He has passed 50, but age is just a number for Shah Rukh Khan. Ask his co-stars about him and all of them are left speechless at the sheer amount of energy he exudes, both on- and off-screen. How has life changed over the years? He says he has become ‘quieter and a little more reclusive’ now.
Possibly the biggest Bollywood success story in the last three decades, SRK has become a towering inspiration to many who dare to dream. ‘To make people smile’ is his only agenda. In a candid chat, SRK talks about success, stardom and everything in between.
Over two decades in Bollywood and you are still the biggest self-made superstar here.
(Smiles) That’s the one thing that will never change. Without sounding pompous, I would like to say that there can only be one SRK; it’s always going to be me. People will try to be me, they can be better than me, but can never be me. This is one thing I’ll always be proud of.
Your success story is one that everyone marvels at. Does that make you happy or proud?
I always look at it this way: I didn’t come from a very well-to-do family. We didn’t have enough money, but my parents never compromised on education and gave us the best.
And I always dreamt big. I feel that ordinary people have the biggest dreams because they aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I was, am and will always be a common man. I call myself the common man’s dream. You know I was discussing with someone the other day ‘why people like me so much’. I realised it’s because somewhere the story of my life has made many out there believe that if I can, they can too. I’m not just living my dream but I’m living their dreams too.
I’m happy I have managed to do that. People keep telling me, ‘your films have done this much business, you have got these many awards.’ But what makes me feel the happiest is how I can connect to the ordinary man who’s paying to watch me on screen. I’m the common man’s hero and I’m the dream they wish comes true.
Have you always dreamt big in life?
Honestly, who doesn’t? The smaller you are, the bigger your dreams would be. I come from a very humble background and I never had anything to show off.
The harsh reality is that people like these are the ones with more unfulfilled desires. I never could own a Batman toy when I was young, so I wanted to become Batman. I’m not a role model, but people would read my stories and feel he is just another normal guy, he leads a normal life, had no money, no support yet he made it to the top.
Having touched so many lives over the years, how do you feel?
If I’ve touched lives and been an inspiration for many, the truth is I’m not the only one responsible for it. I can take the credit for it, but I’m just the packaging and face of it. There are people behind me who work extremely hard to create someone inspiring. Yes, I do work hard, I have a little bit of talent and I try my best every time. But there are a lot of directors, producers, and actors who have made it happen. One can’t take solo credit for it, and I am definitely one who has been fortunate to have the kind of team that I have had for the last 25 years.
Have you ever gone wrong in your judgment?
Definitely! When I became a producer, I went wrong. I’ve worked long enough, and today we have two of the biggest films made under the banner, after having made films that didn’t work.
You can’t have instant success. The biggest problem with success is you lose the ability to surprise people, and you also lose the freedom to go wrong. But if you keep doing something long enough and well enough with the passion that you have and the hard work that you put in, it will work one day. It can’t go wrong. This is my experience.
Having spent over two decades in the business, has your outlook on life changed?
Seeing the life that I’ve led, I have become a little more reclusive and quiet. I have completed half my life, assuming that I’ll complete 100 years.
I’m a little more controlled when it comes to my professional as well as personal life. I know things do go wrong. The difference is today I’m ready for things to go wrong. I accept such things with more humility and resoluteness. And I do get affected and don’t break down so easily now.
So there was been a huge change in the last 25 years. As a matter of fact, in the last eight to 10 years, I have changed a lot. I have become quieter and a lot calmer, especially about my emotions. Today, I get happier within myself.
Have your desires and wants too changed over the years?
When you start off, you aspire for good money, fame, and security for the family apart from desiring awards and rewards. But having been here for 25 years, I realise that the only thing I want to do is to make people smile. Somewhere down the line, it’s not guilt but I have a feeling that I’ve been given a lot more than I deserve. I need to return it before it ends.
When you did Chak De, people said you aren’t getting the numbers. And then when you did Chennai Express or HNY, they said you weren’t taking up great roles. Does this ever bother you?
I’ve no understanding of what people think of my work. All that I understand is that I’m an extremely selfless, creative person. I want people to be happy with what I do. So if I go wrong, I go wrong. And it’s never the numbers. I remember when Chak De released, I was in London. Everyone had told me that it was going to be the biggest flop. They said the same for My Name is Khan. They felt it wouldn’t work because we didn’t have a catchy song in it. That’s absolutely all right. I don’t work for posterity or prosperity. I work only on things I like doing, and if I don’t like doing something, I can’t move or shift that feeling to you. If an artist is feeling it’s not good enough, he will never be able to persuade the audience otherwise. The beauty of art is you have to go wrong more often than right to get it right eventually. When Chak De released, I remember driving down to Andheri and there was nobody there to watch the film. When I did Swades, someone in America told me, ‘How can you do a film like this? It’s making no noise’. Those things will keep happening. Again 7 to 8 years down the line, people will say “Why aren’t you doing a Chak De or a Swades” And who knows, they might be the same people who objected to the film at first.
People forget that when I started off, I did Baazigar, I did Darr. In Deewana, I was launched as ‘the thing’. I see some other films on television and I wonder how I made it so big. (laughs) I have the ability to make the choices which would be memorable. And I will keep doing that. Even Raees and Fan are more in the reality space, and that doesn’t mean that’s diametrically opposite to what I stand for. I will keep doing a Chennai Express or a Happy New Year and I will also do a Fan, a Raees alongside. I was like that in the first 7 to 8 years of my life, without knowing what was at stake. Now I know what’s at stake.
With such a great body of work and so many laurels earned, do you somewhere feel bad about having lost out on a National Award?
I don’t know. Maybe if I get a National Award, I’ll retire (laughs). And maybe that’s why I am not getting it. I have always fallen this short of getting it. But it’s not that I am doing films for a National Award. I want to do films where I can go to the sets feeling happy. So National Award or no National Award, I will keep making the choices that I want to.