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Shah Rukh Khan: I am not the perfect lover boy, but I don’t romance like anyone else!

In an exclusive interview, Shah Rukh Khan opens up about movies, success, failure, his lover boy image, his children and much more…



shah rukh khan zero failure children life friendship exclusive interview

For a change, Shah Rukh Khan looks fresh and relaxed. Even at the end of an evening after a packed working day, repeating the same dialogues in different ways. That’s the thing, you see. He knows a hundred different ways to say the same thing. Articulation is something he’s a master at. Lateral thinking is another. And when he is investing so much time and thought even after a long day, you have no option but to keep pace. He thinks, weighs, and then says what he pleases. Sometimes, maybe not what you want to hear.

But listening to Shah Rukh Khan is always a pleasure. He doesn’t do you the disservice of talking down, rather gives you the compliment of presumed intelligence. This, even as he says later that he would prefer being on his own than spend time talking to people. All this is a job he does for Shah Rukh Khan the star. He knows he has the love of the people. Team CineBlitz catch a peaceful patch of evening with Shah Rukh Khan, for a chat where we start with nothing and traverse through infinity.

When a film ends, it leaves a void in one’s life. How easy or difficult is it to fill that void?

It depends on how you see life. The other day, when we were travelling, Anushka (Sharma) was saying that sometimes, when things get over, we feel sad or bad. Whether it’s a party, a job, a film or a relationship. But we have to view it thinking this was how it was meant to end, and resume life. Life is one whole series of episodes, you know how atoms are packets. So childhood is one packet, relationships are one packet, work is one, within the work also there are different packets. Life is like the cellular structure.

Maybe when a packet ends, instead of feeling bad about it, think a new one will start. A fresh start. Given half a chance of a fresh start, we may do things differently. I’ll say sorry, maybe I’ll say I love you. Maybe I’ll spend more time with my mom, whatever. But life is so beautiful that it doesn’t take you back. And life is so beautiful that you should not try to go back, you should go forward and live that. And life will take care of you.

How did you think your fans would receive it when you do a role where you are defined as incomplete? Was that why Zero didn’t work?

If you assume yourself to feel incomplete, then you will be. If you don’t consider yourself to be perfect, then you will
identify with someone like this. But if you think from the viewpoint of the people who love me, if they think I am a perfect person, then they won’t accept me as incomplete. It’s a reflection of your own self. I don’t think I have ever played a hero who is perfect. People say I am a perfect lover boy, but the character is a lover boy. Bolte hain, Shah Rukh ka image is of a lover boy, people see him like that.

I don’t think so. I think they like the fact that I am not a perfect lover boy. That’s why they think my romance is more real, because I don’t romance like anyone has done, it’s not typical. I do it like a middle-class boy or what my understanding of it is. It’s an experience of my world. You can take some liberty with people you love. Hatred is also a form of love, so I can play it like that. Typically, when people play lover boy’s story, they do it very well. They say the nice lines in a nice way. And I hardly ever say sorry. And I hardly see anyone crying in the films. Men don’t cry.

I hardly see them being naughty with the girl without losing respect for her. My introduction in DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge) is actually taking an inner garment (a bra). And showing it to Kajol, but you don’t feel it’s a cheap gesture because it’s not played out like a hero. It’s played out like a guy who is shy but thinking it will be cool, when you play it like an imperfect person. Then I guess people like it as a lover. In Devdas, here is a completely fractured soul. If I was to play it without any vulnerability and go hit a girl on the head, it’d be a wrong thing. But you accept it because you see him as a fractured soul, but a real lover will not do it.

I think a romantic hero like they say, a lunatic, a lover, a poet, are all exactly the same thing. So if you are not able to create that for them, then I am an imperfect lover boy. So this person who falls in love, does these things and does it
very badly, why wouldn’t you love him too?

So when you select a role, do you indulge yourself as an actor and entertainer? Or do you indulge the public belief in you?

I indulge only myself in the roles I select. I am very selfish about my roles. So when post Harry Met Sejal, people didn’t like it and said arre yeh kyun kiya? I was like mujhe karna tha! How am I in the movies for 25 years and not in a place to choose? Or if I can’t make a choice for myself? Then there is no point of being in this position. And of course, depending on the film I am doing, I know how much is going to appeal to a wider audience. When I do a Fan I know it’s a niche film. I am not a fool for 20 years and think like arre yeh DDLJ ban jayegi.

Having said that, a film designed like Dilwale (2015), which I thought had everything – action, romance, comedy, Kajol, me, could have fallen short. Or gone wrong because I thought it’s a commercial film, usme character kya hai, hero hai. So sometimes they will go wrong, but fans will go for them either way. But for me, the attitude is that is what I want to be for the next one year.

You seem to have moved away from the hardcore commercial filmmakers. You are attempting films with makers of a different kind of cinema. Is that a move to widen your own repertoire as an actor?

No. Adi (Aditya Chopra) is my old guard, so if he offered me a movie with a different director, I would do it. So Manish Sharma is there, there is Imtiaz (Ali), Aanand (L Rai) is new now, for Zero. I can’t tell him tu chala jaa aur commercial director le le. The commercial guys haven’t offered me a role yet. Working with new directors is very
interesting as they have a different take on stuff. And honestly, I don’t get offers from all directors all the time. But
sometimes, a director comes who sees me differently. I think my next film is with someone who is totally different. I told Sriram (Raghavan) five-six years ago that I want to do a really nice, interesting film with him. But he doesn’t have a film for me.

