I Act All The Time
Sejal Parikh and Kavita Khanna in Washington DC
The man with the million-dollar face standing outside the dressing room had a mask on. Sure, he smiled obligingly and stood stiffly by a child as the dad pushed his son closer and told the young one, "Say cheese!" But the smile never reached his eyes.
White shirt, blue faded jeans, broad black belt... sitting on a metal folding chair, puffing non-stop as he spoke to us, we watched in satisfaction as the mask slipped slowly away and revealed an extremely sensitive and surprisingly shy celebrity. He was on a concert tour of the US when we caught up with him recently.
Shah Rukh Khan -- we caught up with him outside his makeup room at the George Mason University's Patriot Center where he was to perform in a much-publicised Bollywood concert. For over an hour, he spoke to us candidly about his professional and personal life, even giving us his opinions about the Clinton-Lewinsky issue.
About the concert tour
(Smiles)...I'm not nervous -- never get nervous. I am enjoying the tour -- it's nice to see so many people... So many Indians, people from the subcontinent. I used to do a lot of theatre -- go on stage and such, so it's not a new experience. Just the old cliché of being one-on-one -- you can directly relate to people.
We are supposed to perform in 17 cities. After this DC show, we have five left... My wife and kid are staying in New York -- I go there every Monday to spend the week with them, so I don't really get homesick... Being on a tour like this is a holiday for me because we... I... work much harder in India.
About the other performers on the concert -- Juhi Chawla, Kajol, and Akshaye Kumar...
This group is much closer to me (as compared to his previous tours) because I am very close to Kajol and Juhi. It's like one family, in a way. Even Akshaye -- I've known him for quite a long time.
It's a nice feeling when, sometimes, when you are in a hotel, you can just be with each other... (pauses to light his second cigarette and continues, laughing). I mean I hardly get time to do that really! But it's just a little more comfortable -- everybody helps everybody.
About the Bill Clinton sex scandal
I don't follow politics, I just read about it. I think it's a little sad. Bill Clinton -- he's the president. He's doing his job. You don't have to call his wife a dyke! What they do is their personal life -- it's their personal life completely. Tell me how many guys and girls have not had affairs. And how many of us are impeached for that?
If somebody comes up to you and asks you today "Are you having an affair?" while you are married or going with somebody, I think it will be a very foolish person who will say "Uh... yeah!" He's (Clinton's) not the first person on the face of this earth who has lied under oath. Let's be very honest. I find it very funny that anybody's going to stand there and take an oath like "Mein jo kuch kahoonga sach kahoonga " and actually being honest about it! I mean, people swear on their children and say I'm not having an affair. The whole situation of law -- where an oath is taken and complete honesty is expected from the person.. In a way it's dishonest to expect that. You are fooling yourself.
As for Bill, just let the guy be. I think he should say that "Okay, I did it. So f*** it. Go lead you own life. I'll lead mine. What I do before or after my job is none of your business!"
About maintaining his privacy
You know, when you are in a position which is in the public eye, it's publicly controlled in a way. I have been through circumstances where the most harmless thing -- like having dinner with a girl -- has people thinking I am having an affair. From a small thing like that, to a major thing like that woman who said she was my mother and fought a case with me.
Now that lady was not my mother, and I was really nice to her before she put the case on me and all -- I had met her outside my house -- and I try and help people if they ask for money and stuff... After everything was finished, people used to say "Arre yaar - bechaari... You had the money to fight the case!" What bechaari? I am not the one who started this court case!
(Continues after a pause) Honestly speaking, I think some of the most normal people are people who are in the public eye. (He pointing to us) You don't have to bother about small things like what you wear, what you do, where you sneeze! You know, like last night -- I was having dinner after the show -- and there must have been at least 1,500 people watching me eat! They were taking photographs when I had food in my mouth. (Deep breath here) Everything becomes so controlled by the public.
I don't speak to reporters often. It's not nice for people to get into your bedrooms. I'm not saying it's an occupational hazard but that it's just not fair.
About his fans
It's funny. If I come down for a shoot, and when people find out I'm there, they come nicely, meet me and go away -- but here the hysteria develops because there's a show... The hype that gets created... People behave differently when they see me. They think they have to pull hair and scream and shout when they see the stars.
I feel teenagers have started liking me only since the last one to one-and-half years... But older people and little kids -- they always did. When we used to do theatre, (we learnt) if you can hold the attention of children when you are acting, you know you are doing a good job.
About being a role model
I don't really think I'm a role model. If somebody is going to follow what I do in real life, I'm not really so nice. (Laughs and continues) I am very unhealthy in terms of my habits. I don't sleep, I smoke. I don't drink water. And I don't work out. I'm not really someone a young guy should follow, if you ask me.
