It’s been said “Work so hard that one day your signature will be called an autograph.” When I read this quote, there was just one man I could think of, one man who has worked very hard for 23 years and still does. People from all over the world visit Mumbai just to get a glimpse of this man or to even touch the wall of his home, almost as if it were a place of worship. I myself have known him for almost a decade, and every time I meet him, it feels like nothing has changed – except for one thing. With him turning 50, he makes it seem as if ’50 is the new 30’. From the last meeting to the next, Shah Rukh Khan is always an upgraded version of himself. Here’s Vajir Singh in a candid chat with the man of the moment.
Vajir Singh (VS): Happy Birthday, Shah.
Shah Rukh Khan (SRK): Thank you very much, Vajir.
VS: How does it feel?
SRK: It feels the same as it felt yesterday. I will feel the same tomorrow.
VS: But so many people celebrate your birthday and wish you on this special occasion. In fact, people all over the world celebrate your birthday. How does that feel?
SRK: I know, I think Allah has been very kind that so many people give my birthday so much importance. They think of it as a special day for themselves. So, in a strange way, I feel November 2nd doesn’t belong to me any more. So the day goes on… when you are in the car, they are playing my songs on the radio, on television people are celebrating, showing clips of my movies, there are people outside my house, and this year, since I am turning 50, people are coming from overseas wanting to visit me. So, yes, my birthday has become their birthday. I joke with everyone that I just wave and blow kisses on my birthday, and that I don’t think there could be a better way to celebrate birthdays than with so many people. I do eat a lot of cake sent by journalists. They all come so sweetly and I just have to eat cake with everyone… lot of abs losing after that also.
SRK: For me, 50 or 25 or 30… I don’t remember my age. But the pain and injuries I have, have made certain things difficult to do. For instance, when I have to do an action sequence, I have to prepare myself in advance, saying that, okay, today I have to do action sequence and it will hurt me. But that could have happened at even 27 or 28. So, to me, being 50 is no different from being 30 or 35.
I am not saying that I feel like that or it’s all right to be… I think it’s fantastic to be 50. I think 50 is the coolest age to be. You are halfway home and you have experience, and you still have to excitement. So I am really happy with what I am doing at this stage of my life. I can also play a different set of roles now. In my head, it becomes difficult to, you know, romance a young girl. But I think the options for me as an actor have grown as the years have gone by.
VS: You still look the same as you did the first time we met. So it’s weird to think of you as 50!
SRK: Yes, Yashji (Chopra) used to tell me that romantic heroes are kind of ageless. People always like to believe that, and I have done a lot of romantic films. So I think it is a physiological thing with people, that I will remain young Raj and Rahul. And it’s good for me, actually, yaar. I have three kids, one is going to turn 18, one is 15 and now I have a two-and-a-half-year-old kid. It’s nice that I feel young because by the time he is 20 years old, I will still feel maybe 40 or 45. So it is a good place to be, a good space to be, and I am feeling much better than I did perhaps at the age of 35.
VS: You made your screen debut when you were 26 and now you are 50, and Dilwale is releasing. You haven’t changed a bit.
SRK: Now I have a beard, and there is also a little grey in the beard, so I have to dye it. Otherwise, when I am playing a younger character, as I do in FAN, you will notice there is a potion where I am very young and then I am kind of my age in the second half. I start feeling younger, that is why I look younger. And then I live a little healthier too, I exercise a bit, sweat it out and my face looks thinner.
For this portion of the film, I am very clear that I should look a bit ragged and jagged because life has taught me this in Dilwale, in this part of the film, but for the first part I have tried to be nice and healthy and look younger. I feel young when I play young. So there is not much difference, like I said, except a little grey in the hair.
VS: I watched the song and some scenes yesterday, and I couldn’t tell any difference in the way you looked from Deewana or Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. You look just the same, as is your chemistry with Kajol ma’am.
SRK: Yes, I think God has been kind to both of us. When we started shooting the film, both of us found it strange that we had done the song and it kind of still looked like the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai days or Dilwale Dulhania… days. It is strange, yaar. A little bit of exercising and all has helped, so yes. But, on the face, I think Kajol and I kind of still remind you, on a good day, of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dilwale Dulhania… In this film, we have done some of the songs in the young age. So, yes, it is kind of strange.
