Who is Salman Khan like



Aug 02 2013

Priyanka Sinha Jha

The start of a digital game for Chennai Express, the visit to the sets of Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma, Comedy Nights with Kapil and Indian Idol amid a host of other actions, the blitzkrieg for Chennai Express is archetypal for Shah Rukh Khan.

The film, a lively romance with lots of action, including flying cars - it's a Rohit Shetty film, after all - takes up a good deal of its time. The team formation with director Rohit Shetty, well known for his orgies of laughter, is the first of its kind. Shetty initially planned a remake of Angoor, but ultimately told the superstar a love story, with all the additions, and before he knew it he had Shah Rukh Khan on board for a mega budget production. Chennai Express also brings Khan together with Deepika Padukone, whom he launched in Om Shanti Om, an earlier in-house production. Given her remarkable development since then and her sizzling chemistry on screen, there's a lot of excitement about this Jodi as one to watch out for.

On the private front, there was a happy development with the birth of son AbRam, and something like a rapprochement with friend - enemy Salman Khan at Baba Siddique's Iftaar party. Its companies are starting to pay off and new ones like Kidzania are about to start, so it would be fair to say that things are looking good. But Khan, as busy as ever, works true to the cause of filmmaking at impossible times. It's in Film City, on the sets of Kapil Sharma's show, where to meet him.

His arrival on the sets has been delayed for several reasons, but once he's there the show rolls in seamlessly, with an audience delighted to see Khan in person, patiently answering her questions and asking some himself. The highlight of the show is when a young fan in the audience, who has been renamed Rahul as a kind of homage to the numerous Rahuls played by Khan, is moved to tears as he hugs him. There are several more - all equally charmed by Khan in their own way. Away from the sets, too, a mini-rebellion is on its way - photographers waiting for their photo session with the stars become aggressive, while a privileged minority, known as TV actor Ali Asgar, queues for a photo session. He is accompanied by director Rohit Shetty, who is in discussion with him after a brief appearance on the show. Fortunately, the ambiguity ends and I am allowed to interview the superstar on the drive between Film City and Taj Lands End. In the interview, we cover quite a distance between the two destinations, mainly through films and a lot more. Excerpts:

You just arrived at the Kapil Sharma show with a clever sales display for a scooter and pen, and what would your marketing phrase be for Chennai Express?
Marketing a movie is all about letting people know about an upcoming movie. Because you have a product that is already recognized - it is a Hindi film - you just need to provide information about what type of film it is. This is a comedy, but a movie could be a romance movie, some type of Yash Chopra movie, a superhero movie - that's all you need to let people know about. Therefore, if a movie is a comedy, spend more time on a comedy show. At a show with Barkha Dutt, where she says “We, the people”, we talk about the marriages of people from different countries. We take the available elements from the film and talk about them so that people can get information about the product, in this case a Hindi film. Usually a salesman tells you that, but when it comes to movies, I think it's every star's job to be some kind of salesman without taking away from the beauty of being a star. I hope that when you bought the card that you are aware of what kind of movie it is. I don't want you to be upset, surprised, or disappointed. To know that is what you paid for. Just as Ra.One is a superhero movie, one of the least liked, understood or made genres in India, so convey it to people in a louder or fuller voice.

Chennai Express, directed by Rohit Shetty himself, you know what kind of film it will be. There's a kind of cinema he does, so we don't need to tell people what he's doing. It's just a feel for the movie - comedy hai, gaana hai, but Rohit himself is such a big brand that we just need to let people know ki nau (9) tareeq ko aa rahi hai, hope you enjoy it.

What do you think are the highlights of a typical Rohit Shetty movie?
What I would like to believe that it stands out is that he makes very good family entertainment films that are clean, cute and funny, with song and dance, larger than life of course. And since it comes out during the holidays, on Eid, where families sit and go out together, hopefully everyone from seven to seventy will find something in it. Seven may be too young ... maybe everyone between ten and sixty-five will enjoy the movie (Smiles).

