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“For some people, ‘safe’ works really well, but it doesn’t work for me”

Only a few days to go and Shah Rukh Khan aa rahe hai ‘in and as’ Raees!

(Smiles) It is good, yaarkaafi lambi hogayi picture. We were waiting to finish it for six to seven months. Finally, it is over now and abhi tak the people who have seen it have given good feedback. The film is also very interesting with a good story and it is a slightly different mix, so hopefully people will like it.

Ever since the first poster released, there has been massive curiosity around the film. Are you aware of that?

Actually, picture mein na, when we were starting the marketing, I had told everyone that there is enough curiosity. Naya world hai… thoda bahut nayapan lag raha hai. We should always retain all the elements we tell people are there in the movie. I think there will be enough answers… jo curiosity hai usko samajhne ki, dekhne ki… jo bhi expect kar rahe hai woh unexpected ho jayega picture mein.

But I can assure you that there is something rivetting about the movie. It is possible that the film might be a little different from what people are expecting because of the marketing and publicity. But the movie holds its own because of the new world, the nayapan in the story and since Rahul Dholakia is an offbeat filmmaker. To see this mix with commercial cinema might just bring newness to the film.

Usually, when a film’s trailer releases more than 6 months before the film releases, curiosity levels fall. But that hasn’t happened with Raees.

Yes, that’s very intriguing because our teaser came out a year ago. I think that’s because a lot of films are not made around the world we are showing in Raees. And generally even we don’t show the trailer or teaser so early. In fact, we might not have released the teaser a year ago if we knew that the movie was going to be delayed. So keeping this intrigue in mind, I had told the marketing guys that whether we release a song or anything else, curiosity bade nahi toh chalegabut maintain honi chahiye.

The same level of intrigue should be maintained with everything we do. You don’t need to tell the audience too much about the film. In fact, often, my marketing team says that I give away too much. But the world shown in Raees has not been explored by many films. And to top it all, with this world, we have made commercial cinema, where a lot of people might attempt a biopic. So to make a fictional story like that and kahin na kahin per lagta rahega that yeh huwa hogawhile you watch the film.

I find it very interesting but I don’t know if the audience will feel the same way or will understand the world we have created. The whole zone of the film is intriguing and the story will hopefully keep you interested ki accha ab kya hoga. This is also because not a lot of people know about the profession of a bootlegger. It is about how he does his business, how he manipulates and succeeds… and because a journalist has written the film, he has taken a lot of real-life instances into consideration.

And, trust me, real has always been more interesting isse behtar ki chopper ke andar ek island ke upar phone aagaya… but kaha se aaya aur kyu aaya, no clue. When a story has a real base, it automatically becomes interesting. And I think films should try and say something new. For me, this is absolutely new! I don’t know how people will react in small towns. Mere liye Rahul (Dholakia) ka jo approach hai woh naya hai. So if our mix of commercial and substance cinema has happened, I think phir interesting ho jayegi.

In some films in the past, you have added your own style and some lines to the dialogue, to make the film more powerful. How much of that has happened in Raees?

Main toh kya contribute karunga? The way the directors and writers shoot the film finally toh wahi work karta hai. And we did not do even Aa raha  hoon in heropanti, it is like that in the film. So when Rahul said to say, ‘Aa raha hoon’ in the film, with the context with which it is said, it is very nice. I don’t know if people will notice it or not but I say it in the film only once.

Oh, is it part of the movie? Many have assumed it is part of the marketing…

Nahi nahi, it is part of the film. And it is the most important line in the film that has been spoken in the most subtle manner because that is how Rahul works. Everything in the trailer is also in the film. Aa raha hoon ka context thoda alagh hai and mujhe bahut touching lagta hai.

Going back a bit… when you signed up for this film, people wondered what Shah Rukh Khan was doing with Rahul Dholakia! That feeling seems to have changed.

(Laughs) When I had signed up for Raees, I was shooting for Happy New Year and I did it because I thought I should do something offbeat. It is very important, and for no other reason, that as an actor I can do different things.

