 'Fan' is not a typical Hindi film where heroines are singing and dancing. Instead it's the the world of Gaurav and Aryan. Maneesh and Adi were very clear and fair that the personal life of Shah Rukh Khan is not something to be touched upon because it would be wrong to ask me to divulge or tell me to enact as an actor . That's why playing Aryan was even more difficult. Being a star the personal space is very differently played than how I am. He is more responsible or maybe quieter and has less sense of humour. He is at this stage of career which is so unlike mine at this point of time.
Q. Have you been a fan of any actor?
A. No..I have never been. I had to start fending for myself in a strange way very soon at the age of 15-16. I think being a fan or being in love is the most beautiful emotion. I never had time for that because I lost my parents early. Before I could become a fan I became a star. I never had the time and the luxury. But I have admired the work of many people like Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Mumtazji, Saira Banu, Milkha Singh, Mohammad Ali, Mother Teresa, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and some really wonderful people who must have affected my life in a nice way.
Q. You have two sects of fans- one who loves entertaining and romantic films and the others who are more into the Swades, Chak De kind of cinema... Where do you think 'Fan' fits in?
A. I cannot be supportive to all the likings of people. When you are a film-maker the idea should be something that belongs to you, the thought should be something that should be inspiring enough to live with in, in this case two years even in production, you can't go by an opinion. Sometimes I may not get the chance. I am a prolific person. I want to work. Sometimes I don't wait for such films to come..I may do something else also as fun. But then you can't please all the people all the time. I think you have to start your day as a creative person as what do I want to say. It could be an amazing over-the-top 'Dilwale' kind of film or something completely understated like 'Asoka'. Finally you have to decide what are feeling of doing it. The struggle is not always to make that big blockbuster film but to please all the people. We hope 'Fan' transcends that boundary of commerce and niche and happy-go-lucky and serious films. However there will be some people who will be disappointed that the film has no songs. (laughs)
Q. How would you describe a fan?
A. We have conditions in our relationships. But, an admirer or a fanatic or a fan is someone who doesn't have any conditions. I think it’s a very unconditional, surreal and a spiritual kind of a love. It's like Rumi. It’s like philosopher’s talk about, “Door Se Dekhar Hum Khush Hai, Tu Aabad Rahe toh hum zinda hai.” Your life is attached to this one man or woman's every move without knowing them. A fan is someone who keeps a constant watch on a star’s every move and gets inspired too. So, it’s a selfless love.
Q. What kind of preparation have you done for the role of Gaurav?
A. Most of the preparation has been done by Maneesh and his team. The first evening they took me to see the prep..a room full of everything that I have done in my life and then obviously the idea was don't do any of it. (laughs) He asked me to undo what I do. It's difficult not to be yourself. I am not such a fine actor. But Maneesh is a very close watcher and he managed to get Gaurav out of me. The makeup, technical things and the body language were done by me. Some of the dialogues are such that Shah Rukh Khan doesn't speak them. It's odd. As we worked out certain things came out new.
Q. These days Hollywood films are doing good business in India. Do you think there would come a time when they would take over the Indian cinema?
A. Absolutely. If we don't change our technology or the story-telling form. Film industry survives only where superstars are. Whichever country doesn't have a superstar they have no film industry. The only reason why Indian cinema has gone so long is because you have this culture of people loving your own. Having said that..if you are not able to hone up your technique and screen-plays specifically..we have fantastic actors and directors and producers. Technically and creatively we are very good. Today every one is exposed to international cinema. So we need to pull up our socks on that.
Q. A lot of actors in the industry feel that working with Shah Rukh Khan is their parameter of having reached somewhere in life. Recently Sunny Leone said that she prayed everyday to get a chance to work with an actor like you. How does it feel?
A. Sunny is very sweet. It's very gracious of them to feel like that. But I also think that because I have been there for so long some of them have grown up watching me. I return this thought by saying that it’s wonderful for me to work with new people. It gives me an opportunity to learn new things. People like Sunny, Alia or Maneesh has a different take on a particular subject and I like to participate with them. I feel very touched when people say such things.
Q. What message would you convey to your fans who injure themselves in order to gain your attention?
A. The only thing I would like to say is never try to hurt and injure yourself in order to gain my attention. I equally love all of my fans. During Darr (1993), people did write their girlfriend's name with a knife on their chest, but I don’t do such things in reality. Handwritten notes, flowers or gifts sent to me will be much more appreciated than injuring yourself by writing blood soaked letters.
Q. Was it a bit weird to idolize yourself in the film?
A. The strange thing about this film is when I am playing Gaurav I really don't know how I have played it. I was not in my senses while doing Gaurav. It is very difficult and schizophrenic to play both the roles at the same time. If I look at the trailer now where Gaurav is shouting as ‘Aryan Khanna’, I think I wouldn’t be able to do it now. But, I feel that the atmosphere helped me very much.
