Shahrukh's Views on Dil Se and More...

Speaking vividly about Dil Se... Shah Rukh Khan describes it as a well-balanced movie, shot in 70 days. On locations from Ladakh to Delhi, to Chennai to Ooty to Kerala, scenes were even shot on the China border. Most of the filming was done in real places like a real radio station, a real police station, real forts etc. Even the mobs were real. In the action scenes the fights were composed realistically as a common man would fight when attacked. The escapist elements are the songs and dances that have been picturised unusually against unusual backdrops and unusual settings, says the actor who counts Dil Se... as a hallmark film. He describes Mani Ratnam as a precisely focussed director whose style permits his artistes to be themselves. He had three scripts - one in Hindi, one in English and one in Tamil. During the preparation for shooting Mani would read the English script while Shah Rukh read the Hindi version. And then Mani would show him from the Tamil script how he wanted a line to be spoken — the key, the tone, the way he wanted the lines to be spoken.

For both Mani and Shah Rukh it was a challenging experience since Mani didn’t know Hindi and Shah Rukh didn’t know Tamil and the communication link was English which was phonetically alien. Even the two Indian languages had their phonetic differences but the wavelength between the director and the actor was in tune. Fortunately.

Shah Rukh qualifies the film as a ‘spoken’ film which is distinct from a ‘dialogue’ film. To illustrate the distinction he cites ‘Krantiveer’ where the revolutionary character’s patriotism is conveyed through dramatic dialogue delivery and melodramatic moments of high pitch emotions. In ‘Dil Se...’ the viewer, he warns, may find the conventional melodrama missing. Instead he will find the lines being spoken as a common man would speak when confronted by dilemmas and questions that probe his beliefs and ideals related to sensitive national issues. Shah Rukh elaborates the point by saying that Mani always gave him his lines and asked him to speak the lines as the character of the AIR journalist that Shah Rukh plays would and initially it left Shah Rukh wondering how effective it would turn out on the screen. His fears were belied when he saw the rushes on the screen because his performance and the scenes had been enhanced multi dimensionally by the director’s takings, camera movements and background score.“When I saw myself after giving a good or bad shot it was always better than what I had done. And it was accomplished by editing, by talking, by lighting, by ever so many touches. He is what I would call a complete director,” says Shah Rukh.

Shah Rukh sums up the film as the love story of a common man in an uncommon situation. He says it starts as a love story and somewhere down the line the format shifts to a thriller, an accomplishment only Mani Ratnam is capable of, he says. “The takings become thrilling, scary, gloomy and really you hold your breath sometimes. It is a commendable experiment and a difficult one, let me tell you,” says the actor.

How aware are you of your stardom?

When we are in films we enjoy a certain measure of popularity. Some of us get more and some of us get less of the popularity that comes with our national exposure through this very potent medium.

For me the awareness of my stardom has come through various interesting experiences. For instance some time ago I was at the ABCL office where I had a meeting with Amitji. After the meeting, we came down and there was a crowd at the gate because people had recognised my car and they knew I was in there and they knew Amitji was also there.

I saw him to his car and his car went past the gate, the crowd parted for him and I watched his car turn and head for his residence. Then I got into my car and now the crowd didn’t part. They yelled and banged on my car, shouting Shah Rukh bhai, Shah Rukh bhai.

You know the kind of respect that I have for Amitji and Dilip saab and Shammi Kapoor and other senior actors hasn’t come to me yet. I am at the nascent stage, the effervescent stage. The awe that Dilip saab commands or the way Amitji is looked up to by younger stars is many years away and perhaps it may never even happen.

But there is a sense of satisfaction when I meet a family where the girls are fans of Aamir and Salman and the grandmother likes me and she insists that the family takes her to the cinema to see my films. This is something new and interesting for me, because at one time the kids were clamouring for me and now the kids and the parents and the grandma are interested in seeing my films. So often when I am at locations, girls come up to me and say, you know we are fans of Salman but we’d like to take your autograph for our parents. I say, sure.

It was very touching when a very old lady in a wheel chair was brought to me and she held my hands affectionately. She cannot go to a cinema hall but she watches films on television and she likes me.

I know for a fact that I have not reached the awesome stage and I may not reach it also. Yes I have certainly reached a level of stardom.

Is this popularity due to the success of your films or the appeal of your performances?

I have always liked to consider myself a performer who has done his best. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work. Sometimes when I have worked hard in a film and that film hasn’t run, I get the feeling that I can never be hundred per cent responsible for a film’s run. Likewise when a film has had a great run, I would take pride in the fact that I happened to be in a film that has been liked by people, but I am certainly not responsible entirely for the film’s success. Without being modest I’d like to say that no film runs because I am in it and no film flops because of me.

If a film is successful the nicest thing would be that I am in the film and I’ve worked hard and done a sincere job. The humbling thought is that no film runs because of me alone and no film flops because of me. I am just content with the feeling that I have done a good job as an actor and I wouldn’t go to that extent of modesty to say that if someone else was in the film he’d have done as good a job.

I don’t think I can pull a film with my performance. That can be done only by Dilip Kumar or Amitji and may be Aamir. They have the calibre.

