A BMW DATE WITH SRK

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 7.03.09
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You promised to come to Calcutta in January. Was it the shoulder operation that got in the way?

Yes this (shows the sling)! If I am a little better I will come during the next camp (for KKR) which gets underway on March 16. I am not shooting so I can come. I can’t shoot. It pains all the time. It’s also a problem sleeping with this, yaar. A lot of things have happened to this shoulder.

How did you manage to hurt it in the first place?

I must have hurt it before, which I don’t remember. But it was not too major... just a little tear to the muscle. A muscle-muscle attachment is called a ligament and a muscle-bone attachment is called a tendon. So this ball and socket joint in the shoulder has three muscles. One to move the arm to the front, one to move it to the back and the third to move it to the side. The middle one, the one needed to move the arm to the side, has torn from the bone. I was shooting for this film called Dulha Mil Gaya... aaahhh... I did it for a few friends, Sushmita Sen was there. And there was just a couple of days of shooting. So I went and for the last couple of shots I had to jump over and my shoulder hit against the ground. I didn’t realise it then. In fact I shot My Name is Khan in the US with this shoulder, without realising. Then I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t sleep. I went to the doctor... luckily I had the world’s two best shoulder specialists in the US. Both saw it and said the shoulder muscle was completely torn. A few strands were left and I had to get it operated immediately. If those strands came off, the shoulder would never heal. So I came back and got operated on. What they did was take the muscle and put it back on the back and nailed it, in layman’s term. Two nails have gone into the bone. So they pain. The muscle pains. The shoulder pains. I can’t move it for eight weeks. If I move it, the muscle will move away from the bone again and I can’t do the whole thing again! So it requires a lot of careful rehab. The external stitches have just been taken off and I am allowed to travel a bit. But that’s about it.

Shah rukh khan with juhi chawla (left) and priyanka chopra during the shoot of knights & angels. Picture by gajanan dudhalkar

Are you disappointed with Ponting missing out on the IPL this season?

Ponting was only available for three matches. In fact he had a match a day after he landed, something John (Buchanan) never allows. Even Matthew (Mott) the field coach doesn’t like it. So Ponting sent us a request to be released this season. He said he would have been here if he had played all the 10 matches. Just to get used to the game here, he said, he would take two matches. “I will be doing more harm to the team than help it,” he wrote. He asked us very sweetly if it would be ok if he was excused this season. It was a very logical thing to do and just shows the good thinking on Ponting’s part. In the spirit of both the teams — Australia and Kolkata Knight Riders — it was the right thing to do to release him.

Where does that leave the KKR team in Season Two?

See, we have had sporadic camps... they have not been the best, but not the worst either. We have chosen some really good young players. The whole idea is to prepare the team for tomorrow. The August-September camp last year failed completely. Then we went to Australia, which was okay. The second camp sort of failed because we didn’t get all the people because of Ranji and other tournaments. We wondered whether we will ever get them together. But then the third camp turned out really well. We got these five-six young boys who are great. Some of them are even being considered prodigies. We have signed them on for the future. I have come to one realisation — trying to get a result overnight is not going to happen. You need to build a team. Basically in the last one year we have achieved 20 to 30 per cent of what we set out to achieve and that will tell in the championship.

What about the international players?

(Chris) Gayle will be here till May 3. He will play at least eight to nine matches. David Hussey is there... we hope he is not selected for the Aussie Test team. I know that’s a bad thing to say (laughs). Then there’s (Brendon) McCullum who will be there fully... We have seen the kind of form he is in right now. Ajantha (Mendis) is there throughout. Dada (Sourav Ganguly, of course) will get to practise from the 16th. You know, more than the game, in Twenty20, it is about the team spirit. John is very realistic about our chances. He says that we should aim to be in the last four and then see what happens.

Any regrets of buying the Calcutta team because you had the option of Rajasthan and Delhi...

