|Interview with Shah Rukh
Khan, superstar, producer.
Interview takes place at the shooting of Ashoka the Great.
|Can you tell us about
yourself, who you are.
My profession, I am a film actor, a film artist, a performing artist, because I do more than films, I do television, I do theatre, I do bit of stage, live shows.
Iím an actor, Iím a dancer, I would sing if I was called upon to do so, I would do action if I am supposed to do it.. we are martial arts.. because our film in India are what we call variety films, or what I guess Americans or Europeans they would call it a cabaretÖ everything is there.. itís like supper theatre. You go out and you get to watch a variety of things in one film.
|Our films are
not liniar, our films are not character based,
they are not one line themes, they donít keep to one emotion,
they have all. In India we have something which is termed as nau raz,
which means nine emotions, abroadly, I mean thatís how it could
be translated, or nine different stages, or nine different ways a person
can react at situations, whether itís anger, happiness, sadness,
godness, badness, what ever.
Our film have all of that, they have romance, they have love, they have action, they have dance, they have fights.
|So I amÖ my
profession.. a sort ofÖ Iím like a jester, every actor in India is
like a jester.. we are the good jesters and we are supposed to make
everybody who watches our films happy.
Of course there is the other side of cinema also, which is liniar, which is straight forward, which is cold, which is boring, which is one line, which wonít be understood by everybody that you have shot here.
We cater to our population being so big, and seventy %, or sixty % or fifty % of that are people who are media illiterate, who donít know.. if I was to bleed from here, there are some here, sitting and watching the shooting who may turn around and ask me: is that real blood..
The standard of living is quite low, for them to watch a film, means sometimes perhaps forgoing a meal, they may have to remain empty stomacked to go and watch a film, so for them the film, for that point of time, becomes bigger than starving, becomes more important than life itself.
So then they go there and I give them a film which is one raz, or about one thing, or is a liniar film, and they donít find one of the things they belong to, they donít only feel cheeted, they donít feel angry, they feel you have taken away their food from them.
|So thatís why our
cinema is very colourful, itís very basic, itís beautiful, itís
raw, itís just like our country is.
Itís exactly how India is, itís dirty, itís humid, itís
like our lives are, itís not protected, itís not computerized, it is
not syntetic, it is absolutely impure.. and that is the beauty of Indian
The purety is the fact that it is so impure, it has got everything and we make no balls about it..
|So I have to make sure,
or the Indian cinema which make the maximum number of film in the world,
we have to make sure that we cater to everybody, and I think the
proudest part of Indian cinema is that we do it with lot of pride. We
believe, just because we cater to the lowest nominator, we are the most
intelligent. We can make the basic person understand what my film is
I am not catering to cinema which is going to be understood only by a few over a few wine glasses
|I completely appreciate
film in the West.. I think tecnologically they are fantastic. Film I see
from Hollywood, or from Europe or from any cinema which is
tecnologically better than mine.
A film I believe in, is Life is Beautiful, itís like our films, Life is Beautiful is a hindi film.. en fact Face Off is a hindi film, in fact Mission Impossible 2 is a hindi film.. of course they are tecnologically very superiour, so we canít do what MI 2 does, but I understand, I understand the film and everybody here would understand that film, because you are showing me style, you are showing me Versage, you are showing me stunts, you are showing me larger than life, which works in India.. I think Titanic is a hindi film, itís a complete hindifilm.
|Can you talk about the
mainstream dream. The lie, the happy endings. Hollywood does it also.
You do it in a more honest way I think. They disguise it as real life.
Every society, when you make a film, this is my believe, I may be wrong, they make a film.. what does not exist in the society.. we are dream makers as you said.. we are dream merchants.. we make films, we do not exist in the society. At this point of time in the West - because of the kind of progress they have - they have a very good quality of life.. so if I was to show you a film in America about good quality of lifeÖ itís boring. If I show you a bank robbery, done with a creditcard system.. it happens there, itís not so interesting.
In India there are lot of things which we donít have. We donít have a happy family. Nor by virtue of relationships, by virtue of economics .. so we like so show you a happy family. We like to show you things which are not attainable in India, we like to show you swanky cars, we like to show you polo Ralph Lauren, we like to show you Elle, we like to show you Versage.. because these are not available. So then you se.. like sitting here, an erea like Jaipur, or an area which is away from Jaipur.. this is my film going audience, which makes my films runÖ and you see their quality of lifeÖ for them me wearing a tight polo Ralph Lauren as what they would like to be.
