Visit: Sify`s `Main Hoon Na` Special
Shah Rukh Khan tells Subhash K Jha what his mega-stardom means to `Main Hoon Na`.
Main Hoon Na looks very different from Kal Ho Naa Ho.
That doesnít make Kal Ho Naa Ho any less of a film. I guess Iím the only actor about whom such questions arise each time Iíve a new release. How different is Main Hoon Na? Itís actually a trueblue masala film like Manmohan Desaiís cinema. It pays a tribute to the films of the 1970s.
To me masala films are a complete genre. To call all commercial films masala is a misconception. Iíd define masala films as what Mr Bachchan used to do with Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai ó caring mother, estranged brothers, the works. Like these films Main Hoon Na takes us on a wild trip. Itís larger-than-life film. But to contemporize the film my role has been made politically correct.
So are you true-to-life in Main Hoon Na?
You canít be true to life in a commercial film. Because commercial films are untrue-to-life by their very definition. They sell a dream. Weíre hoping to re-introduce the genre of masala cinema through Main Hoon Na. Nearly four years ago Farha Khan conceived a situation for Indo-Pak friendship in the script at a time when such a friendship seemed far-fetched. I guess life does imitate art in that sense.
For some years now Pakistan has been portrayed in some of our films as the enemy. I donít see why the whole country should be condemned for the sins of a handful of people. Bad guys are bad guys regardless of their nationality or religion. Letís make films with a positive outlook. However Main Hoon Na isnít heavily into messages.
In a sense Main Hoon Na is your first with a political message?
I disagree. My production Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani was about the commercialization of the media. Asoka was about world peace and spiritualism. So as a producer Iíve made a socio-political comment on some level or the other. Main Hoon Na also makes a statement.
Earlier you were playing the college student now youíve graduated to pretending to be a college student in Main Hoon Na.
Iím older, if thatís what you mean. I should and am playing my age. I look older and more mature than I did earlier. I hope Iím growing wise as well. I Ďm still very energetic as an actor. When we were starting Main Hoon Na we couldnít get anyone to play the younger brother. I suggested we get Sunny Deol to play the army officer and that Iíd play the younger brother. I think it wouldíve worked. Iíd put my whole and soul into any part young or old.
Why was it a problem to cast for the younger brother?
When Farha was choreographing Kaho NaÖPyar Hai she had got Hrithik to agree to play the younger brother. But I thought Farha needed to work on the script more. So her film got delayed. Then Hrithik started doing Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. He even shot for a day. And Hrithik and I had already played brothers in K3G. If after Kaho NaÖPyar Hai and K3G Hrithik played my sibling then the script would have to be altered. We needed someone more new.
Zayed Khan fitted the bill perfectly. To my delight he turned out to be a very respectful boy. I like that. He was artless and very likeable. Nowadays one hears horror stories about the behaviour of the younger generation. Even Sohail Khan is very respectful. I think itís because of the way theyíve been brought up. I really like Zayed and his co-star Amrita Rao. Main Hoon Na is big break for both of them.
You sound like an indulgent elder brother.
I do what I do, and Iíve the experience. IĎm also the producer of Main Hoon Na. I think of Suniel Shetty Sushmita Sen, Satish Shah as part of my family now. Suniel came into our film a little late. We had first thought of Mr Kamal Haasan and Mr Nana Patekar and Naseerbhai. When Suniel was offered the role he was more than eager. But we had to make sure that his stardom didnít suffer in any way in the transition from black to white.
Both Suniel and Sushmita are really nice. They havenít taken any money. Weíll have to find some way of repaying them. When awards are given at the end of the year I hope Farha Khan and Suniel get theirs. Me? I can live on the awards that Iíve received for the next forty years.
Do you feel thereís an acute shortage of heroines in your career?
Not really. I must tell you, that from the beginning of my career there hasnít been single film of mine except maybe Badshah, where the heroine doesnít have a role as well-defined as mine. All my films are man-woman stories. Beyond that I never question the identity of my leading lady. I donít think Iíve the right to. Therefore a crisis in my career, if it ever occurs, wouldnít be for leading ladies but director. Iím doing three films a year. How many heroines would?