In films also, I'm not very nice in a lot of them.
(Continues after a brief pause) I think being a role model and passing value judgements on people should not be done. It may happen, I agree... But I don't take responsibility for any of the bad or good I might do. If I did a film which I thought was not good enough for a kid to see, I should be a strong enough parent to stop him or her from seeing it.
When people come and tell me ki this film was really gruesome, or very violent, I say, "I'm not telling you to see it, I'm not telling your kids to see it!" I'm doing my job. And I think goodness is boring -- in terms of a character.
If you don't like it (he's discussing films again), don't see it. Love me or leave me. I think finding role models is about finding an excuse. Like blaming it on god. Or pointing fingers and saying, "Well, he did it!"
About his upcoming films
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai with Kajol should be out on October 16. (Thinks a moment) Then there's a Mansoor Khan film with Aishwarya and Chandrachur -- Josh. Then there's Badshah and an untitled film with Shashilal Nair. These are the ones that are nearly complete now. They should be out in the next three months or so.
We're making a film with Juhi -- it's by the guy who made Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. It's called Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. After that I have a film with the guy who made Dilwaale (...Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge). We haven't decided on the girl for the film yet -- we'll decide in December, I guess.
About his career path
I don't know why other people act, but to me at least, it doesn't even seem like a job. It is very satisfying. I act all the time. I have a lot of fun doing what I'm doing. I don't see myself doing anything else with so much of passion. The logic is that as long as I keep people entertained, I will continue.
When that stops happening, we will see. It's not in my hands to plan it out. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't. I don't set goals for myself -- just take it as it comes. Money has never been a consideration. I mean, how much money does one need?
...I like working with Anupam (Kher) and Johnny Lever... I like the comic timing we share sometimes... (Laughs) I want to win a supporting actor award next, actually. Josh might be it -- because I'm playing a couple of cameos in that...(Pauses) I am going through a phase where I am a little bored with what I do.
(Shrugs and smiles) I'm not young anymore and I've started feeling strange about the kind of stuff I do... So I just want to start changing it a little... Next one year I'll do interesting cameos, rather than playing the hero. My normal films -- say a film like Duplicate, or Dil Se ... They are very heavily dependent in what I do. Badshah will be like that.... I would like to do more films like..umm... say Kuch Kuch... that are based more on the heroine than me. Even in Dil To Paagal Hai I feel like I was lending support more than being the driver of the film.
Some personal glimpses
On proposing to his wife, Gauri: (Thinks) I don't really quite remember actually. We had known each other for like eight years. So it was sort of understood that we'd marry. Umm... I just remember telling her I love you. I didn't even date her like you normally do -- she's the only girl I've ever really known. To be quite honest. I remember I just dropped her to her house and just told her (that he wanted to marry her). (Laughs) Didn't wait for her response -- just drove off.
The birth of his son, Aryan: I've lost my parents in hospitals -- so I don't like being in hospitals. And Gauri is quite fragile -- and I've never seen her fall really sick, or seen her unwell. When I saw her in the hospital, they had put in tubes and stuff. And she was becoming delirious and she was really cold. I went with her to the operation theatre for her Caesarean... And (takes a deep breath) I thought she'd die. Didn't even think about the kid at that point in time. It wasn't important to me. She was shivering so much and I know logically that you don't die while giving birth to babies... But still... (Lost in thought)... I just got a little scared.
About son Aryan: We just named him Aryan. I don't know. I just liked the sound of the name. I thought when he tells a girl ki my name is Aryan. Aryan Khan, she'll be really impressed. His looks have come from both of us. Actually Gauri and I have similar features -- both of us have big eyes and thick lips. I don't know... He's got expressions like mine, I think... But he's a mixture. And no, I haven't changed any diapers! (Laughs)
Trivia and tidbits
"I don't like travelling, and I don't like sightseeing. And I've never taken a holiday."
Apart from Bombay and Delhi, if there's any place I like, it is London and Mauritius. (Smiles apologetically) I get overawed by America. New York is still okay. I like Manhattan. London makes me feel like I am still in India. There are so many Indians there. They are a little more formal, and I like that.
I'm very shy and can't travel alone. Even if someone comes up to me and says "Hi! How are you?" I get a little nervous. (Laughs sheepishly) I can't check into an airplane!
I think Hindi films will become quite international in another 10 or so years - without having to change their format or the language. You see the Woody Allen film --Everybody Says I Love You -- theWedding Singer. I think 20, 25 years ago, musicals left English films. But now they are coming back. Then Mask of Zorro or the Titanic -- they are totally like Hindi films. If you take them tongue-in-cheek, Hindi films aren't bad.
If I had one wish to make, what would I ask for?? Nothing. It would be too greedy and ungrateful of me to ask for anything more from god.
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