Shah Rukh Khan: If I didn't have dimples, I would come across as a serious actor like Nawazuddin

The superstar speaks at length about his film, career and why he would like to unfollow a lot of people on Twitter. 

Keyur Seta

Shah Rukh Khan never gets tired of speaking candidly at length, even when he has running cold and fever. Like it was on this occasion when the Baadshah displayed his humour and wit during a chat with regarding his upcoming film Raees and his career as a whole.

What is more tiring for you — making the film or promotions?
I have been very unwell yaar. I have this cough and cold since last five days. I have been on anti-biotics. That’s why it’s really tiring. Otherwise, it’s alright. 

You have played a don in Don (2006) and Don 2 (2011). Now you are playing a don in Raees too. How did you make sure the audience isn’t reminded of your earlier avatars as Don?
Don is a very sleek, smart, sexy and unrealistic film. I call it like, ‘James Bond gone rogue.’ It’s a bad James Bond. He is very mean. I think the plus point of Don is that you have the baddest guy and you are rooting for him. In the end, you are like, ‘I hope he gets away.’ I think it has that styling and storytelling by Farhan (Akhtar) where you know the end. It’s kind of a fourth wall where you think you know but the Don will outsmart you also. So, it’s not just the characters. Normally, he outsmarts other characters. But Don lives up to the audience, which thinks it will find out what he is going to do this time. Maybe that’s why it is taking so much longer to even make the third part.

This (Raees) is very reality based. This is on actual research of bootlegging rampant during 1985-1995. It’s not rural, but earthy. Not urban based like Don is — private planes, jets. This one is on cycles and motorcycles and in a more reality zone. I don’t think the dialogues were written for style. They were written for substance. This is how the people speak in that world, according to the writers. Today is the first day I realise people can compare maybe because it’s Excel Entertainment. 

So, is Don 3 in the process? 
No, not at all. Farhan and all are writing Fukrey 3 I think (laughs). 

A lot is written about a star and he is constantly judged by the society. How do you react to these things after so many years?
You are going to be vilified, nullified, glorified. You will be held responsible for things you say, don’t say, do and don’t do. That’s part of the public life you choose. The main thing is how do you lead your life and what do you believe in. There are 10 things said about me every day. Eight of them are very nice, two of them are not nice. I don’t think I am as nice as the nice things (said) and as bad as the bad things (said). I must be somewhere in the middle. We are all regular people actually. Like, I can ask you today, when you started off being a journalist, did you ever think you would sit down opposite Mr Amitabh Bachchan and talk to him one on one? It’s a nice moment, it’s a nice thing to do. Does that make you any different in your regular life even today? No. You still do the same thing. A job is a job. So, this is a job. And my job does not end at going on sets, acting and returning and taking off make-up. I think it ends now when you become a public figure. 

When you go out of your house on your birthday and expect 5,000 people to come and say ‘Happy Birthday to you,’ you have to expect 500 to say bad things about you too. Because this is a path you have chosen. I am a public figure, whether I like it or not. I like the adulation. So, I have to take the brickbats also. I think we cannot sit down and clarify or patronise anything. Like, if today somebody praises me, I should not gloat over it and say, ‘I knew it.’ 

People were very negative about me running an IPL team for the first three years. Then we won it twice in a row; we became the best team for some time. People started praising it. I didn’t sit and gloat, ‘I told you so I’ll do it.’ There are going to be these two aspects in every profession. If I was a scientist and I discovered the God’s particle, people won’t even know me and I may get the Nobel prize. This is the path I chose. I like being recognised by people. I like working for people. I like hoping people watch my films. I enjoy it. There will be some disenchantments. But you need to take it in your stride.  

Don’t you think it is very difficult for stars these days to speak their mind openly? 
I think you need to say it on the platform, which is relevant. For example, if I am releasing an ad for Lux in a bath tub and people ask me about the economic situation in India. It’s a wrong platform. But if I go to IIM and I am talking about the Economics of India, that’s the right platform. We need to be careful about the platform we choose. I am not saying necessarily people who are doing the interview don’t know about Economics. But I won’t have enough space to express what I think of Economics of India. I know what you are alluding at. It is a world about hashtags, first line and the first word. Day before yesterday I told someone I was stopped by police many times like many children when they are 16, 17 or 18. Today the headline is — I was stopped by Delhi cops very often. People also know it. You have to take it with a pinch of salt. Having said that, you got to be a little careful. 