The last year before the release of Jab Tak Hai Jaan, you talked about Hindi films showing greater familiarity, but the past couple of years have also shown different types of love stories like Vicky Donor, Raanjhanaa, and now Chennai Express, an action-packed love story. Do you think the romantic genre will now have several sub-genres outside of popular romantic comedy?
I just saw Adi's (Chopra) new film - Manish’s (Sharma) Shudh Desi Romance - wo kuch alag kism ki hai, hamaari Chennai Express kuch alag kism ki hai. Inherently, love is one hundred percent the universal factor. But yeah, it depends on the language the director wants to speak in and tell you about the movie. But it would be misleading for us to start drawing a line and picking up small moments and saying, "Arrey, yeh small town ke liye hai". It's not just for small cities. It introduces you to a world that city dwellers may not be used to. And when I make a big city film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, we introduce small-towners to a world of romance they may not be used to. In some ways it is a novelty for a certain group of people and an identification for others. Whatever type of love story you tell, it is a novelty for some and an identification for others. And I think - I wrote that in my book - the real reason you can become a star, or a movie can become a star, is because it's new or recognizable. It's so new that you are deeply impressed, or feeling, arrey, yeh to apna hi hai.

These are the two reasons that you can apply for anything. If you are a reader, you will either be deeply impressed by a writer or you will stick with the writer you identify with and you will like both of them. In films there is no demarcation either. It's a way of getting both kinds of people - readers or audiences, whatever people you want as your target audience that you know, inke liye naya hoga doosron ke liye, apna hoga. This is how you define storytelling in a way. When I tell a science fiction story to my children, I know that it is something identifiable for my children who are young and read science fiction. As for my mother-in-law, I hope I can impress her by believing, "Arrey, yeh kya nayi baat kar raha hai." And so it is. It's what I believe in as a narrator.

From the hugely successful television series you starred in early in your career to what you are seeing on television now, would you say that cinema and television require different types of stories?
I don't watch television too much because almost all the shows talk about saas and bahu, and with all due respect, I come from a family home where I don't understand. I see it sometimes, but I'm from Delhi and I don't quite understand. It doesn't mean that I don't like it. But it's not something I identify with or am deeply impressed with ki, “Wow, aisa hota hai?” But yeah, maybe the TV tells different stories because when I was in America about four or five years ago and with some of them Authors sat together (for Ra.One) they were usually this clear when they talked about stories. They said to me, “You know, Mr. Khan, this is suitable for a television story. It needs to be explained. ”So I think there is a certain demarcation that some stories may be better for TV because they need that kind of narrative, or that breathing space, and some stories are more for the cinema and need to be in two and a half hours to be told. And you have to be able to figure it out.

How do you choose the directors to work with? Are they always your friends and why did you accept the Rohit film?
How come I've never heard this question from other stars? You see, when I've finished a movie, I'm always in a certain frame of mind. For the last two or three years I've been doing Jab Tak Hai Jaan, a pure intense love story, there was Don, Ra.One, who were very challenging, and so I was in a frame of mind where I thought, let me do a comedy . After this film I am in an emotional state that allows me to do a realistic film. How often does it happen that you are in a mood to do a certain type of film and it fits in? I don't make films for myself. I hope a director will come around with it, but nobody did (for a realistic film) but by the time I finished Jab Tak Hai Jaan I wanted a happy, funny, entertaining film do what is taken care of - ki aapka sense of humor hai, aap mere ko batao kya karna hai and as an actor I will try to do my best.

And suddenly Rohit met me. He had a movie on UTV called Angoor that I loved and when he left he said, "Sir, mere paas ek aur kahaani hai, suna doon aapko kal?" I said okay, and she was very weird. And I was in that frame of mind too. Actually, I was afraid if only I would find it funny or other people too. For the first time in my career, I got all the office staff together and said, "You know, I heard this story last night and I want everyone to hear it and want to know if everyone thinks it is as funny as I do." We got a description and Rohit is so cute, he came with his whole crew and told them 40 people. All laughed half dead. Rohit makes the best comedies and it all came together and I'm glad I worked with him. He is an honor to work with because he is cute, he knows his job, is so cultured and gentle for an action / comedy director. I had a lot of fun. So sometimes things fall into your lap when you are in this frame of mind. Chennai Express is one of them.

