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.
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.
Shelly Chopra Dhar: LGBT community is stereotyped in Bollywood; they are shown in a derogatory or comical manner – read full interview
In an exclusive conversation, Shelly Chopra Dhar opens up about taking a plunge into Bollywood post 50, her journey till now, her responsibilities as a filmmaker and the LGBT community’s portrayal in Indian cinema!
It was while her children were in middle school that Shelly Chopra Dhar enrolled herself in a film school. And in spite of being the sister of illustrious filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Shelly admits she’s a late entrant. But the 50-plus director of Sonam K Ahuja’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga believes that when it comes to dreams, they don’t come in bottles with an expiry date! Not only did the director make her dreams come true, but she proved to everyone that in achieving them, age is but a number. The debutante director talks to us about her journey into films.
Your brother, Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a well-established filmmaker. What took you such a long time to enter the film industry? Tell us about your journey…
Well, I’m settled in the US. My background is in computer software and I was working in the field for 15 years. Later, I took a break for the family and my priority changed. I had enjoyed computers because designing software was equally artistic. While on a break, I dabbled in ceramics. I learnt music, pottery and painting. I’m very excited about the arts, learning and doing new things. That’s part of who I am! Things that I don’t know or understand, attract me even more.
It was around then that Vidhu was working on Broken Horses in LA. He wanted me to help him with administrative work on the film, which I really enjoyed. While doing the behind-the-scenes, I fell in love with the process of film-making. And when my kids went to middle school, I enrolled myself in a film school. I was the oldest student there. I feel that there are priorities in life that change with every phase. So let’s just say I have enjoyed every phase, including this one as a filmmaker.
So, when did your film take shape?
I started with assisting on Ferrari Ki Sawaari, then 3 Idiots, and Broken Horses. After that I started working on my own scripts.
Your film’s lead protagonist played by Sonam K Ahuja is a gay character. Wasn’t that a risk for a debutante? Especially considering a mainstream ‘love story’ film has never had a lesbian protagonist?
Yes, and it was the reason that the subject was considered a risk. But it got me thinking and believing even more that this story needed to be told.
Your first film has earned mixed reviews. Do you think the audience connected with it?
Yes. And it feels amazing when your story telling gets validated by the audience. You feel like you have achieved what you set out to do. When the audience actually understands your story in the way you planned for them, it is fantastic.
What do you have to say about the LGBT community’s representation in Bollywood?
The subject is very close to my heart. I’m nobody to speak about anyone’s work. But the LGBT community has not been represented well in our film industry. Pathos and compassion towards them in commercial cinema is lacking. I’ve always felt the portrayal of the community has not been showcased in the right spirit. It has either been shown in a derogatory fashion or in a comical manner. Both are harmful. When people go to watch these films, they come out feeling that it’s okay to laugh at them. Or they expect them to behave in a certain way!
Our films stereotype them. On the other hand, the films that do portray them sensibly and sensitively belong to parallel cinema, that has a limited reach. So, my only idea was to make film that was entertaining and not preachy. And without putting anybody down, I wanted to present them in a light that they deserve to be shown, with respect and dignity.
Your film was shot before the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality, right?
Yes, and I wish they had done it way earlier. From the film’s point of view, yes, I would have made it a little differently.
Women filmmakers are expected to make films that are socially-driven or socially conscious. Do you endorse that thinking?
The term filmmaker or director is a gender-neutral term. And women or men, filmmakers should be spoken about for their films and craft. Having said that, I would take what you are saying as a compliment. We, as women, are more attuned to sensitive issues. But I feel that every filmmaker, irrespective of gender, is in a position of a great responsibility. As filmmakers, we must remember that whatever we show to people, there will be a take-away for the audience.
Even if 10 per cent of the audience is taking away something from the film, it has to be something positive. It better be good. As it is, there are enough issues in the world. And the last thing you want to do through your film is to further negativity. So I better do something that will help, if not say or do anything detrimental to society. And this, I do not know, if it comes from being a woman or a responsible filmmaker.
What about commercial aspects?
Who says that a film with a message can’t be an entertainer and work at the box office?
What are you working on next? And will you be juggling between the US and Mumbai? Or are you shifting base here?
As of now, I haven’t locked a script. But we are already working on it. All I can confirm is that my next will be entertaining too. And if there is a nice little message that you can take home, that’ll be better. I will be down from the US to make my next. For now, my family is there.
What would be your advice to women?
Never be intimidated by age or what people or society will say. If you have belief in something, do it. And when you do something truthfully from your heart, you can never go wrong.
Singer Kamakshi Rai readying herself for an acting debut in Bollywood?