In Main Hoon Na I think Sushmita is wonderfully apt for the part. She deserves so much more. Unfortunately because of her strong personality thereís a fear that she might overshadow her co-star. I only saw her in her debut Dastak, and then Iíve done shows with her. But like all models turned actresses, sheís amazingly professional. They come on the sets laughing and entertaining. Theyíve no complexes about what other actors are doing. I think all actors should be cast according to suitability. For instance I canít be cast as Spiderman and Superman, much as Iíd like to.
Is it true that you have decided not work with Aishwarya Rai?
Why is everyone asking me this question? Itís the directorís job to cast the actress. And even if he or she casts someone Iím not very fond of IĎd be okay with the decision. Earlier when I was asked my suggestion Iíd say Kajol, Madhuri or Juhi. But now theyíre working less. Now Iíd work with anyone as long as the atmosphere on the sets is pleasant.
With Aishwarya there was an issue on the set of my film(Chalte Chalte). But thatís in the past. Like I said, Iím not partial to anyone when Iím working. People thought I was fond of Farha as the choreographer. But Iím also fond of Sarojji(Khan).
Main Hoon Na is your first film film with a female director since Hema Malini in Dil Aashna Hai.
Thatís right. But with Farha it doesnít feel like the first time. In all the films where she has choreographed me she has directed me for at least 25 minutes. In Main Hoon Na she has directed me for a longer duration. As a director Farha has the guts to step into a male-dominated arena. Without taking away from what theyíve achieved, Iíd like to say women directors generally make issue-based films. Hereís girl who has taken up a subject on India-Pak relations and woven into a theme of sibling bonding. She has made the film like a man.
Zayed and I play the kind of roles which Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty did in the movies some years ago. Main Hoon Na is a very masculine film. Sheís as mainstream as Manmohan Desai, Raj Kanwar and Aditya Chopra. In the film that wanted to make make earlier Farha wanted to cast me as a Mamaís boy and how I get out of the feminine shadow. That was a little girlie in mood. We decided to make something more masculine.
Why have women directors shied away from you?
Years ago I had asked Kalpana Lajmi to cast me. But the dates didnít work out. Since it was a small film she couldnít wait for my dates. Deepa Mehta also offered me a role just months before 1947 Earth was to start. Meghna Gulzar wanted me in Filhaal. But I couldnít see myself adding to the film.
Ashutosh Gowarikerís Swades is almost over. Only ten days of shooting in America are left. We completed the film in 94 days. Iíve known Ashutosh for very long. HeĎs very exacting about all the visual details and knows exactly what he wants. After Lagaan he shouldnít be questioned about what heís making next. Swades is a contemporary film. It is patriotic film but not the flag-waving kind. It addresses itself to the duties and responsibilities of the young from the middleclass.
I think itís admirable that Ashutosh has chosen to make this kind of a film. Yes Swades does make a comment on our lives. But I believe the socio-political statement should never be in-your-face. It shouldnít take over the entertainment. We actors are here to entertain. Who are we to convey messages? I can sell a product. But I canít sell an ideal.
What about Yash Chopraís film?
That film is also contemporary. Yashji is Yashji. People like Aziz Mirza and Yash Chopra can direct me instinctively. I sometimes find myself at a loss with Karan Johar, Ashutosh Gowariker and Farha Khan. But never with Yashji and Aziz. I can never question their decisions. I donít need to argue with them on any point.
Any other projects?
Iím taking somee months off in June. Iíve three releases this year, as I normally do every year. Iím now going to spend time with my kids and finish my book when I take a break. Itís largely done. Now I need to take stock of the gathered material and also decide on a publisher. Itís going to dwell on both my commercial and non-commercial work. The book doesnít concentrate on any one aspect of my life or career. Itís like me and my performances, unfocussed and all over. But itís not just about my performances. It gives me a chance to speak about matters that concern me as an artiste and an individual. I want to stay in Mumbai in the coming months and be with my children. Beyond that Iíll sign new films July onwards.