When I was doing Dilwale, I also did Fan. But, yeah, the industry is right to think that he is doing offbeat films but wrong to ask why I am doing these films. I mean, why not? Look at Dear Zindagi, it is a small film and we made it as a small film but there was nothing wrong with the film and we did not even sell it as a Shah Rukh Khan film. Ab Jaise Fan hai… usmain gaana nahi tha aur humne bata diya, usmain heroine nahi hai batadiya and non-holiday pe chup-chap se le aaye… So this is the same level film and we will not add frills to it and leave it in the popular cinema zone for you.

I think it is all right if an actor gets a chance to do this kind of cinema. When I do a film with Rahul Dholakia or Gauri Shinde or Maneesh Sharma, I have more options. I get to do different kinds of films and this is not the first time I am doing this. I have been doing different kinds of films since the beginning of my career. And I really like it when I see young actors doing the same. Look at Alia (Bhatt) and the kind of movies she does. Meri thodi stardom badi hai issliye logo ko lagta hai ki mujhe ek hi type ki film karni chahiye.

That is ok but then I can’t do everything based on other people’s mindset. I do commercial, popular films from other people’s point of view but, for me as an actor, when you work every day for 25 years, you have to have something challenging, only then you have fun. For some people, ‘safe’ works really well, but it doesn’t work for me.

Last year, we saw you playing three very different characters in Fan with the double role of the superstar and his fan, and Dear Zindagi’s life-loving physiatrist. For you, the year 2017 begins with Raees and then Imtiaz Ali’s next. Going by the first look of Ali’s film, we are getting a glimpse of the same, popular Shah Rukh Khan that people love. Are you deliberately trying to balance it out when it comes to the kind of characters you play?

It is not about balance, yaar. Imtiaz’s film happened after Raees and Fan, and I really like his take on a love story. It is a very simple story, not like the love stories I have done before. And mostly Imtiaz’s films are a little edgy, so why not do a love story, and I am known for love stories.

I have so far done many kinds of love stories apart from this one, and that’s why I took it up. And when it releases, people will know why I have done it usse pehle main samjhana shuru kardu ki it is a safe zone then Imtiaz Ali is hardly safe, yaarWoh edgy hai and he doesn’t want to do the done thing. He can easily make a Jab We Met or the ones he has done before (Love Aaj Kal) but woh bhi naya naya sochta hai.

Obviously, there is something new in the story, it is not a typical love story and I am also very clear that if I have to do a typical love story, then I have Adi (Aditya Chopra) and Karan (Johar), larger-than-life picture karni hai toh Bhansali (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) hai. But I want to do a different love story because I also feel that I have done all kinds, yaar. Let me try a new angle to a love story. The way it is written and the way it is shot, it is a travel film… I think it will be an interesting take on love.

Coming back to Raees… The dialogue seems to be the USP of the film. How much have you contributed?

Not at all, yaar! The dialogue has been written by Neeraj and Rahul and the other writer on board. Like ‘Baniye Ka Dimag’ or ‘Miyaan Bhai Ki Daring’ are very common in some places but in the context of the film, it has become special. So most of the lines are spoken in a world which I don’t belong to! Of course, kyunki hero bol raha hai toh usko underlinekardiya but of course I don’t have any contribution to the dialogue. Thoda romantic scenes mein maine kuch kardiya hoga but as far as the dialoguebaazi is concerned, the writers have to be given full credit.

Tell us about this character, Raees, and what attracted you to play him?

Like I said, I am a very urban hero and I don’t get too many small-town characters to play, and I don’t want to play small-town characters just to get popular cinema in my pocket. I have played the common man, but my common man is Yes Boss or Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani or Chalte Chalte. I have played a middle-class man but I have never played a rustic, small-town character. And I really love how these bootleggers flout the law. Woh bada hi naya hai yaar.

Matlab hum Don mein dikha dete hai ki woh plane mein aaya and all but in Raees this has actually happened in different parts of the country. There is a scene where alcohol is being hidden and sold in bags of tomatoes. So the husband tells the wife that he is going to buy vegetables and in the bargain he also buys alcohol. The cops are frustrated because they don’t know how the alcohol is being sold. The character is very intelligent. He is a very amazing business-minded man and he keeps doing things that had not been done before. I found that very interesting.