Q. You said that you were born to be a superstar. But do you ever fear that you might lose your stardom someday?
A. I know that this is reality. It can happen, it will happen. But I have protected myself from that reality. I live in a zone which is my own creative reality. Yaa..I live in a false world but I just believe that this will never happen.
Q. You have achieved name, fame and wealth. Is there anything more that you want to achieve in life?
A. I just want somehow to be creative enough to do things that everybody likes. I love being an actor and star. But I want to do it more like a serving. Personally I would like my kids to be well educated like every parent would, be brought up well, study hard and then find out what their dreams are and hopefully be around to help them to fulfil those dreams in whatever they wish to do. I am so busy making films that not too many things come to my mind about what do you next. The only thought that comes to me is creatively what can I do to satisfy me more and at the same time satisfy the audience.
Q. Among your kids who is your biggest fan?
A. I think that they all like me. But I play a lot with AbRam. I am a little stupid with him. He really enjoys. I think among three kids, he somehow had more chances and time to be with me. My kids had different personalities when they were growing up. Aryan wanted to be on his own. Suhana is very shy. They have slowly started opening up as they have grown up. But AbRam is very out-going and happy kind of kid. I also love kids. In the house he seems to be more attracted to me than anyone else. I have played the same games with Aryan and Suhana but AbRam enjoys them more. I think he likes me a lot.
Q. How is your character in 'Fan' different from the one you played in 'Darr' considered both of them are possessive in their own way?
A. Rahul and Gaurav are completely different characters. Rahul in 'Darr' was a little off the hook and was also quite psychotic. He had lot of complexes while growing up like the stammer..in fact that's the way I devised it. He was in love with a girl who he assumed he could never get. Gaurav is not at all psychotic. He is a 24 year kid. He doesn't realize the consequences of the result of his actions. Except for 2 moments, there is nothing psychotic or madness in Gaurav. He is not even possessive. Gaurav has a very strange sense of ownership.
Q. In one of your documentaries you had said that everyone is a slave to the myth that Shah Rukh Khan is and you are the master slave. So do you think that 'Fan' was exactly what you trying to say back then?
A. I think that everyone who is a movie star is a slave to the image. I am an employee of the myth of Shah Rukh Khan. I am not that myth myself. I am very clear about that. The way I am walking in 'Raees' I don't believe that I am so powerful. But as an employee I am good at my craft and I can make people convince that I am really tough. Somewhere down the line good creative people don't believe in them. They like them. But they know that this myth is worked upon by an employee who has the talent to create some other myth also. It's both fortunate as well as unfortunate that my whole career is reduced sometimes to just outstretching my arms or the edifice of Mannat or he is a romantic hero. I have done five romantic films in my life and then in real life I don't think I am romantic.
Q. You are collaborating with Yash Raj Films for the first time since Yash Chopra's demise. How much do you miss him?
A. Pam aunty (Pamela Chopra) saw the film with us three-four nights ago and the first thing I said after the screening was that I wish Yashji was here, he would have loved the film. Yash Chopra was compartmentalised as a romantic director with saris flowing in Switzerland but his stories were so edgy for that time, be it 'Waqt', 'Ittefaq', 'Lamhe' or even 'Darr'.
Q. Do you remember any of his best quote?
A. Yashji used to get enamoured by other people's film. He was like a child and I think that he would have added that please add a song. (laughs). He said that even after 'Chak De'. He once told me while I was shooting 'Darr' where I was playing such a strange character..I didn't wanted to play a lover boy then and he just told me that he could see in my eyes that I could play a lover and if you want to be remembered as an actor you have to be a romantic hero. I told me that I had never played one before but he told me that I could pull it off. For him confession of love was a love-making scene.
Q. Are you trying to make Bollywood the new Hollywood by making films with such fantastic VFX? Have you got any Hollywood offers?
A. No, I have never got offers from abroad. They make awful films as well but their good films outnumber ours. They are good in terms of technology, screen-play and formatting part. It's high time we make a film from India that the world admires, like 'Life Is Beautiful'. Everybody should say 'what a good film' even if they don't understand the language. We've made so many of them; 'Baahubali' is very good. Imagine 'Mahabharata' told with the VFX of 'The Jungle Book', 'Avatar or 'X Men'! It would be mind-blowing. Technology can help us reach that -- to make a universal Indian film like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Shiva or Krishna because the world knows those stories, or a biopic on one of our great leaders. I wish we had made Gandhi like Richard Attenborough. We didn't have the technology then but now we do.
Q. Suddenly there is an outflow of actors from India towards the west. How do you see this? Is this a new wave coming where Indians are making new trends in Hollywood?
