SRK: THE PROLOGUEby Khalid Mohamed July 8 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins, 50 secs
Khalid Mohamed spools back to an interview with Shah Rukh Khan on his opening phase of attaining superstardom.
He had already commanded the attention of the nation, especially with the TV serials Fauji and Circus, besides featuring in the unconventional films Pradeep Krishen’s In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones and Mani Kaul’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.
The Delhi boy’s hopover to Bombay was predestined. And with his debut B-town film Deewana, he arrived on the scene to stay forever. The reigning superstar, then, Amitabh Bachchan had to face serious competition in the popularity sweepstakes and I suspect, was taken rather aback. Shah Rukh Khan’s initial success story is evident to all those who saw him rise swiftly to perhaps the most adored and yes, also the most business savvy of the A-lister actors, which he still is at the age of 56.
The SRK I knew was and must still be dagger-sharp-witted, well-read, and hyper-energetic despite some physical injuries sustained on the sets. I haven’t met him for years. No matter. All I can say with conviction is that the boy who startled the Bollywood system -opposed to an ‘outsider’ and not quite used to an actor who’d incorporate surprise elements in his performances, was a rarity.
That’s why today I’m returning to one of his those-were-the-days interviews conducted by me (sourced thanks to memorabilia collector Ranjit Gupta), so many monsoons ago, circa 1996. Over to Shah Rukh Khan speak then:
On Unusual Roles
I began my film career, after doing TV serials, with unusual roles, which then became usual. It was after Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam that I finally became the romantic hero with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and a bit of an action hero, too, with Karan Arjun. With Raam Jaane and Chaahat, I even did the sort of roles, which were associated with Anil Kapoor. So see, with your permission, I can call myself an all-rounder.
To be honest, I do feel pressured by the demands of stardom. I have to get into cliched situations and dialogue, because the financial stakes involved in filmmaking are so high. I can play any part, even turn into a child because everyone still treats me like a kid. I’m a spoiled brat who smokes too much, talks too much. But whenever I become introspective, I can be quite mature. I remind myself that I’m an adult.
They’re a law of nature. I would have liked a 100 percent success track record but that’s like asking for the moon, isn’t it? Setbacks happen to me because I’m a good guy. I have never given grief to anyone knowingly. I don’t interfere, I don’t behave bossily, whether at work or at home. I don’t know if it’s the correct thing to do but I don’t even look after the house. It runs on its own. I have a wonderful wife, beautiful children, food in the fridge and quite a few award trophies in my living room.
On Being Restless
I’m always hyper. I can’t ever sit still. But once in a while, I can delude myself into believing that I’m chilled out, I lie down on the sofa lifting my hand up only for a cola. I can even make myself believe I’m dead. I’ve tried many times but I can’t nap in the afternoons. Even at nights, I psyche myself to doze off for three to four hours. In fact, Mahesh Bhatt once told me I suffer from workaholism. That’s okay by me. When I’m not in front of the camera, I read a book, repair the roof, tinker with the air conditioner or the doorbell.
I can never feel low or worry myself sick. Life is too short, I’ve only just begun. I feel as if I’ve just come out of kindergarten and entered the first standard of school.
On Being Contaminated by the Ways of the Film Industry
Excuse me? Do you think I’ve been contaminated? What a word! As if I’m some stale food product. No one has ever told me that I have changed. Maybe no one has said a word against me because I haven’t given a string of colossal flops yet. The day I do, then I’ll be accused that I’ve become too big for my boots. When that happens I’ll deal with it. Right now, I see myself as an easy rider.
On the Project with Dilip Kumar
I’ll never ever give up hoping that I will act with him some day. Ramesh Sippy has planned such a project but we’ll have to wait till Dilip saab completes his pending commitments and greenlights the script. So in the meanwhile, Ramesh Sippy said, “Let’s do a quickie”, Zamaana Deewaana with Raveena Tandon and me.
Whenever I’ve met Dilip saab, he’s been nice and sweet. He slaps me on my cheek. Saab doesn’t know it but his slaps are quite hard.
By the way, I’m crazy about a scene in Shakti, in which Dilip saab doesn’t have heavy dialogue or anything. He just tosses off an ordinary line, “Aap kya kar rahen hain janab?” to give Amitabh the time to reach the room where he’s standing. Now, that’s acting.
What competition? No one’s competition for me.
On Aamir Khan
I’d really like to tell him, “Just go ahead for a year and freak out. Do everything you haven’t done before.” He’s very passionate and methodical about his work. Perhaps he could do even more if he let himself go, really go.
