(Published in Dawn Images 18.12.2011)
“It’s not just difficult to get hold of Don…
That dialogue rings just as true for the man who wears the mask of Don these days; Shah Rukh Khan has been living out of a suitcase and he is impossible to pin down. His life has been a whirlwind for the past few months – “I never know where I am anymore” – as he flies from one city to another, first for Ra.One and then for the juggernaut that must continue with Don 2. Releasing this week, Don 2 is the sequel to Farhan Akhtar’s remake of the original and already has everyone’s interest as the year comes to a close.
It’s amidst this tsunami of activity that Tahulka Movies (official importers and distributors of the film in Pakistan) align an interview with the superstar who is always on the move. A sixteen-minute slot is what we get with a thirty seconds heads up. It takes more than that to calm the nerves; it is Shah Rukh Khan on the line after all.
Twenty-seven minutes, several “please move around for a better signal” and “can you speak louder” requests, “I’m Don, you’re Dawn” and a few laughs later, it’s over. This is how it went…
From super star to super hero to anti-hero in Don, you play all these characters with such ease and joy but which one is the closest to you?
I get to be all these characters in part, which makes me very lucky but sometimes I wake up and find it very difficult to feel who I really am. I love my work and when I’m working on a film all I want to do is jump out of bed and act. I get extremely excited about my roles and I enjoy being someone else when I’m in character. But I detach just as quickly once they are complete. When I’m not working it’s just boring old me, I’m afraid.
Boring. Old. Is that really how you see yourself?
The roles you now choose are getting more and more mechanical. Are you choosing roles that glorify the SRK brand or are you actually thinking characters and acting?
Neither of the two, actually. This ‘SRK-the brand’ is an illusion people have created. For me it’s very simple. I choose films because of the people I want to work with. People are more important for me and I need to be comfortable with the people I’m working with. The films that I do need to make me happy and I need to have space while working on them. I’m in a space where I need to be comfortable. It’s really very simple to figure out. Ratings and TRPs (Televisin Rating Points) don’t matter to me.
As for acting, I like exploring different techniques as an actor and not all of them always go down well. I still don’t do anything that I don’t feel happy doing. I did Om Shanti Om, Khan (My Name is Khan), Ra.One and now Don, which are all different types of roles. I enjoyed all of them. I work hard and then let it (the film) go.
You are very committed to technology. Ra.One raised the bar by being shot in 3D and now Don 2 is releasing in 3D along with the gaming paraphernalia. Is so much technology necessary for an Indian film whose premise to success will always be good story telling?
Technology is very important for Indian films and we want to keep up with the world in every possible way. That’s why I have my own studio. Ra.One was at par with any high-tech film in the world. I really do hope other directors and producers pick up on these developments because they need to happen. I love technology and I’m all for raising standards in any possible way. We have to keep abreast with the best of everything that’s out there.
That said, there will always be beauty in simple story telling and ‘normal’ films but personally I believe in enhancing things where necessary.
Keeping My Name is Khan and the relations between India and Pakistan in mind, do you think films need to absorb the socio-politics around us or influence them? What does good cinema do, in your opinion?
Art is always going to go beyond boundaries. Primarily, all a good film needs to do is entertain. Enjoyable cinema will always transcend boundaries and we are so similar as a people that we laugh at the same things and cry at the same things. But why restrict the question to India and Pakistan?
I’m glad people liked Khan (My Name is Khan) all over the world for a very simple reason. I’m not claiming to know everything but I do know that as a Muslim it’s important for me to tell the world who we really are. It’s important for us to explain Islam to the world and it’s important for the world to know Islam and what it truly stands for.
But that’s not the only reason I did the film. It was a good experience.
Indian films are now releasing in Pakistan so at least some boundaries are softening. What do you say about Pakistani artistes working in India?
We speak the same language. This exchange is very important because we have the same background and I hope it continues. Where films are concerned, it’s important to step out and explore new options. I have worked with a lot of singers from Pakistan and I’ve also worked with Akon for Ra.One. I feel that new voices bring novelty as well as longevity.
You always had millions of fans in Pakistan but your fanfare reached dizzy heights with MNIK. What are the odds that you’ll come to Pakistan?
One of these days I will come to Pakistan. I will come to Pakistan when work takes me there.
Work, but not the love of the people?
I find work is an excuse for love. I find love in work.
You found popularity in a negative role when you started out and now you’re returning to the anti-hero once again with Don. Do you feel that you’re coming full circle?
Not really, considering my next film is going to be a deeply intense love story. (Chennai Express releases in December 2012). It’s being made under the Yash Raj banner and will have all grand qualities of a Yash Raj film. Kareena (Kapoor) is my co-star. I will be returning to that overwhelming ‘love story’ genre in full essence.
So will you be a Raj or Rahul?
(laughs) Neither. Both rolled into one.