From zero to infinity

Just before his new movie hits the screens, superstar Shah Rukh Khan, celebrating his silver jubilee in Bollywood, ponders over the true meaning of success and failure. He explains to Aarti Kapur Singh why he is Air India’s self-appointed brand ambassador

In the year that marks Shah Rukh Khan’s silver jubilee in the Indian film industry, “the man from nowhere” as he once addressed himself as, is everywhere, and says he is the happiest here. And once again, those pools in his cheeks and honeyauburn eyes make millions like me melt.

Seems 2018 is going to end with a bang for you. Your new film Zero is already creating such a buzz…

Thank you. I am hoping it reaches the outer space too! (Laughs)

You recently tweeted about how much you enjoyed an Air India flight…

I flew Air India from New York to Mumbai. From the moment I entered the airport, the security check and then on the flight and picking up baggage – the ground staff, to the in-flight hosts and hostesses, the pilots – their smiles were so heartfelt. And you know it is not just because they were smiling at me, a star. I observed them as they helped and welcomed everyone on the flight. Their smiles go straight to the eyes – that is the best way to know if a smile is genuine or not. This is the kind of hospitality they extend to each and every passenger. That is exactly what a maharaja should do; embrace everyone. And that is why I said ‘maharaja toh maharaja hi hota hai!’ (A king will always behave like one). There is so much sincerity in everything that Air India does. And not just as an Indian, but as someone who flies very often, it is my duty to notice and applaud the effort of the airline and its staff.

And are you recommending flying Air India to others?

Oh yes, I am! Isn’t that what a brand ambassador does (winks)? I am Air India’s self-appointed brand ambassador. I will mostly recommend the people who work so hard and sincerely to make Air India truly world class. I will also talk about how clean the planes are and with how much warmth the staff attend to passengers and meet their requests; be it serving repeated cups of warm water or hot coffee. I think I will give my office standing instructions to book me on Air India flights whenever possible! I would love to fly Air India again and again.

How important is Zero to you?

Zero is a film that is very close to my heart. Simply because it encompasses the philosophy I subscribe to. Zero can be nothing or a complete whole – it only depends on what your perspective is. That is why Zero as a film is important to anyone who feels they have been zero. Just reverse your perspective. There is pressure on all of us – something that is created by society. And in the mad rat race to fit the perfect bill, sometimes you forget the main purpose of your birth – to live. I think the meaning of life is to be able to celebrate your existence. My character in Zero does exactly that. He is not bothered about what people expect him to be or do, which is what I believe in real life too. Celebrate what you think you lack instead of worrying about it. That is the secret to living.

It is also a film that is crucial for your career graph. Considering your last films, Fan and Raees did not do well, is that also an added pressure?

I think they were good films! (Smiles) The trade world has a point of view about a film’s business, and they are right. Main dekhta hoon ki iss film ki story kya hai, aur iss mein nayapan kya hai (I am more concerned about a film’s storyline and its uniqueness). That’s more important to me. I cannot change if my films don’t work. And if I can’t change something, why should I fret about it? If people feel that Zero is very important for me, it is their feeling. God forbid, if this film doesn’t do well, what will happen? Maybe, I won’t get work for the next six to ten months. But if I believe that I am good at my craft and have faith in my capabilities, I will continue to get work. Then I will probably make a comeback, which I have been doing for the last 15 years. Or maybe, the comeback won’t happen.

At this stage of dizzying glamour and fame, do you look at success and failure differently?

I am not one for losing. I like to win and I am a winner by nature, ambition and belief. So, I will never run the race to come second. Usain Bolt thoda hi bolta hoga ki aaj second aaunga, maza aayega (Usain Bolt will never say that I will run to come second today). You run a race to win. I do the absolute same thing as an ac-tor. Yes, the vanity van has gotten better with ACs and other luxury paraphernalia, but abhi bhi wahi mathamaari hai (the process remains the same). But what I do on the set, even for a few seconds, is very exciting. The result of all those things has made me Shah Rukh. But I never work for that image and I don’t even know that person. I can be a superhero, a vertically-challenged person, a 26-year-old fan, a gangster and Devdas too. That is what I enjoy most.

Both Aryan and Suhana are being eagerly anticipated to follow in your footsteps. What do you feel about that?

I don’t know if that will happen. Aryan is studying to be a filmmaker and a writer, while Suhana wants to be an actor. When I am with Aryan, sometimes we just laze around and crack jokes. We talk a little about filmmaking because he’s learning that. But he would like to recede from that because he wants to learn it on his own. We watch films together during which we talk about certain aspects of filmmaking. He talks about his ambitions and where he would like to be one day; he’s very clear that way. He just wants to be bigger than me and that’s cool. Suhana mothers me. But it was also a matter of immense pride for me to see her on the cover of a magazine. And also see her as Juliet on stage in a school play. I see that zeal in her. I’ve seen her performances and she’s extremely good on stage. She’s admittedly a cinema fan and wants to be in the industry.

What next for you?

We hear it will be almost to infinity and the realm of space with Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma’s biopic? We are all set to begin work on the film on astronaut Rakesh Sharma. That is also something I have been looking forward to do. But it is still early. I also want to start thinking about the sequel to Ra.One. Even though the movie did not do well, there was a story that I am hoping my younger fans liked and would want to see develop into something better. But other than that, I have all the time in the world to talk to you [journalists] and others more often!

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