A. It's amazing what Deepika (Padukone), Priyanka (Chopra), Irrfan (Khan), Om Puriji, Anupam Kher, Anil Kapoor and some others are doing; it's very gutsy, and fantastic! I'm not including Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan because he is internationally known anyway. It makes the West look at India in a way like wow, look at this talent! It opens doors for actors to believe in themselves. The world can see you in a different light; it's not just a typical Indian character. It will really help to take their own films to the west because they will be internationally known.
Q. Your films like Swades and Chak De! India have been much appreciated. Why don't you do much such films?
A. If I do that often, people will say he's doing the same things, and has become boring. So I do some bad roles, and then do good ones again! But really, if I don't get a film like that, I can't make it appear out of thin air! I am one actor who has never written a film for himself. I think that's stupid. I never get such thoughts. You tell me what you want me to play and I will do it to the best of my capability. Shimit Amin hasn't offered me a film but if he has an interesting story, I would do it. I am not doing a film with Ranveer and Sanjay Leela Bhansali but if somebody did, it's interesting I would do it. I meet Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj regularly. They are my friends and they all keep saying that we will think of a nice role but all of them also don't end up getting that role.
Q. Superstars do receive criticism at times. How well do you take them?
A. I am not worthy of the love I get and sometimes I am not worthy of the criticism I get. They are too extremes. When a person writes to me and says I would die for you, I don't think I am that good. Similarly somebody says I would kill you I don't think I am worthy of that either. Personally I don't like criticism. Why should I be dishonest? Nobody likes criticism. There is nothing called as constructive criticism. I think the only criticism I could take was from my parents because otherwise they would beat me up (laughs) and from my children because they matter to me a lot. If you have to give constructive criticism then you have to garble it. Criticism is a great form to help people out but I think that perhaps what you are referring to is what sometimes happens on social media and the critical appraisals of films. I take critical appraisals of a film well but if a critic writes he went to sleep in this film then you get screwed off. You shouldn't make a personal comment on what you thought of the film.
Q. A person named Maneesh has filed a case that the story of ‘FAN’ has violated the copyright of his story and alleged that he had also discussed it with you and Yash Chopra earlier. So, what is your take on this?
A. The only Maneesh, I know is my director. I think sometimes people just take advantage when a film release in order to gain popularity. I don’t think he would have met Yash Chopra and I too haven’t met him. He hasn't seen the finished product and such people should be completely ignored. My genuine suggestion is that try and write better instead of being a miscreant on a finished product. Such cases have happened earlier too with my films and I, YRF and Aditya Chopra will never take away somebody’s credit. We are too beyond that.
Q. How do you view your success today? Can you ever detach yourself from the success that you enjoy?
A. I am not attached to my success at all. People who work with me may say Shah Rukh is charming, sweet and humble because they don't know what else to say when they are working with me. But the real reason is I am not at all enamoured to my success. I am quite a fakir. Yeah I wear stylish clothes, look cool and do the right moves out as a star. I have become used to being a star so I behave like one. I have never had the time to enjoy the money that I have. It doesn't seem like it, but my family and I have a very simplistic lifestyle. I have never sat down in a meeting with my management and said my rating is falling. I am very easy about the financial part of my life. I don't really attach myself to material success any more.
Q. Do you revisit your own films?
A. No, I never watch my films, even when they are telecast on television. Even 'Fan', what I saw, was a technical patch, not the final cut to improve upon and give some final suggestion. In fact I don't hold trials of my films. I am not at all attached to my work. It's like I don't read my interviews. I have said it so what else will be there. I think the enjoyment of watching films should be left to the audience.
Q. Your forthcoming films, 'Fan', 'Raees' and 'Don 3' are all action movies.
A. We had four nice action scenes in Fan but we had to cut one out because I looked like a chudail (witch) in it! It was a very good action scene and I miss it.I have done some really cool parkour in the film. Raees is not completely action, it's very intense. There are four-five action scenes, and very different from Fan. When Raees fights, he is going to win; you don't mess with Raees! I haven't heard about Don 3. Farhan (Akhtar, director) hasn't started writing it yet.
Q. Your character Aryan in the trailer says that why should he give his life's five seconds to Gaurav. Do you take some people will mistake that as your arrogance in real life?
A. Yes, even though Aryan Khanna is not like Shah Rukh Khan, I am very clear about it but the idea of being a movie star sticks too close to me. Yes, there will be moments in the film where some people can turn around and feel, "Arrey Shah Rukh aisa hai kya?" But I am not a guy who would like to throw a girl off the roof-top. I am not this also. But it is too close to life. The most careful part of 'Fan' is that we have to maintain the dignity of both of them. Gaurav is not a bad and mad person. At the same time Aryan is not arrogant too. Both of them are right. There is a limit to what you can behave with Shah Rukh Khan while you are interacting with me. Not because I am superior but just as a normal guy.