So the realistic project will likely be done with director Ashutosh Gowariker? Or would it be Anurag Kashyap?
We talk about it - actually we have three topics that we have been discussing for a year. I don't know if I am free to speak about it, but yes, we are discussing. Anurag is an old friend. I've known him since the time he was an assistant director - hamara Dilli ka connection hai. Mere ko daantta rehta hai. "Sir mere ko picture banani hai, kab bana rahe ho?" That's why I told him whenever you want to make a film, call me two months in advance, tell me how many days you need and shoot the film. Don't tell me the story because your belief is stronger about the types of films you want to make. Don't do my kind of movie, do your kind.

And there is also the film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali ...
Yes, Sanjay has two themes and one really awesome big thing so I keep talking to all of them - they are all friends. Everything has to come together - the actors, the technical part of it, the budget and my frame of mind as an actor. And sometimes, if I prefer another film, I always tell them not to wait for me because nobody should wait for anyone. So yes, they are all friends and we talk, discuss, etc .; should I tell you the names of all the people I speak to?

Sure, if it's not strictly taboo.
There is Vishal Bhardwaj, Manish (Sharma), Rahul Dholakia, there is Racy, in whose film ABC I want to play. It's a very good part.

And is there anything for television?
Abhi itni picturein ki baat kar raha hoon to the TV my kahan se kaam karonga? (Laughs) Nothing. I've spoken to a few people, but it would have to be something else, so there is nothing specific at the moment.

Should you buy a soccer team too?
I don't have this team. I chatted with Dempos, they are friends. The whole league system is about to change so I'll wait and see. What I'm going to try to do is I have a sports company so I'm going to give them the job. We're still looking for sporting opportunities, but as far as Dempo is concerned, we'll have to wait and see.

Has the Kidzania edutainment Park, in which you are part, been set up and in operation?
We hope to launch it in late August or September. I think 50 percent of that was done in the last year, but you need people trained to look after the kids. It is very important to me. It took a little long so that when parents come with their young children, they can be confident that they will be looked after, so this training is ongoing. Inshallah, at this point we hope for the end of August, but plus minus two months.

Are there any new entertainment / film production facilities you are planning?
I have to build institutions that are useful to me now. I spend a lot of money starting the companies. Whenever you have a new business it takes time to mature and I spend a lot of money on infrastructure. I've been doing it for the VFX for 13 years now. We are happy and honored and touched that Krrish is being made there, but we now don't know what the next big movie we can make because nobody makes such films. And these are expensive things. But my dream is to build a studio, own cinemas, or be someone who gives back to the industry in his own way.

Given the new trend, have you acquired the remake rights for any of the films or books?
If someone tells me that this film has been made and is successful, my logic is, 'good, but it has already been made. Let's try to make a film that people will buy the rights to instead of buying the rights to something that has already been made. 'I don't mean to deprive these films of their importance, but I don't think I'm into Made some sort of remake of 55 full-blown films of my career. Yes, if a director is making a film in Hindi and in a South Indian language, it's okay because it's an original film. As for book rights, I bought a book from my friend Anuja Chauhan, but we didn't film it. Now I think the Shetty's make it (Arti, Manmohan and Pooja). You bought the rights. I didn't have the time so I gave it up. The kind of books I like and want to film - Life of Pi, Shantaram - are not affordable at this point. They're too big for most filmmakers, including myself.

Given Hollywood's interest in our stars / actors, even if it is for a small role, would you accept a guest appearance on a Hollywood production?
If it's a friend making a Hollywood film, maybe yes, but I would love to do a Hollywood film if it returns the respect that Indian audiences have shown me. I don't want the Indian audience to go into a Hollywood film and say, “Why did you do that?” If an offer comes - which at this point doesn’t exist and is unlikely to come - I would make a film that would suit my Indian audience makes you very proud because you made me very important. So I want you to feel like, ki 'wow! This guy is showing his walk, doing his thing and being given the same level of importance as it is in a Hindi movie ‘.

Any Hollywood actors you'd like to cast in your production?
Sure, if the role demands it. I would love to cast Monica Bellucci. I love her. She is fantastic. And there is Gerard Butler, also a friend.

Given the hectic promotions, are you spending enough time with Baby AbRam? Who does he resemble - Gauri or you?
At this point he doesn't miss me so he doesn't know if I'm there or not, but yes I take my time, I go back home every now and then. He sleeps all the time, so I can come in whenever I feel like it. Currently he resembles someone untouched by journalism or all and I want him to be like that for as many years as possible.