I am very sure that the power of my performance cannot pull a film through. I feel happy if I’ve given a good performance in a good film and there are times, too, when I’ve given a bad performance in a good film and a good performance in a bad film.

Yes, ultimately it is the film that gives us stardom.

Are you implying that as a star your responsibility is limited to giving your best to a film as a dependable actor?

There was a time in the first couple of years when I thought my job ended with dubbing. But now my thinking has changed, largely because of my stardom, I must say. Now the producers are paying me a lot of money. They are putting a lot of money into my films. The sets, the costumes, the raw stock, the location filmings, the music, everything is being lavishly executed. My producers are obviously feeling that if they have Shah Rukh Khan in the film it is worth spending that kind of money.

I tell my producers that my responsibility ends on Monday. It starts on Friday, goes on to Saturday, Sunday and Monday when the film begins to run on its own steam. Till then I make sure that people come to see the movie. I tell my producers if you want me to stand outside and sell tickets I’ll do it because you have spent a lot of money and I must do my bit by helping the film get its initials. I do whatever I can and must for the film’s publicity and promotion. But I tell my producers that my job ends on Monday.

So far your films have had good openings. What’s it that gets you the initial draw?

There is a certain expectation attached to me. I think the expectation is that a film with Shah Rukh Khan in it cannot be bad. At least it cannot be mediocre. It is just that expectation that draws people to the cinema in the initial week.

When I started out I said I’d like to be an ISI mark. Fortunately I’ve succeeded in maintaining that at least with some films. I’ve done some bad films, but in the ultimate analysis even my worst critics said, the film was not great, but Shah Rukh did a good job. That naturally sounded very good because the hard work I had put in had been noticed.

I believe that nobody goes to see my films because I am extraordinarily good looking or because my dimples are attractive. They go because they know that Shah Rukh Khan, the actor, cannot let his viewers down.

In recent times I’ve begun to take an interest in the other components of a film as well. Like what kind of music is going into the film or what is the choreography like and the camera work, etc. They must have a certain standard if I am in the film.

How do you ensure that?

The team that I choose to work with will be made up of specialists. Like Dil Se for instance. There is Gulzar writing the lyrics and Rahman creating the tunes. It is a brilliant combination. And there is Mani’s vision and power of knowing the unknown when he is visualising a film. There is Santosh handling the camera and you know he is a specialist.

I am not saying that I will always get this kind of a team or that I will always work in great films, but my endeavour will be to see that the best talents come together so that the end product has a certain high grade quality.

What about the risk of acquiring an image like Amitabh did in his super star days?

People had certain expectations about him. I think I am a little more fortunate in terms of timing though I don’t have a better range than Amitji had. People have accepted me in Baazigar and Dilwale. People have accepted me in Yes Boss and Darr. So I am a little more lucky. But I am not dejected when I am not accepted as say in Duplicate which was a zany film or if a typical film like Koyla is not accepted.

The question of acquiring a set image doesn’t arise when I have the option to choose different kind of films and filmmakers like Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai and Abbas-Mustan have the confidence to offer me different roles. For instance, in Pardes I was not the protagonist. Subhash Ghai didn’t hesitate to tell me that and he knew I would accept the role he had in mind for me.

As I grow older my mind set is bound to change and I will naturally look for roles to suit my thinking process. I have now begun to hate love stories and I will probably not do any love stories hereafter. I like comedy and so I will do a couple of comedies and I will state categorically that I have no desire to do an extremely radical film that most people would not want to see. My choice will always be confined to something different, within the framework of acceptability, by a large audience.

I do not want to be the one to carry the film. I am no longer interested in the Shah Rukh Khan in and as Baazigar kind of stuff. I’d like to be just a character in a film like I was in Dil To Pagal Hai. I’d rather be in a film, play a character part, may be, and then when the film does well and I am also good in the film, I will be complimented, too.

In fact Amitji gave me this advice that I should, after a point, stop doing the ‘in and as’ films because that is a trap. You are expected to carry the film and you acquire a larger than life image and you inevitably fall in a rut.

You feel that an image is not necessary for success.

I’ve been able to convince people over the seven years that I have been in films and over 100 films that I’ve done that I can do different roles. When I did negative roles everybody said how can you do them and when I did sweet films they said you should keep doing sweet films all the time.

What I am saying is that it is a subjective decision — whether you want to have an image or not and I personally feel it is not necessary in my career or personal life.

My personal image has changed from that of a loud mouth, arrogant, rebel with a cause to a fun loving, children loving, wife loving, family man to an outspoken, jolly good fellow. I don’t know what to say when people ask: Do you love your wife? I will naturally say yes. So everybody thinks I am a wonderful family man. That’s the image I’ve got.

I mean the acquiring of an image doesn’t happen consciously. I do whatever I feel like and say whatever I feel like most of the time. And I believe I have the freedom to do so. I feel it is important to be close to life and retain one’s sanity because in this profession it is easy to lose one’s head.

I have succeeded in staying level-headed by believing that whatever has happened in my career has happened because when I entered the line the time was just right for an actor like me and I got the right opportunities.