You know what, I had this chat with Lalit (Modi) even before the IPL and I told him that two cities in the country represent sports to me and they are Calcutta and Goa. I don’t know whether it is because of the colonisation under the British and the Portuguese, but the sporty feel is there in these two places. From carrom to cricket. Like if I have to do films, I will do it in Mumbai. The facilities may be there in Calcutta but I would rather do it in Mumbai. These places just happen to represent certain aspects. Like if you want IT, go down south, man. You know when it comes to Calcutta, mujhe culture maloom hai, history maloom hai, Bengali zeal bhi maloom hai, par mujhe Calcutta sports hi lagta hai. I am very happy that the city has embraced me. I haven’t learnt the language yet. I have a problem with languages. That’s what I tell Mani (Ratnam) Sir... I can’t do Tamil yaar. But yes I have to learn the culture more. We now have a permanent office there. My wife’s relatives are there. Coming back to the team, inshallah we will reach there. Even Manchester United comes third. It’s a long-term plan. I want to do a stadium there. There are too many issues and sometimes I get tired but my two life ambitions are to build a world-class studio in Mumbai and a world-class stadium in Calcutta.

Shah Rukh reaches up to the ceiling of the car with his right hand to turn the ventilator on and starts smoking. The ventilator is overworked as he goes seamlessly from one cigarette to another. In no time the ashtray hole on the door of his car is filled to the brim. The car is the Smoking Khan’s hideout, as he is not allowed to light up in front of the kids — Aryan and Suhana — on the fifth and sixth floors of Mannat.

First 26/11 and now the attack on Lankan cricketers in Pakistan... Do you feel scared when you go out today?

No. I believe I am Allah’s good man. I am not affected by any of this. Like everybody worries about my shoulder injury. I have no iota of doubt in the goodness of life. I have no iota of doubt in the positivity of life. If you doubt it even for a bit, you are no longer positive. I also have no doubt that this hand will be all right in six months and I will be jumping and screaming again. I will go and hang from the 10th floor just to prove to myself that my hand is fit and also to prove to others and my kids. See, you can’t do much. You pray everyday. I have no issues about security. During Billu’s release, somebody came and threw something at my house. The commissioner of police came and asked me if I needed more security. I said I have enough. I have bullet-proof cars. If needed I can send one to Calcutta. But you know what, I have this strange feeling and I don’t know whether I should say this but I will never be attacked. I am too good a person and I give too much entertainment to everyone. Even the bad guy will say, ‘picture bhi toh dekhna hai uska’.

How did the My Name is Khan shoot go in the US?

We shot the second half. The first half is left. It’s come out well... main khud ke baare mein badhaa chadhaake nahin bolna chahta. I am playing an autistic person, so it’s very different for me. It’s not a very serious film. It’s a Forrest Gump kind of a film. You feel bad for this guy but there’s a lot of positivity in the film. Like a person who is not well can look at life so positively. Why can’t everyone do the same? It’s not about a disabled man’s fight against disability. It’s a disabled man’s fight against the disability that exists in the world — terrorism, hatred, fighting. I only do films with a subtext... I know normally my films don’t look and feel what I think about them. Because I am very clear that films should entertain. My Name is Khan is also about Islam and the way the world looks at Islam but we are not taking any sides. We are only trying to say that there are only good people and bad people. There are no good Hindus, bad Hindus, good Christians, bad Christians. Either you are a good person or a bad person. Religion is not the criterion, humanity is. The tagline we have put in the film is: “The first superhero with only one superpower — humanity”.

Like Rab Ne’s ordinariness was extraordinary...

And people liked him. I just learnt about this poll that 80 per cent of the audience liked the character of Suri. And to think of it, I made it on a real guy (a Paanchvi Pass contestant). Also the fact that you never question that a 40-year-old man is romancing a 18-year-old girl. That’s interesting. Here is a completely played down version of a movie star who is supposedly known as a superstar. A superstar is a rockstar. Here is a rundown version. If I wasn’t in the movies, I might have looked like Suri. Because I have to change my look everyday as an actor. We do exaggerate in cinema. Art is always larger than life. But here was a simple man with simple wants.

