Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Shah Rukh Khan where he candidly talks about why he is against idol worship among other things
We catch Shah Rukh Khan in a contemplative mood, talking to his daughter Suhana on the phone about her day, with his eyes glued to the big TV inside his van. The TV is playing the news of the recent bridge collapse in Kolkata, and the anchor is speaking to one of the women who has lost a kin in the incident. His Kolkata connection notwithstanding, SRK seems a little disturbed by the way the tragedy is being handled. So, in the course of a two-hour interview the only time he got ruffled was when we broached the topic of serious lack of heroes or idols to follow in today's society.
Shah Rukh Khan
"Why do you need to have idols to follow?" he says seriously, "Let me be honest, media gets carried away by its own media hype of who's good or bad. The choice of a hero or an idol for anybody is based on only two factors — someone who's like you or someone you aspire to be like. The hero or idol is nothing but an extension of your personality. If you look around you, there are no lack of heroes. My driver is my hero. He works for almost 24 hours. It is not special to be special, it is special to be ordinary and go on. My driver gets nothing special from me, except perhaps he can tell a few people that he's Shah Rukh Khan's driver. I call him at 9 am and leave home for whenever I want to. He's here with me till late at night, sometimes till early hours of the morning. I make him work like a dog. Look at the news. Electronic media creates a hero or villain every day. If there is nothing, they ensure that there is something enough to make someone a villain or a hero.
(Pointing at the TV where now the anchor is eating a plate of momos near the accident site) In Kolkata, 22 people have died after the crash. The first feeling for every human being after hearing that is sadness... And the thought that those poor people were just like you and me. But the electronic media won't let that feeling stay with us for even 40 seconds, because from then on, they have moved on to politicise it, to talk about the prospect of a bomb blast and in the meanwhile, we have all forgotten about those 22 victims, and are busy thinking about whose mistake it is. By the end of the day, it has become something else altogether. We are becoming feelingless in our search for heroes, villains and sensational stories. I watch news shows, so I have stopped watching fiction now," he says with his trademark dimpled smile. His humour is back too, as he says laughing, "My hero is Samantha Fox (English singer-actress). See I told you, a hero is either someone like you or someone you want to be like."
Seriously, does he have an idol? "Not now. But when I was growing up, Muhammad Ali (American boxer) was my hero. I think he was a really cool guy, such a master and so artistic, with that sense of humour and then the tragedy. The toughest man on earth couldn't even take the fly off his nose. His life makes for such a fascinating story," he says.
Shah Rukh Khan
Talking about heroes and idols, he plays both an idol and a fan in his next film, Fan. He had earlier told us that this was one film for which he had to go internal to prep. "Yes, this one I had to work really hard for. To play a fan, who I have never been, is tough because we have to make sure fans identify with that person. You need to stick to the integrity of the character with a certain kind of dignity. I have no references, I don't know who he is, so it is a difficult task," he explains.
The days when he looks inside, does he find anything lacking in him? "I do," he says with honesty, before adding, "I think I am an extremely average actor but I work very hard. I wish I had more talent. I am very sensitive and perceptive towards emotion, but that's my problem. I can't explain it. I know and understand emotions better than anybody else. I can feel sadness, happiness, goodness in a second, but I am not sure if I can translate all of that into my acting. I am very sensitive myself, unfortunately, I am not a good enough actor to expound it properly. My emotion runs faster than my being able to express them as an actor."
Twenty-five years of what he's doing, does people's (read: fans') expectations still worry him? "When people start becoming big, they start getting scared and think what if people stop liking something that I do. It's a worry that everything you do, you are putting your efforts of past 25 years at stake. But the truth is, you can't do anything that all of the two crore people will like. If you give so much value to what people like and don't like, you can't really do much. So, I just do what makes me the happiest. I can't take everyone's opinion seriously because there is no pleasing everyone anyway. When I started out, I didn't have one fan, my picture was in a corner of the Deewana poster and I was not even from Mumbai. What was my yardstick then? Tomorrow if my son is being launched and his picture is in one corner of the poster, I might tell him that's not right. But honestly, these things don't matter. You just have to do what you like. I did a lot of things that people told me not to, before I did Darr; other people were approached for the role but they all rejected because they were worried they will lose their fan base. So I did it. There are bound to be some disappointments along the way, but at least I would be doing some things for myself. This is one of the few things that I get to do for myself," SRK waxes eloquently.
"I don't think I am the greatest actor. I have limited resources, but there are times when I want to do films for myself. That's the reason I did this film with Gauri Shinde, even though it is just about two-three days' work. I am Shah Rukh Khan, I need not do it, but then I really had a lot of fun doing it. I am doing Aanand L Rai's film for the same reason too. You can't force people to love you. Forget me, look at the achievements of people like Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar. People are not even happy with them, so who am I? These people have achieved so much that even if they don't do anything, or do something not right, those things shouldn't be considered," he says.
"Having said that, believe me, when a film of mine fails, no one's sadder than me. I don't think I would be letting down anyone more than myself. It's not about the business, it is feeling bad about not providing the entertainment that I promised to the audience. I didn't deliver what I should have," he adds.
Isn't that too much of a burden to carry? "If I don't carry that burden, I have no business being a star," he says. Is there something in the industry he would want to protect his children from? "I just have to protect them from myself, from my shadow, from my stardom. Help them get their own identity, their own source of inspiration like I did when I started out," he signs off.