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“RA.One Is A Brand”

He’s acquired many monikers during his fabulous journey in filmdom – Badshah Khan, King Khan, Shah and SRK. Now Shah Rukh Khan has earned one more – G.One. Shah Rukh Khan talks to Vajir Singh about what it’s like to make a path-breaking film

How has RA.One done at the ticket counter?

Well, the entire journey of RA.One has been very thrilling, even now, after the film has released. I did have a figure in mind. Our film, with print and publicity cost Rs 135-137 crore. Of this, we will get back a grant of Rs 18-20 crore. So the budget is Rs 115 crore. The film was expected to do an ‘X’ amount in the first week and it has met that target. Then, when various reactions started pouring in, I was wondering if the business would add up as per my expectations. And now that it has, I am thrilled. I am also thrilled that the film is so talked about, especially by people of all walks of life who are not associated with the film industry. Be it writers, publicists, politicians… everyone. The fact that it is being passionately discussed shows that it has made an impact. It is an outrageous outpouring of passionate discussion. I am also glad this genre has evoked the kind of reaction it has. Now people will believe a genre like this can deliver hits. Superhero films are not a medium that India has had for the last decade. Now we need not feel we can never have a purist superhero film. It’s amazing that people overseas too have appreciated the film. The LA Times review had some really nice things to say.

But Indian reviewers have something else to say.

Critics have pre-conceived ideas when they watch a film. You know, the whole “agar hum banate toh yeh film aisi hoti”. More often than not, it’s not the film they desire simply because they have not made it. They are critics, not filmmakers. When I read a critical appraisal of a film and I have watched that film, I would have written that review differently. I am all right with what the critics say. Your magazine itself says, “When critics rate a film low, business is very high!” It’s alright with me if some do not like it and others do. 

What were you thinking on Tuesday, the day before the film released in India?

I was in Dubai and a lot of people liked it there. From the day I watched this film, I knew there would be several viewpoints about it. It’s a new genre and a new kind of cinema. Whenever something new is introduced, there is bound to be a discussion. I would have been very surprised if there wasn’t any discussion around the film. RA.One is the kind of film you would want to discuss. It is being talked about, from drawing rooms to board rooms, everywhere. In the last ten days, I have been traveling around the globe, from Bhatinda to LA, and I have shown the film in the Oscar theatre too, and everyone talks about it with me. On Tuesday, people were saying the film would do a certain amount of business and it did. But I also knew that some people would have issues.

Various people said different things…

(Cuts in) Let me be very honest. When people are ignorant, they quote statistics. I know I’m well versed with the kind of cinema I make and how to conduct my business. So I won’t quote statistics. The most boring thing about cinema is sitting down and looking at pie charts. Cinema is not about pie diagrams. You either like a film or you don’t. The figures say that a lot of people liked the film, inspite of the reservations some had. I am not saying that people have liked it in its entirety. There’s a child in the film and there are these video games that would excite the kids. And I would also love it if it appealed to a 90-year-old too. Take Spiderman, for instance. Many of us might not like to watch it.

A lot of people have commented on the film’s massive marketing budget. They feel other actors will find it difficult to match up to this level.

They have to be reborn as Shah Rukh Khan! Let them try! (Laughs)

But I don’t think every film needs this kind of a marketing budget. This film needed it.

Why do you say that?

When you make a supernatural superhero film like this, these are long-term associations. It’s like a… not a franchise… it’s like a trademark. It’s a trademark film. We have created certain trademarks in the film in terms of costumes, the powers, these things will become the beginning of something new.

All the brands associated with this film know that their association will not end here. It will be revived. For example, Krrish has come back. So these are trademark films. Thus, when you market a film, you tell people that this film will become a brand. RA.One is a brand. When I talk business, I talk model-type business. I tell people, this is my model. I am going to put it on a platform where there will be a discussion about how it will be done. This cannot happen with every other film. Of the 150 to 200 Hindi films we make annually, 160 to 170 films are typical Bollywood cinema that will be liked or disliked by the audience. But atypical stuff will always create an unnatural response.

Since RA.One is a brand, is there a possibility of a sequel?

I haven’t thought about it. We never imagined that Don would have a sequel. It is too early to say anything about RA.One now. I am sure if a sequel is announced a year later, people will show a huge amount of interest even then. During Dussera when Ravan’s idol is burnt and everyone claps at the spectacle there is a sulphur smoke at the end. Likewise, when the hype around our film settles, we will announce a sequel. (Smiles).

Are you more satisfied as SRK, as G.One, or as producer?

I am always an actor. For me, it’s always acting over production. I don’t produce films; people produce them for me. I have played a superhero and I really liked playing it. And it takes a lifetime to make a film like this. It takes 20 years of being a Shah Rukh Khan to make a film like this. I have enjoyed this part of my journey.

What is the response that Red Chillies VFX has been receiving?

It’s amazing! Many big Hollywood studios have noticed our work. Their VFX film budgets are 100 times more than ours. But I think the quality of work done by Red Chillies VFX is world class. I am not saying this because it is my company. In fact, it’s hardly my company; it’s run mainly by Harry (VFX Supervisor) and Keitan (CEO). To be honest, if you want to make a VFX film in this country, you would have to use the talent of Red Chillies VFX. I can be a brand ambassador for them but right now, they can’t afford to sign me on. (Laughs)

What about the response from the Indian filmmakers?

I don’t know how many people are doing a VFX film here. Even in Hollywood, there are very few filmmakers who make VFX-heavy films. So I think RA.One will open doors for this genre in the country.

Coming back to the business of RA.One… Did you expect higher numbers? Or are you satisfied with them?

More than this?

Yes.

Phir toh India ki GDP ho jati. (Laughs)

Initially, the trade felt that you would not make any money from this film. Later, they said that the film would manage to break even. Now some are saying it will make some money…

(Cuts in) Let’s wait for Saturday (today), Sunday, and the upcoming holidays of Eid and Guru Nanak Jayanti. After that, I will tell you how much money we have made. Because I make films and I make money, I take people’s money and make films with that so that they make money too! Even if I don’t get money, I will still make a lot of films. If I have lost money, I will still make films.

For those who ask how much money SRK will make, tell them SRK will make another 100 films. Inshaallah.

Speaking of business per se, we have another long weekend. I think RA.One will muster enough money for people to say that SRK will make a lot of money.

A dear journalist-friend called me the other day and said that he heard that I had made Rs 100 crore. He joked and said, please donate Rs 1 crore to me so that I can deposit it in the bank and quit journalism! (Laughs) I think I will make enough money for all journalists to quit their jobs and start making films!

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