SRK: I think there was a purity in the films that we did. There was innocence. Those films were not designed ke love story banayenge ke youth ko pasand ayegi. They were never
designed like that. Nowadays, I hear a lot of filmmakers say that yaar ek younger generation ke liye film banate hai or yaar ek family ke liye film banate hai. I think that does not really augur well for the creative part of a film. So Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was made from the heart ke yaar pata nahi ke baccho ko pasand ayegi, youth ko pasand ayegi, bado ko ayegi. It was just a story made from the heart. There was a lot of rawness and innocence in those films.
I guess Raj and Rahul created a certain image of a lover. He is naughty, he is a straightforward guy, he is badmash, he is innocent, he is sweet and he is very respectful. If a man were to look for a groom for his daughter, he would look for this kind of guy… sweet, naughty, not too great but a little badmash and respectful. So I think that’s how we created those characters. Similarly, with Anjali and Simran, you know, they waited for the love of their life. They waited years while they conquered all the negativity in their lives, so that they could be together. People relate to the purity of love even today. In that way, love is long-lasting. So when people watch my old films, they are like, ‘Arre yaar, I really like the way those love stories were told.’
VS: You carry the tag line ‘come fall in love’, and over 23 years, everyone has come and fallen in love with Shah Rukh Khan. Everybody falls in love with you.
SRK: Like I said, God has been kind, yaar. In Dilwale, we have changed a bit. I read somewhere, ‘Come laugh and fall in love.’ I think we will add that little tag line to the new Dilwale. It is strange that, after 20 years of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, it is now only Dilwale, and Kajol and I are doing it with Rohit (Shetty). He is very respectful of Adi (Aditya Chopra) as well. I am not sure if you noticed in Chennai Express, there is a strange kind of coincidence that is very interesting and nice. So I hope people will fall in love with this film too.
SRK: I mean, we have used moments because we have shot in Bulgaria. And some of the incidences and things structures are very interesting. But, no, not like the train sequence of Dilwale Dulhania… Woh toh kar liya na Chennai… mein.
VS: You have always credited your success to luck. But from our point of view, it is not just luck but your hard work and so much more. You have become THE SHAH RUKH KHAN.
SRK: I always say this to people, the harder I work, the luckier I get. And I think that is how luck plays a part. You cannot think ‘I will not work and luck will follow’. I work hard because I think this industry, films, fans, the audience, you guys, everybody has given me so much love that you become responsible, you become someone who starts thinking that I can’t let people down. Not in a sense that I will only do films for the audience, I do films which make me happy first. But I should not let you down because there is so much trust in me. I am a trustworthy brand as a movie star or an actor, and I cannot break your trust.
Of course, I will make films and if they don’t work… today is four years since we released RA.One. People had told me it was not the kind of film I should have made and I still made it. And, if I had to, I would do it again. But I didn’t break anybody’s trust; maybe I didn’t get it right but I tried my best. So I work harder and keep working harder and hope that
everybody finally says, ‘Okay, yaar, he is a trustworthy star, he is a trustworthy actor. We go to watch his films, pay our money and enjoy ourselves.’ Today, it is expensive to make films and watch films. So you need to make sure that that balance does not tilt and you say, ‘Okay, audience paisa laga rahi hai main kaisi bhi irresponsible picture banadu’. You need to work hard to be responsible.
VS: Shah, you have been given so many names by your fans – SRK, Shah, Khan sahaab, Baadshah, King Khan and many others – which one is your favourite?
SRK: On a personal note, I like ‘papa’, I find that the sweetest but I like it when people call me ‘Shah bhai’. I don’t like to be called ‘Sir’ as I find that… like I say in Don, ‘Sir bahot sharif sa lagta hai.’ I like it when they call me ‘Shah bhai’. I know Shah Rukh is a difficult name to say. But I tell all the youngsters that you can call me ‘Shah Rukh’ but ‘Shah bhai’ is nice.