Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood’s self-made badshah, talks about doing interesting films and why his life has been a blessing. Priya Adivarekar takes notes
He looks lean and even mean in the posters of his latest offering Raees (released on January 25, 2017). Brooding, kohl-rimmed eyes enhance the “dark tones” of the bootlegger he essays in the film. Negative or not, his audience loves his look – and him. But then, that’s the charisma of Shah Rukh Khan. To several thousand fans across the globe, for the past two decades, the badshah has been the best! “I can only thank my fans for loving me so much over the years,” says the Bollywood superstar.
25 years of stardom
Two decades may sound like a long time but for the 51-year-old actor, who completes 25 years in the Indian film industry this year, the journey is just “getting exciting”! “Wow! It’s been 25 years! And I still enjoy being on a film set. You will see me happy on the sets of every film I am part of, no matter how tired or exhausted I am. I learn something about movies and people every day,” he quips. And we see proof of this claim as he excitedly goes about this late-night interview after a hectic day-long promotion itinerary!
Asked about his journey in the industry so far, the actor pauses, and then on a solemn note, says, “life has been great so far. Everyone has ups and downs in life, but I don’t really think I’ve had many downs. I have been fortunate in that way. Life has been really nice to me – both personally and professionally. In fact, whenever I pray for someone, whether it is my children or people I am close to, I always tell them: ‘I hope you get my life.’”.
There are a few fallouts of his celebrity status, though – some are professional, while others affect his family. “Over the years, I have understood that when I work with some people, especially for the first time, they are a little wary of me. That’s because many of them have grown up watching me. They are like – ‘whoa, we are working with Shah Rukh Khan!’ This has happened to a lot of people, whether it is Alia [Bhatt] or even Nawaz bhai [Nawazuddin Siddiqui]. I understand that, and it’s important to break the ice and bring the unit together. I like having fun and cracking jokes, it makes the other person comfortable. That’s just how I work,” says the actor, who, despite a major knee injury, ensured the atmosphere on the sets of Raees was always light-hearted.
On the family front, Khan says he is grateful for the support he receives. “I really appreciate the fact that my family understands how important my work is to me. Even if I don’t take my professional problems home, my family has to bear them. But I respect that they understand I am a public figure and that I have to do what I have to do.”
A New Act
Right now, the actor is excited about the potential of visual effects, or VFX, in films. Red Chillies VFX, the visual effects wing under his production company, Red Chillies Entertainment, completed a decade last year. Quiz him on his plans for the company and Khan is certain that it has the potential to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future. “The problem is that filmmakers in India feel VFX can only be used when characters are required to jump or fly. There is so much more to VFX than that. I feel we can make world-class visual effects in India, and that too at much lower costs. I am very proud of my team because I see that they have been doing some wonderful work. We must give VFX and SFX (sound effects) the acknowledgement and appreciation they deserve, especially at a time when we are going international. At Red Chillies VFX, we enjoy challenges and the road ahead will only get more interesting with some of the projects we are working on,” he says. Red Chillies Entertainment was recently in the news for its exclusive deal with Netflix, where films under the banner will be streamed on the popular global video streaming app.
“Hopefully, I think I’ll have enough strength, both mentally and physically, to go on doing interesting films. I am in that position, and that’s my current mindset,” he says. Khan is looking forward to working with filmmakers who are working on really interesting projects. “It’s seldom that when one has worked for so many years, you have a new breed of directors who are excited about working with you. Gauri Shinde [director, Dear Zindagi] was as excited as a director would be when working with a newcomer. Even Rahul [Dholakia], who is a serious filmmaker, is very enthusiastic about me, even though most of my films are from the popular genre. So it’s a good space for me – I can draw from my experience of 25 years in the industry to work in new-age cinema of a different type,” he says.
And it seems Khan has no plans to slow down. “On the film front, we have Imtiaz Ali’s next under our production. The film, starring Anushka Sharma and myself, is scheduled for an August release,” he says. There is also Aanand L Rai’s next, in which Khan will be seen as a dwarf, but the actor confesses that the film will take some time. “The VFX required for this film is complex, so we need to give it some time. But we start shooting in the first half of this year, and it should be out in 2018,” he reveals. As he speaks, you realise that the actor’s passion for his craft has only intensified, and he is looking forward to many more years as Bollywood’s badshah.
The author writes on Bollywood and the views expressed in this article are her own