SRK’s driver’s mobile starts ringing even though the owner’s phone is in silent mode. But SRK doesn’t mind. After all, the driver’s ringtone is the Haule haule song from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. He doesn’t ask him to switch it off and continues the conversation.

Is there a lot of creative satisfaction in your work these days?

Yes, the last few films were very satisfying. I also really liked Billu. It’s a great thought — friends that you don’t forget. I loved Irrfan in it. I liked Chak De! India. I also really enjoyed Don. And now playing an autistic person in My Name is Khan is so supremely satisfying that I don’t want to work on any other movie for the rest of the year. Arre yeh bahut hai! I am so happy doing it. I did a lot of studies, a lot of research.

Is that something you are doing in the last few movies? Or did you always research your characters?

I have always done it. See, I have usually played the hero type and even then I have done studies. Like Don is taken from this man I knew who is really tough but walks like a girl. Obviously that man is not so famous that you will instantly recognise him. Like Darr is based on a Parsi friend of mine who used to stammer on specific words. So I made my character stammer only on Kiran... Kkkkkiran. As an actor my job is to observe, absorb and then take it out when called on to do so.

So how did you research for My Name is Khan?

I had done a play about autism with Barry John where I worked with an autistic kid. So when my writer and director in My Name is Khan sat with me, I gave them 25 more pages of research. I gave them more references... four different physical manifestations of autism. The eyes are very difficult to do. When you see me in the film, you will be shocked. To me it’s very difficult. With 100 people around you, to get those unfocussed, dead eyes is very difficult. Then I am saying dialogues with those eyes without expressing. I had to practise those eyes in my bathroom for 10 days before I got it right. Now I am teaching my children... pushing the eyeballs up, they stay there, then I go cock-eyed and then they go blank. Very difficult, very fulfilling.

The car is waiting at a traffic signal. A boy comes banging at the window. He shouts: “Aye Shah Rukh, aap ka photo aila hai, aap ka photo aila hai.” The star shouts back: “Thank you yaar, kahaan photo aila hai?” The kid smiles and runs away. It’s impossible to see inside the BMW through those dark window glasses. How does the boy at the traffic signal know who is inside? SRK smiles and says: “I think he knows the car.”

While the new heroes in Bollywood are being welcomed with open arms, do you feel that everyone’s being deliberately unkind to your recent films?

To me it doesn’t matter what the critics say. I have passed that stage. God bless them yaar! Hope they are happy. I have a very clear concept about all this. If you know why you are doing something, other people cannot waiver you off with their opinion. So if I know that I have worn white pants with a reason, and people keep telling me that it’s not in fashion, I am happy with my reason.

There have been a lot of ugly remarks from your colleagues in the industry...

I know those people. If I don’t like something, I call them and tell them so. Mostly they are misquoted. Like, if you say that Chidambaram has cancelled the IPL. Now he didn’t say that but that’s how people interpret things. Exactly like that. But we meet each other every evening and trust me there are people who you think don’t even like me or I don’t like them. Like Amitji was the first guy to come and meet me after the shoulder operation. He was in fact going to the hospital. I was like, where are you going sir? He said hospital. I said, main ghar aa gaya hoon. He said, main thak gaya hoon, kal aata hoon. Next evening he was there for four-five hours. People assume I hate him and he hates me. Earlier we used to talk about this — Amitji aisa kyun likh rahe hain?. Now, we don’t even do that. We are now sure that it’s a different world where people think Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan are like this. They have no clue of this real world. We have tried to explain 10-12 times but they don’t want to understand. They don’t like it like that. God bless them. Who they are talking about are the images of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan that people have in their minds. We are different.

But what about Aamir Khan? Why did he go after you?