In America itís done, so that is not a big thing.. and when we show our films we are trying to whow you what is unattainable.. now in America and England space is unattainable, so you have films about space. That is the only thing unatainable left. Some strange drug cartel, mafia, is something people donít know yet, or donít know in detail about.. so you will have films about them. You will have Pulp Fiction, we will have Natural born Killers.. things which donít exist anymore.
So in India, when you tell me that we are telling you a more obvious lieÖ it Ďs not a lie, itís a fantasy. see itís a hope, itís a dream, itís a wish, itís saying good morning to you, itís saying good night to you or have a nice day.
So you se my film, you finish it, whatever the eccence of my film, at the end of the all I want to wish everyone: have a nice day.. have a good day.
|But of course there are
people like Santosh, there is a person like Shyam Benegal, there is a
person like Shekar Kapur .. there are hundreds of people, like Mani
Ratnam.. I think they understand that they can cater to that audience, (the
general public). They make films for them. They do well in festivals,
they do well at the Sundance, at Cannes and Berlin, they get some awards
too and I think is is only a matter of time when they will get universal
How come I like these films so much?
They are the most likeable films in the world
We have everything, but still I like this films more.
Actually I you can transcent the boundary of language, look beyond the linguistic barrier, I think our films do cater to more real life.. you know everything is not perfect, we are imperfect, hindi films are imperfect, and thatís what is so beautiful about it, and thatís what everyone is, but we cater to that, and I think if you can understand that you will enjoy hindifilms.
I enjoy them a lot, and then some of them I can not have.
I think out of 5000 or 4000 films made in a year, I think 3800 are quite bad really.. so.. that would include India and America and English and all that, so we make our share of bad films, and we are very happy to make them.
|These categorisation of
art film, commercial film doesnít matter.. a good film is a good film
I guess itís like categorising art forms.. then some are expressionists and x is this, y is this
I think a painting is a painting.. you like it or you donít like it. Any other categorisation I donít believe in. If I like a film I like it. I like some very strange films.. whatís is that.. Amodovar.. fantastic films, there is no doubth not to like them.. but they are strange.. for me they are strange.. for a normal audience.. hey, whatsís this. So there is nothing like an art film.. but we have some film makers who donít like to put in songs. In India, if you donít put in songs and you make a film at a boring pace, it is an art film, I believe that.
Itís the way here, yes.
It is very strange, when I go to London I rush into the halls and see there art films made in England.
I think itís this fascination with the west that makes me do that.. and Iím sure itís the fascination with the East which makes a lot of people from the West like the art films of India too.. but here I think, they are ok.
|You have this lot of
fantastic music in this country, this talent for music, and you use it.
The importance of music, expressing of emotions.
The best explanations would be that we are still in in the era of musicals. Hollywood and the Western cinema got out of it. But we still make musicals and I think that the unique selling point.. or the most beautiful part of Indian cinema is the music. There are times in life where you are just sitting down and your girlfriend has left you, and you are sitting alone, and you are very sad, but you still feel like breaking into a song.. and we have all that.
The songs come into mind, or shows your love.
Yes, and you cry and you sing a song, you put on the music system and you start goingÖ or sometimes you start writing poems.. the poems and the songs.. and hindi cinema.. when we are happy we sing, when we are sad we sing, when we want to laugh we sing, want to cry we sing, we want to dance we sing.. and all celebration in India is singing.. we belong to a culture where singing expresses all emotions.. you know, ours is such a rich musical heritage. And it still hasnít really died out, it has not still become the porperty of just rock stars..
God forbid it should die out
Yeah yeah it wonít die out, itís not the property of four guys.. itís not the property of the bands.. anyone can sing.. and in hindi cinema, whenever anyone wants to sing we are ready to sing..
I think itís really beautiful.. though tecnically speaking we believe songs are relieve for the audience, when the film gets too tense..because we are catering to everybody we donít want this one emotion to start stangulating people and choking them.. god this is so scary if it gets too scary. We will sing a song.
|You are so good her.
Tecnically you say itís very perfect in the west, I think you are as
muh, because you are so skilled.
No no no, tecnically we are imperfect, but I think as for as what we have and what we produce out of that, that is very nice .. we are still in terms of just equipment we are behind, we donít have access to. If we try to buy stuff, it is too expencive. Our special effect department is very weak as yet.. we still donít have specialisation in any field in India, not only cinema. Because we donít have specialisation.. if I was to tell you, who are doing the kamera, give me a glass of water.. she will say: call out toÖ I am sure in Hollywood you have a lilttle cantina or whatever.. a van, and the actors go and pick up their water. Here.. if I ask the director to do it he will bring it for me.. so specialisation hasnít tricket.. not only in cinema, in every sphere of live.. we donít have specialisation.. in the house everybody does everything.. mom will cook also, Mom will work also.. itsí not that Moms in India donít get angry with their children if they donít eat on time, they donít say: can you be back at 1 pm, otherwise it is lying in the refrigiator.. food doesnít lie in the refrigeators in our houses.. if you come at 3 am, our mothers will heat it and give it to us, feet us with her own hands.. so we still belong to that era, we still belong to that culture.