What’s the most exciting kind of role that you would define for yourself? If you know what you want to be as a character? What do you see yourself as?

As a medium, in films, specifics happen early on in your career. I haven’t done a whole gamut of emotions thinking main mad man play karunga, main action karunga. But if you have been there 25 years, then you have touched upon most of the emotions that are there. And now I can do a different mix of them in one character, which obviously has to be written by a director. Each role you decide to do should go more towards the craft part of it, the raw, real part, while keeping commercial parameters in mind. Initially, why you like to do specific roles is because you want to own your craft.

But slowly you realise that you can play a Raees and make him a lover, vulnerable or scary, and acceptable mixes become more common. So you play more with the psychology than the physicality of the character. It is easier to play a physically challenged guy, than playing a vertically challenged person – this 4 ft 6 inch man I was talking about (in Zero). Getting into the mind is the interesting part for me.

What makes you feel vulnerable in your personal space, other than family ties?

I could be vulnerable in both spaces – personal and professional. Vulnerable is too strong a word. As you get on in life you don’t have the freedom to fail anymore because people expect the best from you. And that’s a strange place to be in. Unless you are ready to make mistakes and learn from them, you will never achieve greatness. If I am thinking I’ll do great stuff because one day I won’t be there, the path to greatness is through mistakes. It cannot be through all the right things, that’s organised corporate stuff.

But today, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are beyond a hit or a flop…

Being beyond something is not a question of their ability. The freedom to fill theatres se koi farak nahin padta. And the ability to surprise everyone becomes less with every role you play. As they write in the trade mags, ‘He was good as usual,’ ki Shah Rukh toh achcha hi karta hai.

Is peace of mind or lack of privacy a price you pay for being where you are?

No, no. I am a very reclusive and shy person actually. People think I’m arrogant or unsocial, it’s not that. I just want to be on my own. I like not having to talk on the phone. And when I have to be in public, it’s a job that I have to do for Shah Rukh Khan the star. Like when I’m with my wife and kids, they also know it. The trouble is there. But it is no longer an issue. I kiss them, and they go for a five-minute walk with me. I know they also arrange things when they know privacy is an issue. So we have accepted it and moved on with it.

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Have you ever reveled in your own work?

Not at all. Why, I don’t even watch my work. I need to shed the skin of my character. I’m a ‘been there done that’ person. Now I want to be someone else. People ask if there is a part of me in my characters. Of course there is, but it’s not something I hold on to dearly. So yes, every role I do, I leave that person behind, and a part of me in that and
move on to the next role.

With online media playing such a huge role in people’s lives now, how much does that negatively impact you and your family life? Being constantly under scrutiny…

People anyway say what they want to say, and however and whenever they want to say it. So you have to take it like
that. All you need to do is behave as if you didn’t hear it and move on. I don’t think everyone has an opinion. Today, they just have a platform to put it out on. Am not very active on social media. I tweet when I want to, and personally, don’t look at the phone so much. Am not one for coming out posing, eating food photos, I find that awkward.

Anyway as a public figure, I am looking for time off. How can I be talking about my time off in time off, I find that strange. If you are doing that, then you are fooling yourself. For us, it’s a bit different. As for the kids, they will figure it out because they are born into this, they will manage.

In an interview online you had said, if Zero did not work, you may not get any work. Was that a real fear translated?

No. It gave me some time to hang with my kids. There have been times when you need six months to gets things done and not had that. As long as it helps some of these issues, it’s nice. If a film doesn’t work, then I will have to sit back and think, because when you do different films, the plus is that it is exciting, it’s brilliant. It’s also arre yaar, why did I spend so much? I don’t have any pressure of what people expect from me or what a magazine or site would think of me. So if one film didn’t work, I do something else. At the end of it, it is your conviction that brings you
back to it.

When you have been called one of the most successful actors across the world, what kind of pressure is on you? You said you don’t have the freedom to fail, nor the ability to surprise now.

I don’t have any pressure of what people expect from me or what a magazine or site would think of me. It’s an outside point of view. Everything that is said about me is what they think when they see me on a screen, on TV, or in a public space. What would be wonderful is if they knew me personally and meant all that good and bad. But when they say I am like this and like that, I am not like that in my personal life, so why should I believe that? And not everyone can get to know you, so you will be called wild or boring based on that.

How much do you value friendships?

My friends are old friends from childhood that I don’t meet too often. On my birthday, Gauri called them and they came at 11 pm and went and slept in my room. When I asked them, ‘Tu kab aaya’ they had not come to that party to hang with me, just to enjoy that they are my friends. I don’t have to hang out with them, you don’t need to prove that much by hanging out. Friendship is something that should take the natural course of time, it should depend on rationale. Which is what friendship should be like, you are here, I am there. Mile ya nahin mile, kuch hua ya nahin hua, khuda na khasta there is a bad time, I will see your sms and I will be there. Beyond that, there is no aspect of friendship.

My daughter Suhana wants to act, maybe not in films. Aryan has a long way to go, three to four years of college to finish. He’s not interested in the movies in any case. I need to know I am friends with my children.