In an exclusive interview, singer Kamakshi Rai talks about her struggle with record labels, debuting as a Bollywood singer, acting in plays, her big screen debut and much more
Kamakshi Rai shot to fame with the singing reality show The Stage in which she was the runner-up. Apart from being a singer-songwriter, she’s also an actor and a dancer and has played lead roles in big musical productions like Balle Balle and Sing India Sing. And now she is finally making her singing debut in Bollywood with Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. As she gears up to storm the industry with her beautiful voice, we talk to Kamakshi about her journey so far and her aspirations
How did life change post The Stage (Season 1)?
It was my first brush with cameras, reality TV and the industry. I was quite naive, but fortunately, we were in good hands and it was a productive environment, where inspite of the regular insecurities and competition, everyone worked well together. Finishing the show as a top 3 finalist gave me a lot of studio work and live gigs, so I could quit my job of managing a recording studio for someone else.
What’s your take on the emotional stories of the participants we see on most reality TV shows? Did it happen while you were on The Stage?
Luckily, none of that forced masala-making happened during season 1 of The Stage. They built on real-life events and experiences we’d had. However, I have met people from different shows who’ve point-blank been asked for sob stories at the audition level itself. It’s unfortunate because talent speaks louder than anything else in my book. While tough experiences do give you depth, the lack thereof doesn’t mean that your voice is any less expressive. It’s the responsibility of the trade to keep the game clean.
Who are you excited about working within Bollywood?
I listened to a huge amount of AR Rahman and used to sing songs from Roja and Rangeela as a kid. I loved the voices of Hariharan and Kavita Krishnamurthy. I’m also a big Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Vishal-Shekhar fan. Vishal Dadlani’s versatility as a vocalist is something I aspire for! It would be the most incredible thing to sing for Karan Johar, in any of his films. I’d be over the moon. I’d also love to sing for Sara Ali Khan. She’s got a unique vocal texture that I feel my voice would suit very well, and I’m a fan of her work.
Who do you admire in the international music circuit currently?
I listen to a lot of John Mayer, Kaleo, and The Weeknd. Although I have to admit, I start my day with the classics – Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, and Fitzgerald.
You have sung two songs in Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. How did it happen?
I sing for a lot of TV commercials – you would have heard me as the voice of Tanishq, Raymond, Oppo, Engage, and many more. That’s how I met Karan Kulkarni. We worked on some commercials together and he really liked my voice. He’s not just a fantastic composer/director but also a really nice human being. So even if he called me to sing the alphabet, I’d gladly oblige!
I was initially supposed to sing only one song for the film, titled Tere Liye – a Hindi duet with Vishal Mishra. However, when Bala Sir met and heard me in the studio, he said he wanted my voice for another part of the film as well… It was supposed to be a small part of the background score, which grew and ended up being a full-fledged English jazz number called Dreamtime which is now on the album. Needless to say, I’m psyched!
How was the experience working with Karan Kulkarni and director Vasan Bala?
Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with on my Bollywood playback debut. Karan is a gem, and astoundingly great with melody. Vasan Sir literally walked me through the song and described exactly what he needed and it made me put my heart and soul into the track. Even Abhimanyu Dassani was there for the recording of my first song, and his friendly demeanour put me right at ease.
Have you faced any resistance coming up in the industry?
This line of work comes with a side helping of uncertainty and a dash of instability. I’ve had bad experiences with record labels, and with people, who constantly want you to work for free, knowing that you’re struggling and this is your bread and butter. But I feel there is a shift in the industry. I think the people in it are trying to make it a better, more fulfilling place for everyone involved. And we all need to do our bit to make it a healthy environment. There’s very little job security in film or music – you may have an epic project today and no work tomorrow.
What would be your advice for young talent aspiring to make a mark for themselves?
Find your calling, and be obsessed. No matter how low you think the chances are of ‘making it’, all you need to do is be convinced you can, despite what anyone else says. The two things that I personally think matter the most apart from your natural talent are discipline and an insane work ethic.
Sanya Malhotra: I don’t want a hero to come save me, I’m not a damsel-in-distress – read exclusive interview
In an exclusive chat, Photograph actress Sanya Malhotra talks about the real Sanya, her films, working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Ritesh Batra, Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Basu and much more.
Sanya Malhotra’s dream debut in Bollywood was the Rs 500 plus crore blockbuster, Dangal (2016). It was followed by last year’s sleeper hit Badhaai Ho (2018). She also did Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha, in between. And though it did not crunch in heavy numbers, it did propel her graph as an actor. Clearly proving that Dangal was no flash-in-the-pan, and that she’s an actor to watch out for! And as her next, Photograph releases, Sanya beams with the confidence of an actress who knows her worth, and is yet unperturbed by box office figures. “I don’t know about numbers, but I’m having a dream run,” she tells us as she settles down for a quick chat.
You entered the elite Rs 500 crore club with your debut itself. Has that dulled the sheen of the number game or increased the pressure to perform at the box office?
Neither. I am just living this dream. Am happy with the kind of films I’m getting to do and the kind of actors and directors I’m getting to work with. I’m in a good space, enjoying my life, getting to grow and better myself as an actor. Am fortunate to get the kind of projects coming my way.