If I told Steven Spielberg or James Cameroun to make a film in India.. they would not be able to make a film in India, they would not be able to.. they can use the akela, they can use the gimmy gip, they can use the Arri 34511, they would not be able to make a film in India, and if they made a film in India it would not be released and bought by the distributors.. and if it was bought by the distributors nobody would go and see that film.. and if people went to see, they would burn the theatresÖ thatís how wonderful our filmmakers are.
|And I am not saying it
because I am Indian.. I love the work they do, I think they are
fantastic.. I know Shekar well, he is working there (Shekar Kapur,
Indian but from England, where
he made Elisabeth), and he is a fantastic filmmaker, but could not make
films in India.. he made a couple of films, great films, some of the
best films made in India, three films: Bandit Queen, Mr. India, Masoom..
and a couple of others which he didnít put his name to, because he
didnít want to finish them.. he couldnít finish them, he doesnít
like the star system.
|I come late on my sets..
I do come late on my sets, but I am not sued for that, because I am used
to going home late and my mother feeding me with her hands still, we are
like that.. it doesnít make a difference, itís like a family and we
work like that.. there is no.. if my director wants me to shoot beyond
50 days, it does not mean I am going to have a contract. I remember
there was an actor from England, who worked with me.. a very close
friend of mine.. Ayub
Kanbeen, (Indian from England, but who understands hindi) who worked in
Hill Street Blues also later. We did The Idiot, we remade that film.. ..
and I remember there was a shot, and.. you know the stand on
which you put light here is called a ghora, which means a horse in
hindi.. and somebody said: get the ghora, and he thought somebody was
telling him to ride a horse.. so he started calling up his agent: they
are calling me to ride a horse.. ..is that included in the contract? and
the lady said: no, you just fly back, you fly back.
I donít know how to ride a horse, my director tells me to ride a horse.. I will ride a horse.. itís no problem.. Iíll break my neck.. I mean, it doesnít make a difference.
|The girl is petrified of
the horses, the heroine... and she said she is petrified of the horses..
but we love cinema so much we will give last ounce of blood to make the
films.. we believe in it, we believe in it..
we bleed, we fight, we get hurt.. we like our films..
itís a way of life in India, itís the only mode of entertainmnet in India.. it is the only thing that gives us relieve in India.. it is the most important aspect in India.
Thatís what I see, this devotion.. which is so fantastic here .. you go all the way out, you do whatever you want.
Because we love it so much, and in love you donít have boundaries.. so if we want to do it we just go ahead and do it.. and I will like to even say that entertainment has become fashionabel and a big business in the last five years there (the West).. I think entertainment is going to be the biggest industry, with microbiology or whatever.. but entertainment in India has been the biggest industry for the last 200, 300, 5000 years.
Entertainment is the biggest industry. We believe in it. We entertain at home, our marriges are entertaining, our births are entertaining, our deaths are entertaining, our life style is entertaining, our teaching is entertaining.. everything in India we do has itís base.. you can go in Bombay and suddenly you will find people on the street dancing.. I donít think they do that so often in New York or in Denmark.
|You donít se that.
You donít se that. These guys they will dance and you can walk into anybodys house and they will give you something to drink and you can dance with them and have a party and they will donít even ask you where you are from..
They take these huge religious deities.. and put them in water and dance nine days, ten days.. and go on dancingÖand this is in every different part of the country.. they take colour all over India and put it on anyone they meet, which is called Holi.. they burst crackers.. not on the 4th of July.. they do it on Diwali, they do it when they are happy, they do it on bitrthdays of their leaders.. everything.
Why? because our livesÖ you know 80%, 70 % of people live below the powerty line or just at the powerty line.. and for them just to be able to get a moment or two of happiness is important.
And in India when I act in films, and 80 or 90% of people when they make film, they know we are catering to that person who might just have this happiness in life.. this might be the happiest moment of his life.. he doesnít have food to eat, he doesnít have a home to stay in.. so we are catering to somebodys happiness.. we are not catering to a business, we are not catering to collections..
Yes that also helps.. yes we need that money to make the films and we do make sure that we make that business but at the end of it allÖ thatís why the devotion, thatís why the fansasy. And they just love cinema, like that, most of them.