Do you feel that a star should use his star charisma to promote social causes? Would you do that?

I would support a cause not because I feel I have to but because the organisers feel that if I get involved it will make a difference. It is their belief not mine that gets me into it.

Somebody like Shabana Azmi does it because she believes in it. It is a different involvement altogether.

If somebody were to approach me saying that he or she will be able to raise ‘X’ amount by having me in a show I’d rather quietly contribute to that cause monetarily and not get into the hassle of rehearsing and performing at a show. In Islam we are taught to do charity and not talk about it or make a show of it. So I’d rather do my bit quietly.

And when I do something I don’t expect even blessings. I do it because it gives me happiness and the feeling that I am among the haves.

What is your view on stars becoming role models?

I don’t believe in becoming a role model for anybody. The media has portrayed me worse than I am when I am bad and better than what I am when I am good. So it is kind of dangerous to follow me as a role model. I will always tell those who wish to do so that they do so at their own risk.

I was told once that I shouldn’t smoke while giving interviews on television because children follow me. I asked parents at that time why did they let their children follow me. Why didn’t they encourage their children to follow them or one of their ideals?

What’s your answer to the allegation that stars today demand enormous amounts as wages and as a result the industry is in a financial mess?

It is hogwash. And the reason for this is oversimplification. If a film becomes a success it is attributed to a song. Nobody sees the other components that have gone into it. An actor has risked his life to do an action scene before a running train, the director had a bad phase before this film and has managed to get a good audience, a relatively new actress has done a good job. All this goes unnoticed.

The oversimplification happens with a flop as well. They will all say, we told you action films have no market now or some such crap when a film flops.

The financial status is also similarly oversimplified. The film industry is in a financial mess because stars are paid high prices.

At this point of time I am perhaps the highest paid actor. The price that I am taking is keeping in mind that the film is completed in six months, there is a table profit for the producer, there is an opening for the film, there is a certain standard attached to it and it is also proportionate to the other expenses and commensurate with the quality of work I put in.

When I endorse a product they pay me much much more. That is for a 30 second ad. When I work in a film it is for 2- 1/2 hour viewing time, 10-year-old negative and a market that is of much bigger volume. It is not that Pepsi has more money. The producer is also in big business involving much more money. The grossing of a film in 25 weeks can be 100 crores. Can Pepsi claim a 100 crore sales turnover in 25 weeks?

I can talk about myself. I don’t have a set price. Somebody came to me offering 5 crores for 20 days work. I didn’t take it because it was unreasonable. You can make two films with that money.

I have done films without taking anything and I have done a film for 25 lakhs also. You know my market standing just now. I have signed a film for a new producer for a price that is commensurate with his standing as a producer in comparison with the bigger producers whose films I have signed. That’s the way I work.

I tell some producers who can’t afford me not to sign me and some producers who can’t afford me and yet have something that truly interests me in their film can negotiate a price that is economical for them.

I will tell you why the industry is in a mess. There are producers who go to an actor knowing fully well that it will take 3 years to make a film with him and they make him sign the film touching his feet and begging him. When schedules are arranged there are producers who don’t know what the set designs are, whether costumes are ready. They throw parties, go on outdoor shootings pack up at 6 p.m. when the schedule is 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, frolic around, misbehave, buy offices, cars, flats etc and all this is not included in the cost of the film. They go on holidays to Switzerland and don’t put that in the cost of the film. Such producers are not worth considering.

I respect a producer who arranges money for a film and puts all of it into the film, gets the best technicians to work on the project, put all his efforts into the making of the film which will ultimately turn out good and to the benefit of the whole unit. If you put money and effort into the film you at least have the satisfaction that you didn’t cheat yourself or the other man.

I think people who are not serious about making films as a regular business should go. Especially those who think they can announce a film, get some money, buy a car and house and then make the film. They are the ones who create the financial crisis.

Recently there were four huge sets put up for films I was working in and I was running from one set to the other and people were writing madly about the financial crisis in the industry. Those who are seriously making films are committed to doing so while the others are sitting at home saying the underworld is coming to get them.

How was it working with Mani Ratnam?

It was an experience working with him. I would compare him with Yash Chopra or even Subhash Ghai who simply live to make films and want to do nothing else. Mani is extremely focussed. He has made a nice-looking, properly balanced film in 70 days. It is difficult if you go to see because he has made it in a language he doesn’t speak or fully understand.

I think we should feel proud that we have a filmmaker like Mani in our country.

It was a treat as an actor to work with him because he hadn’t seen any of my films.

He said he just saw the character in me. He promised he’d see my films after he completed Dil Se. I said he’d find out then how many scenes in those films had been lifted from elsewhere.

He sees to it that his artistes are themselves most of the time. I am grateful to him for teaching me the art of being myself while performing. His style is very different and in a subtle way he taps your potential. Someone like Manisha Koirala is brilliant under his direction because other directors don’t even know the potential that exists in her.


Other Articles:

Filmfare Awards 1998
Will Shahrukh strike back?
Shahrukh's views on DilSe and more
I act all the time
Shahrukh defends DilSe


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