Don se yaad aaya… You are doing an action film after almost five years, even though it is earthy action. I am sure you enjoyed it because action is one of your favourite genres.

(Smiles) I really love action, yaar. But I had a little problem because I did two action sequences after my knee problem. But Ravi Verma, the action director, understood. And what I really like about Rahul in this case is that he was very clear that the action should not become over-the-top. It should be real and gritty, it should be stylish because we are selling it in the popular zone, but it should not be like dum lagaya toh udd gaya. When you watch the scenes, when he fights, you can feel he is tired, he is also getting beaten up and he is also trying to get back in the fight. So there is a quality to action which is kind of new, not only for me but for the audience to also enjoy.

You like all that blood on your face in an action sequence!

Yeah, yeah, and in this a lot of people beat me up with a purpose!

Your walk is a little different in this film.

I normally create a walk for my characters. Even in Dear Zindagi, there is a walk which is a very elite, rich man’s walk. I was very clear, especially because I wear a Pathani in the film, that there has to be a specific walk which is not gunda but has dignity and power, like a lion walks in his territory. You know, moohalle ke gundoon ka ek ownership ka walk hota hai like yeh sab mera hai. And they only drop that in their personal life but when they are in public, even if they are dancing, they have that dadagiri. This is something I work on as an actor on every character that demands it.

It’s been a long time since you communicated through your eyes, which sometimes says a lot more than words can.

Rahul was very clear that the character is so powerful that he should not be very animated. Like how the Godfather was… Thoda sa karo aur log sunnteh hai tumhari because you are such a big man. There are some scenes where he doesn’t even say anything. Rahul used to tell me in some scenes that let’s not say any lines but convey what the character is feeling though expressions. And Nawaz Bhai (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) also has very expressive eyes. So we have shot a lot of our scenes very close, with only us in the frame.

Are the spectacles part of this thought process?

No, Rahul feels that only geeks are made to wear specs, like in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, he wanted to give specs to a guy who is very dangerous. Uski bhi toh aankein kharab ho sakti hai. So it is an irony! And he hates it. So if anyone teases him by calling him ‘Battery’, he gets very angry.

In this film, you are working with many actors for the first time, like Nawaz and Zeeshan. What was that like?

When you make a film in the real zone, it is important that the characters that surround the established star or hero look very real. That way, they make the star or the hero look very real. So it was a conscious effort not to take typical people for the different characters in this film. I have not worked with Nawaz bhai before, Zeeshan, Mahira or the actor who is playing my mother in the film. I have some friends as well in the film, they all look very real, yaar. Their way of acting is also different, it is not a set piece.

Just like Ashutosh (Gowarikar) was in Swades, here Rahul too was very clear that I would look way more real with these actors backing me. It helped me a lot in Swades and I think it will help me in Raees as well.

Whose idea was it to release the film on Wednesday January 25?

I discussed it with Rakesh ji (Rakesh Roshan) twice and he said that 26th was a superstitious date for him. So I called everyone and said that Rakesh ji was very clear that his film would release on 26th Jan and he would not shift it to any other date.

So I asked the team whether we should release our film on 25th Jan. This way, we would also get one free day and they would also get a holiday the next day. When we started talking to theatre owners to do this, they also decided to release it on 25th Jan. I think they also thought that it was a better day to release the film and I feel that’s all right. We are all friends, at the end of the day.

What is going to happen on 25th Jan?

We have been sitting on this film for a year-and-a-half, so I hope all the time and effort that has gone into Raees will be liked by the audience. It is a great effort, and I am not saying this because it is my film. In fact, every film is a great effort. I am sure a lot of effort has gone into making Kaabil and it is a great film. I just hope we are able to reach enough people… people of different ages, stages, multiplexes, single screens… because the Holy Grail of filmmaking is to be able to show the film to the masses and the classes. I feel this film has that good mix and I hope the audience feels the same way.

What else is left for Shah Rukh Khan to do?

Now… I guess to play a dwarf! (Chuckles)     

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