MUMBAI — Shah Rukh Khan’s last film, “Dilwale,” might have had an ambiguous box-office run, but when did superstars stop being big after one not-so-successful film? All set to release his 10th film with the Yash Raj clan in Aditya Chopra’s “Fan,” he meets the media in his “Raees” getup, even as news is filtering in about several new assignments.
SRK always speaks directly from the heart, giving longish answers, which include memories that come as he talks. All this gives you the impression that you are talking to a ‘normal’ human being rather than a superstar. Laced with his wacky wit and dry humor, the SRK conversation is always unmitigated fun. And this one’s so long and so perceptive that we have to split a 64-minute chat into two parts.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: As a star, what is your take on fans?
A: I think that a fan’s love is pure, because it is unconditional, and so he or she will even defend you if you do something bad or wrong. After all, 'fan' is a derivative of the word ‘fanatic.’ A parent, spouse or friend can be conditional, and unconditional can be looked upon as obsessive. But a fan will never judge you.
Q: Have you ever had obsessive or harmful fans?
A: As a matter of fact, no, but then I like to think that most of my fans are females, and they are always sweet, not dangerous! (Smiles) Yes, I heard of men who sliced their chest when I did “Darr,” which I had never done! That can be disturbing, because the only limit I can place on fans is to request that they not harm themselves, because they may do it to make me happy, but I will be sad and disturbed instead.
Fans are of all kinds. Some are caring, some barge into your home or rooms, they scream, they dance and sing, and even abuse. I think that it’s all their ‘haq’ (right)! I would especially like the girls to take care of themselves in crowds. Otherwise, fans can be special — there is this girl who keeps making sketches of me.
I remember I was due for my spinal surgery in London when I received a call from a lady in Mauritius or South Africa, who begged me not to go in for it, as she had a dream that I bled to death on the table! When I reached the hospital, I had to read and sign a 56-page document absolving the hospital from 90 possible things that could go wrong during the surgery. And I kept thinking of what she said! Was it her obsession or care? I really do not know!
Q: The big question: why did you have to play both the roles of a superstar and his fan?
A: The concept of the film, which Maneesh Sharma (writer-director) has had for many years, dictates that I do both the roles. The film opens with me waving out to my fans from my house — this is a real shot on my birthday. To keep the film in a real zone, the need was for an actor with a good body of work, so that 20 minutes are not wasted trying to establish his superstardom with fake sequences. Yes, Amit-ji, Salman, Aamir, Akshay — any of us could have suited the role. The idea was that the personality is instantly created. Like if you see Kajol and me in a film, you know we are going to fall in love. Here we have also used footage from my productions and that from films of Yash Raj and Dharma, which are like family banners.
Q: And Gaurav the fan?
A: Gaurav is a fan who just wants to meet his idol and not become a film star. He had to look different from me and yet have a similar feel. Both my characters are from Delhi from humble backgrounds and have stayed very near to each other in the film. The need was ‘woh mere jaise lage bhi aur na bhi lage’ (he should resemble me and yet not be me). And no lookalike would have done, as I would anyway look more handsome (laughs).
Besides the character of Gaurav, my fan needed an actor with experience, because it was a role that was not only difficult but depended on difficult aspects of makeup, prosthetics and craft. For me, it was about shooting against a blank screen in the many sequences where the superstar and fan come together. Technically, it was difficult.
Q: Why are you not Shah Rukh Khan in the film, but Aryan — your son’s name — Khanna?
A: Aditya (producer Chopra) was very particular that my personal and public life was not touched, and Aryan (the character) is in many ways different from me — more serious, less involved with his children, more responsible.
Q: How was the makeup as Gaurav done?
A: For the first time, prosthesis has been used to make a man look younger. Mostly, makeup is done when a man must look older like Rishi Kapoor-saab in “Kapoor and Sons,” or when he has to be converted, say, into a woman or a vampire. The work took about four hours — we had tried out something that took eight hours, but I had ended up looking like a ‘chudail’ (witch)! (Laughs) I lost some weight, my eyes were made bigger vis-à-vis my lips, as is the case with younger men, my nose was made smaller, my eyebrows had to be straight, not S-shaped and so on. Besides, I changed my body language.
The only hitch was that all this had to be done in identical light, and this was available only in Los Angeles in a specific place where the same expression was again re-created. It was an arduous, difficult task; for seven to eight seconds of screen time, 300 people worked for 24 hours for seven to eight days. The film needed a year and half of work! I got to see what we had shot several months later, and I could not remember or even relate to it!
Q: How easy or difficult was it playing the younger Gaurav?
A: I think that thanks to my boyish face and mental makeup, playing younger characters come easy to me. Try as I might, I cannot look like the alpha male, and my son tells me that I look like a boy only in the film! When not shooting, I spend most of my time surrounded by Aryan and Suhana, and my mental status is very young at 50-plus! The difficult part is playing older men like I did as a 60-year-old man in “Veer-Zaara.” I remember that over 10 takes were needed, because it was so tough to call Rani Mukerji, my lawyer in the film, as “beti” (someone like a daughter)! Rani kept laughing and saying, “Shah, you cannot call me that!” and Yash (Chopra)-ji got infuriated and had announced pack-up!
Stay tuned to this space for part two of our interview with Shah Rukh Khan.