So itís a very different ballgame.. I have a masters in mass communication, I wanted to be an engeneer maybe.. I had businesses.. but more than that I wanted to be an actorÖ and lot of people.. like Shekar Kapur left his charging accountants job to become an actor in India, so you have all sorts of people whoÖ so films are a very very impotant part of live.. and if it was so important in West also.. I think it is more of a business there.. thatís why it is more calculated
|Too much af a business,
Ours are more from the heart . if they fail they fail.
Then there are some filmmakers who have made the kind of films they have made and made them popular in America and in Cannes and all. I donít appreciate it. They are selling to them what is so personal. They are telling a very personal story to people, who are apprecaiting it only as how you appreciate a freak-in-act show:
Oh god they are so poor.. th th th itís a marvellous film.. they donít have food to eat. They donít wear clothes.. they eat raw meat.. they are very sadly off.. they have elephants.. God they are so uneducated. I met someone in England who told me: India has really progressed, since I left India, you donít have elephants anymore, you have lesbians in India, I mean itís a lot of progress. He had seen, I think Fire. Thatís what progress in India for him was.
Itís not true. I think India is very educated, we have an amazing talent whether it is computers and other ascpct, but we just love that fact, you know, that we believe that we want to give happiness to everybody.
|How do you deal with this
crowd always attacking you?
Ours is a very populated country so you canít be without crowds in India.
Thatís another thing, but..
Yeah, I donít know. I think that if it wasnít there I would miss it.. so I donít look down upon it.
But while I am working.. yes, I have to be a little in hiding because it just waists a lot af time if people crowd around me, and make-up gets spoiled and stuff like that.. but it is nice to be known and recognised.
You asked me in the beginning what I love about films.. I love everything about films.. I love the fact that I am a star, I lov e the fact that people recognise me, I love the fact that I canít go on the streets, I love the fact that I need body guards, I love the fact that I have to live in my mothers womb, I love the fact that I canít face the crowd, I love the fact that I donít have a normal life. I am very happy with it.
You are very loved.
I am very loved, yaeh, you donít get so much love ever .. so if you have so much love.. either you can have so much love, or just go around doing common place things.
|Can you tell about Ashoka,
the film you are shooting.
This film is called Ashoka, itís on the life of the king whos symbol of kingdom or one of the symbols that he used, is our national symbol, the Ashoka Chaka, in the flag you have seen the wheel with the 24 spokes.. the film isís about him. He was a king, historicals claim very ruthless .. he killed lot of people while he was trying to conquer Kalinga, which is the war we are shooting just now.. and after he did that, just like buddha, he saw how much sadness and destruction he had caursed.. and he looked into himself and realised that violence is not the way of life.. killing brothers, shetting blood is not what he wanted to do.. so he renounced all violence, his kingdom and he became a buddhist munk, and he started building, and.. he started spreading the word of buddha, buddhism, all over the country and around the world. And thatís why he is called Askoka the Great. But our period deals with the time just before he became great, our period deals with the time when he was perhaps obviously to the side which he tried to beat, to conqour.. they donít like him, so we are taking that side also. We are taking the other side also, where he belongs, from Magadh.. and we are trying to create a love story within that.
|I have a hero in this
country, you know who. I think somebody should talk about him, cause no
one over there knows him.. so you should do that.. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan.
Mr Bachchan to us is.. he is a very big star, he is a huge star, he is a very brilliant actor, perhaps one of the greatest actors in the world, I believe.. of course our market being what it is, he has not been exposed there (the West), but he is.. I donít know how to describe him.. if he was older he would be the Marlon Brando of India maybe, but he is like Clint Eatwood also. He is all into one. He stands for the angry young man, the macho guy, the handsome guy, the dude. He played the bad guy in some films also. Women loved him, and he was a lover. He can do it all.. the role of the comedian finished with him, because he do could do that too, so you did not need a comedian in the film also. (someone to go step in for the some fun parts in the film). He has a lot af believe in what he does, and I think that makes him that he is. And at this point of time he is one of the most dignified, most educated, most presentable actors of the times. And I think that again he didnít get his due, perhaps, by the virtue of being born in India, but that doesnít take away anything from his achievements, because if he was born in America or something I am sure he would be considered the greatest actor in the world.
is one of the best.
Oh, he is, but, like you said, people in Denmark they donít know him.. I think there are lot of people who hasnít seen him, and I have grown up watching his films. I was born in 65, and seventies and eighties was the period here where he was the biggest star. He is my biggest star, and I wanted to be in films after seing Mr. Bachchan, and fortunately I had the change to work with him resently. And every moment spent with him on the set, every time that he speaks, every time that he acts, is a great learning experience, andÖ itís not too late, I wish he gets exposed to the Western cinema and makes some films there.