Which are the actors you follow or like reading on social media the most?
I actually want to unfollow everybody that I follow. I don’t mean it meanly. It’s just that too many things pop up on Twitter every morning. I get very confused. One or two people write so much early morning. Not actors. It’s a journalist, Jitesh (Pillai). He starts writing about old songs at night. But no, I have not unfollowed anyone recently. I need to find out if I can unfollow people secretly because if I unfollow someone now, it will become news. The same will happen even if I follow. So, I am scared. I’ll figure out and ask Twitter. 

Your look in Raees is much talked about — the pathani suit, kajal and spectacles. What were your inputs in it?
I am not a big fan of myself yaar. Genuinely I am not very vain that I wear something and I think I am looking like a hero. I am just naturally so good-looking that I look good with anything. I am very shy. I don’t sit in front of the mirror. I am not one for vanity or even looks. Of course, when I am doing Gaurav (in Fan), I had eight hours of make up, so you can’t avoid looking at yourself. 

When I did all that (make up) walked in (for Raees shoot) 25 days into shooting, everybody was very quite and it was a new unit, except Mohan, my cameraman. He came to me and said everybody is saying you are in a bad mood. He said that they are feeling you are a very serious person. He asked, 'Are you doing it for the role because normally you are so much fun'. I said, nobody is talking to me so I thought everybody is very serious. Nawaz bhai serious, Mahira serious, Zeeshan is serious, Rahul is serious. He said I am looking scary and might get angry and it was because of my get-up. After 25 days, I started telling everybody, 'Look I am sorry I am looking scary but I am very friendly and we can talk, chat'. Then everybody started talking. 

When you start working on a film, does your process of preparation vary from film to film? 
We should talk about this in a more acting zone. If I start describing what turns me on as an actor, it will become a boring discussion. Unless you are in an actor’s club where people discuss acting. But I will answer it. I have a process obviously. I have worked for 25 years; I am from theatre. I know the craft little bit more than I did 25 years ago. The struggle always for an actor is in different phases. 

Initially, I felt I knew a lot. Half way through I realised, the more I act, the less I realise and the less I know. There is so much more to know. Then there comes a time when I think I have nailed a character; I have killed it; I have slayed it. But then I realise there are so many more ways that I can actually expose myself. Whatever cinema I do — serious or unserious — I am an actor first. Finally it comes down to, 'can I expose myself as a person within the character?' I have a different process from a lot of actors. I read the script, I go into a shell and then I present the character to the director. I make notes. If there is any physicality, I bring it in. Like in Raees there is the voice I wanted to use.

Rahul Dholakia is known for making realistic cinema, going by his last couple of films — Parzania (2007) and Lamhaa (2010). Whereas you are a very commercial actor. 
I know what you are saying. I come from a more commercial phase. I am not considered a serious actor. But I am an extremely serious actor. My dimples actually screw it up (laughs). If I didn’t have dimples, you would think I am Nawazuddin. Rahul is extremely educated. I have not seen his films. But the script he narrated was so well-researched. Sometimes, just the script helps the actor. He wanted this film to have a broader spectrum, which is not a bad thing. He said that he wants to jump over because this script has the scope. When I do a scene and tell him that I would do it this way, he would say, 'Yeh commercial ho jayega'. Sometimes he asks me to do it the artistic way and keep it honest. We have a good laugh at this. We can enjoy that we are coming from a different space. I think I am the most commercial thing in the film. 

You have earned name, fame and money. Now what else do you want from life?
Now I want (laughs)... I was going to say Kim Kardashian (laughs). See, I can’t explain it enough. I just want to be able to entertain a lot of people. That’s all. It’s very simple. From the outside world it looks like name, fame and money. And it’s very nice. I have been blessed. I am very thankful to Bhagwan, God and Allah. But for an actor, at the end of it what matters is whether I am able to entertain as many people I wanted to. When I started off, I felt 100 or 200. But today I feel too many people have given me too much love. So, I need to entertain each one of them.