Aamir... he is my age. I have known him from the day I landed in Mumbai. Me, Ashutosh (Gowariker), Aamir, Makrand Deshpande, Neeraj Vohra... we were friends. If he says something I can call him and say what I feel. And he would be “Arre Shah, aisa nahin bola maine yaar!” Also I prefer talking to people directly rather than through the media. I say something to a journalist, he says something to another journalist... baat ghoomta rehta hai. The other day, in fact, we were sitting and chatting about this. I called him ullu ka pattha. I talk to him like this. People will never understand. That’s okay. Otherwise you are feeding more and more and more to the media. At that time pictures release pe thi, tab theek tha. Dono pictures (Rab Ne and Ghajini) ko publicity mil raha tha (laughs). Sometimes even the media should realise that maybe actors are using you. I don’t. I have a huge relationship with the media. It’s a need-based relationship and I think I am part of the media. Till the day I am an actor. And there’s nothing like a bad journalist. As I said you are a bad person or a good person. Your profession doesn’t make you bad. If you are okay being used, be used. You never know which actor is having the last laugh.

Coming back to KKR, what is your take on cheerleaders, especially after what happened last year with their dress code?

A profession should not be looked down upon. When I look at these young girls who want to be cheerleaders, I think of my daughter. Eight years from now, she could be one and I will be happy. I am a family man. I have a lot of respect for girls. If you think less of women, you will look down on their job. I really can’t do that. When I work with these really young girls in my movies, I really think of my daughter, who could be the same eight years from now. There’s a lot of innocence in all of them. Cheerleading is a profession rather than nangi ladkiyan naach rahi hai. Yeh kya baat hui yaar? Yeh toh wahiyaat baat ho gayi. It’s a very conservative, old-fashioned thought. We understand that but we don’t do much about it... phir koi aake bottle phenkega ghar ke baahar. Their clothes are not cheap. We are not cheap people. My wife, Karan (Johar), Manish (Malhotra)... they design the clothes. When we make people wear bikinis in films, it’s meant to make them look attractive and not vulgar.

Did you watch Dada’s last match?

Of course, I did. I wanted to go but I couldn’t. We sent him a watch. Also it didn’t strike me then but I later thought we should have bought 10,000 tickets and should have had people in Kolkata Knight Riders jerseys cheering for him. For us, Dada has not retired.

Are you as pumped up this time as you were the last time?

I am much more charged after the loss last year (laughs). Everything will be good from now. I felt that when we got (Mashrafe) Mortaza. Before the auction, I told my team that the only team who will go for Mortaza will be Mohali. See we are all friends and when I learnt that Nita bhabhi (Ambani) wanted Dominic (Thornely) I asked my guys to let go. But I instinctively felt that Mohali would try and increase the price of Mortaza. They didn’t tell me even though I meet Preity very often. So I messaged my team at the Goa auction, ‘make sure we get Mortaza’. Whatever it takes... even if it’s for the sake of friendship. We also have to show Bengali spirit at some point of time. We want to win the IPL and we will have it. This year should be played like that.

The car reaches the Yash Raj Studio where Shah Rukh has to crown the six official cheerleaders aka Angels for the Kolkata Knight Riders. He opens the car door with his right hand and stalks out. Like a Royal Bengal tiger, wounded and hungry.

Later in the shoot at Yash Raj Studio: Shah Rukh’s friends at his TV production unit Red Chillies Idiot Box, which is producing the cheerleader show Knights & Angels, wanted the King to give a jharokha darshan during the final episode and crown the winning girls. But Shah Rukh being Shah Rukh stayed for three whole segments and actually danced at the end of it all. Gauri wouldn’t have approved if she was around. But it sure made a certain Sourav Ganguly break his promise of never dancing again (after his terrible footwork in the Hero Honda ad nine years ago). Seeing SRK’s infectious energy, even with the sling just about holding the broken shoulder in place, Dada joined Shah Rukh and did an impromptu jig to Korbo lorbo jeetbo re. All those who thought that the owner and the captain were not on the same page should have seen them on stage. Wanted: An action replay of King and Dada after winning IPL 2.

What five questions would you ask SRK if you were in the car with him? Tell t2@abpmail.com