So, what is success to you if not numbers?
I don’t know whether I’m successful or not when it comes to numbers. But I would call myself successful because I’m getting to choose and do the kind of projects that I have wanted to. If I’m happy with the kind of work I’m doing, that’s success to me.
You are redefining conventional in Bollywood with your looks, as well as your choices of roles on screen!
I can’t say if I’m conventional or not. But I feel there is overall a change in the kind of cinema that’s being made and accepted. Those typical characters we saw in films used to be unbelievable. And as an actor, I thought this is not how I want to be! I don’t want a hero to come and save me. I’m not a damsel-in-distress. Thankfully, now, filmmakers are creating strong roles for women, not as an exception, but as a rule. So, it’s easier to make those choices for me as an actor too. Women are not being put on pedestals, they are flawed and being accepted with that. I’m happy doing roles that inspire or that people can relate to.
Do you think it’s a good time to be an actress?
Oh, absolutely! Today, many filmmakers are making films with strong women characters. They are more real and relatable. They feel like the women we come across in life. These characters are inspiring. The audience is also changing, largely due to the exposure to OTT platforms today. In life, they see women across strata claiming a space and finding acceptance as they are. These changes naturally permeate down to Bollywood too, where people want to see real women. I’m glad people are not just writing such characters, but they are being appreciated by the audiences too.
As part of one of 2018’s most profitable films Badhaai Ho, what was your take-away from the film?
When your choices as an actor get validated by the audience, it’s always a happy feeling. I was equally elated being part of Pataakha, even though the film wasn’t a box office hit, because of the love and respect my character earned me. The outcome is not always measured monetarily, although that too is great and always welcome.
From Nitesh Tiwari to Vishal Bhardwaj, and Ritesh Batra to Anurag Basu, you are working with the best directors.
I’m my own worst critic, so I can’t say if my acting or performance has anything to do with it (laughs). I guess, I’m lucky to be able to work with some of the best names in the industry so early on in my career. I can only hope that it continues.
Dangal, Pataakha and Badhaai Ho saw you play quite unhinged characters – bordering on the fierce. Whereas in Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, you’re playing a coy girl. Which is the real Sanya?
Extremely similar to my character Milonee from Photograph. Yes, people get surprised, but that’s a fact. I am very much like this character. She’s reticent, lives in her own world. Milonee is keenly observant, intelligent, and very calm and quiet. I’m a lot like her. But the world she comes from and the world I come from are completely different. And the challenge was to know her world.
Photograph recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. Hollywood Reporter listed you in the ‘5 Breakout Talents to Watch,’ how did you feel?
I didn’t realise how big an achievement it was until I saw it being written about so much.
Wasn’t Photograph supposed to be your second film, right after Dangal?
Yes, I had signed and shot for Photograph immediately after Dangal. It was a completely different character for me to play after Dangal, the other end of the spectrum. Not a lot of actors get this opportunity.
How was the experience of working with Ritesh Batra and Nawazuddin Siddiqui?
I learnt something new throughout my journey on this film. Ritesh helped me understand Milonee’s world. Nawazuddin and Geetanjali Kulkarni were so amazing to watch and assimilate from as co-stars. I learnt so much about acting and prepping for a character from them. In spite of being the new one, I didn’t feel pressure from the team. I knew I was working with a great director and I knew I didn’t want to mess this role. This was a perfect film for me and I was lucky to get it.
What’s next for you?
Post Photograph’s release, I’m working on Anurag Basu’s film with Aditya Roy Kapoor. Again, a completely different experience altogether.
As an actor, what’s the strength that comes from being a woman?
Being a woman, I think, we are more emotional, so knowingly or unknowingly, I get attached to the character. I don’t know if I can project that deep attachment on-screen or not, or if the audience can grasp my connection to the emotional aspect of it. For men, it’s easier to approach it practically. After shooting for Photograph, it took me a lot of time to disassociate from Milonee and be me again.
What’s the best thing about being an actor?
It’s fun to be a different person for those 45-50 days when you are shooting.
Tell us three things that people don’t know about you.
I’m an introvert and a home-body. Not the bubbly, chirpy person people think I am. I like being at home doing nothing (laughs). And I love dancing. My Instagram followers know about my love for it. At one point, a long time
ago, I wanted to be a ballet dancer.
What is it you miss as an actor – the flipside of stardom?
I miss shopping at Sarojini Market in Delhi (laughs).
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- Latest2 months ago
Exclusive! Akshay Kumar to kickstart Hera Pheri 3 in November; hunt for A-list actress continues
- Latest2 months ago
Sunny Leone and hubby Daniel Webber take up the handcuff challenge and it is damn cute- watch video
- Celeb Columns2 months ago
Without make-up – Read Mahesh Bhatt’s take on the fall of celebrities