Shah Rukh Khan speaks to Subhash K Jha about his two new releases Swades and The Incredibles.
The incident at Colombo must have left you shaken.
It was much more than just an incident. People lost lives. I know no one wants to harm me. And it (the blast) wasnít meant to harm me. Iím just an entertainer. To lose oneís life at such an entertainment event is really sad. I saw with my own eyes the people who expired. And itís a terrible thing to happen. Iíd still go to concerts. But I think losing oneís life during such an event is too high a price. I know people want to see me on stage. But I donít want to see people dead.
Do you have plans to visit Pakistan?
If people expect me to come and entertain them, then Iíve no problem going anywhere, whether itís China, Japan or Pakistan. The point is, people everywhere connect with me as entertainer. Iíve just done a show in Surinam before a 12,000-strong audience. They didnít know our language. But they enjoyed themselves. I wouldnít feel uncomfortable performing in any part of the world. Pakistan and India have very similar people and culture. Iíve a lot of relatives in Pakistan. My cousins live there. Pakistan is a lot like India. Thatís what we said in Veer-Zara. Whatever the reasons mightíve been for the two countries to be separated are far beyond the comprehension of simple souls like you and me.
Everyone from Bollywood in Pakistan is asked when youíre visiting them.
Thatís very humbling ansd sweet. Iíll go whenever Iím called. We need to work out the nitty-grittyÖsponsors, organizers, etc. Thereíre talksÖI wonít go as merely a goodwill ambassador but an entertainer. Iím already a goodwill ambassador. I donít need to prove that. Iíd like to go to Pakistan for a show to tell the people Iíve come to entertain them. I canít separate my two roles as goodwill ambassador and entertainer. One role automatically follows the others.
Your Temptations tour of the US and UK were far more successful than other recent Bollywood shows abroad.
I wouldnít know. I canít compare my shows to others. I can only compare the ĎTemptationsí tour to my earlier concerts. Commercially and creatively, Iíd say this world concert was far more successful than what Iíve done in the past.
Veer-Zaara gave you leeway to be more experimental as an actor.
Yeah, I got to play an old man which was very nice. The impact has a lot to do with the way a role is written. An old manís role is relatively easier than playing my own age. Youíve so many props, like grey hair, a slouch, a faltering voice, etc. Thereíre so many ways of bringing alive the old manís role. I found it easier to do than to play a 35-40 year old.
Do you feel Veer-Zara gave you a chance to be different?
I think the difference is in the mediaís head. I think Iím different in each of my films. To me it seems anyone who says Iím different in Veer-Zara is only recognizing what Iíve done in all my films. Those who donít understand cinema or acting would see the difference only when itís in-your-face, as itís in Veer-Zaara where the guy is a hundred percent different. The nuances of acting are completely apparent only to the actor. Itís very difficult for the outsider to cotton on fully to what an actor does on screen. This applies to every profession. I mean I wouldnít really know about the craft of journalism, would I? Though Iím penning my thoughts in a book that would be out soon.
Swades again looks very different.
(laughs) Like Veer-Zara? Iíd say Swades was a more difficult role to play. Here I had very few props and crutches. Every project comes with its own requirements and baggage. Every film of mine crosses a certain budget and is targeted at a specific number of people. The whole world is the target audience. One cannot afford to be different just for the sake of being different. Even when I play Devdas it has to be a little bigger, a little richer, larger than life. Iíve to play my roles on that level.
How larger than life is your character in Swades?
Itís a hundred percent the director Ashutosh Gowarikerís interpretation. By virtue of what it says, Swades is a very important film. It addresses itself to a core issue regarding the shape and destiny of a developing nation like ours. Hopefully it will make the audience think if not change your thought processs. Being in the entertainment business itís important to be focussed on the job of entertaining people, and yet at the same time try to make a difference to our world.
Swades attempts to do that. Swades falls within the purview of commercial cinema and still says things which are normally untouched by the genre. It has its own stark and minimalist appeal to it. It addresses its theme as seriously as it deserves. And let me add itís entirely Ashutoshís dream, not mine. Iím only being used to communicate the directorís vision to the audience.
I remember during Veer-Zara you told me you didnít bother with the script, just did what Yashji and Aditya told you to.
The same is true of Swades. Since the ideas and thoughts in the film are not mine Iím completely ignorant about their nature. In such a situation Iíd rather just do my job. If I did anything more Iíd only expose my own lack my education. Veer-Zaara was about Indo-Pak relations from the 1980s to 2004. Iím sure Yashji and Adi had researched enough on the topic to make my character believable. IĎd rather go with the creatorís vision than try to confuse the issue with my own input.
Agian in Swades I let the director decide. Swades is set in a village. And Iíve never been to a village in my life except as a tourist. Maybe you havenít either. Most city-bred people havenít.
So now you are doing films which make a differenceÖ
I always have. The social message is never the main point. Itís subservient to entertainment. I think Iíve got a sufficient fan following to watch me entertain them. So if a message is teased into my film Iím all for it. Itís like someone as important as Amitji talking about polio on television. Iím sure he doesnít know much about the disease. But by telling the masses to take the vaccination heís helping to eradicate the disease. I think itís good to use your celebrity status to make a social message.
Even if Swades makes only some people think, Iíve succeeded. I donít know whether Swades will be likedóthatís not in my hands. But I hope the issue will be driven home.
Would you like to do more issue-based films?
Itís not about what IĎd like to do, but what Iím offered. I canít go down on the streets and shout for issue-based films. If someone comes to me with an idea that appeals to me Iím fine with it. Iíve been doing so many films which discuss issues. But sometimes the issue gets overpowered by the entertainment value. My cinema is feelgood cinema. I like my audience to feel happy while watching my films. This doesnít mean Iím an incurably noble guy. Iím open to playing an ugly dark character, and Iíve done so in the past. But I wonít do it for the heck of it.