On Comparisons with Other Actors
At the outset of my career, I’d use pauses, silences, a halting style in delivering dialogue and bring about a certain intensity to the most ordinary of script situations. I can’t help it if that was compared with Dilip saab. Anyway, if that’s true at all, I think I did a terrific job. Seriously though, I don’t like comparisons with A, B, C or Z. Moreover such comparisons belittle the great actor who was beyond extraordinary, especially in Devdas, Gunga Jumna, Ram aur Shyam and Shakti.
However, if you ask me, my hero is Amitabh Bachchan. My generation grew up on his films. I can’t believe this is happening to me quite frequently. The crowds, which used to queue up for Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan are now queuing up for me. I’m proud of the fact that I became an actor. Perhaps one fine day some directors will say, “Okay, let’s do this scene the Shah Rukh Khan way.” Right now, whenever an actor has to do a scene full of anger and rage, it’s said, “Let’s do the scene the way Amitabh Bachchan did in Deewaar.”
On Performances Admired Recently
Aamir Khan in Dil Hai Ke Maata Nahin, Nana Patekar in Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and more than that in Krantiveer. And Kamal Haasan in Appu Raja. I saw him, I met him, I asked if I could touch him. I’ve borrowed the physical aspect of acting from Kamal Haasan. You know if I have to stumble or fall, I do it like him. And I can never forget the way he ran in Sadma. I used that in Darr, when I’m running and bang into a pole that was straight out of Sadma.
On Unpleasant Rumours
I react only to blatant lies. My wife, Gauri, is from an orthodox family. It’s enough that she married outside her faith. And I’m an actor to boot. That’s a deadly combination. We try to keep away from the buzzing grapevine. Gauri doesn’t even react to my films.
That said, frankly at times the gossip does get to her. She gets all shaken up. I, too, still have to reach a stage of indifference. One lawyer had even suggested that I go to London to file a case against a certain publication. I didn’t because it would have been a waste of time. Kuchh to log kahenge, as the song goes, and we’ve learnt to believe in that.
See once my sister (Shahnaz Lalla Rukh) was hospitalized, and all sorts of rumours circulated. We do come from a background, which is disturbed. But I still have faith in a world, which won’t make a mockery of others’ misfortunes. I keep pushing myself, hoping against hope that all will be well at the end of the day.
I don’t think I use acting as an outlet for what’s going on inside me. I just try not to think by engaging myself in work and more work. Yet I worry, I worry about my sister. She is five years older than me, she looks younger though. She’s the more sensitive one, she was the pampered one. Just when she had become very close to my mother, my mother passed away.
I had fractured my rib while shooting. I was rushed to the hospital, all taped up. Mum had died in the same hospital, we just don’t get along with hospitals. Shahnaz was very upset because I was injured. I came home at 3 a.m., she was still awake. After that she kept worrying, she didn’t sleep for three nights at a stretch. She wouldn’t take a sleeping tablet either. She’d hardly eat. She was dehydrated, her potassium level dropped drastically and she collapsed.
What made it more serious was that when she fell, she hit her head badly on the floor. A cat-scan had to be taken, thankfully all was okay. No harm done. Once her bio-chemical order returned to normal, she was discharged from hospital. Hopefully, she’ll join me in London at the end of the month.
On Disliking Any of His Performances
Yeah in Karan Arjun, I was totally lost. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I’m very apologetic about just being a hero. There I was dancing to Jaati Hoon Main and then I was snarling, “Maar daloonga saala tujhe..”
What does a hero have to do anyway? He only has to say, “O meri maa”, “Hey Kaalia”, look into the heroine’s eyes and mumble “Tumhari aankhen mujhe bahut madhosh kar deti hain.” Then it’s hup-one-two-three Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen, then dhishum phatak dhaad dhum - and the end. If it wasn’t for Rakesh Roshan and Salman Khan, I would have gone mad. They said they wanted the film to be a success, do it, believe in us. They were right. Karan Arjun was a huge hit.
Actors are afraid to act, of losing out on their hero image After all their heroic deeds in the movies have made them heroes. I did Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam to be different. But then after a point, they became formuliac too. I’ve had to live with K..k..Kiran and B..b..Baazigar. I’m reminded of that everyday on the streets and the studios. I have to move on. I can’t live with a role too long, in six months I’m fed up. When that happens, I make everyone’s life on the sets miserable. I try to make them hurry up and get the film over with.
On What is Acting
If I can’t act, I’d like to teach acting. I’d love to give advice. I’d love to become an Agony Uncle. See, I think from the heart, never use the head only. Maybe I will when my body can’t take the strain anymore. I’ll think twice, thrice, four times because that’s the way to please people. I’ll become manipulative and shrewd. Correction, I won’t be able to manipulate really, I’d mess up everything. Am I making sense? Your face seems to be saying no. Now, how can I make sense? I told you I never use my head.