Exclusive Interview: 'I Only Make Love Stories': Shah Rukh Khan
By LISA TSERING
indiawest.com July 09, 2009 05:35:00 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Actor Shah Rukh Khan touched on his role in Karan Johar's "My Name Is Khan," his famous chemistry with costar Kajol, and the constant controversies that dog him, in an interview with India-West at his hotel July 3.
Recently, a Muslim cleric issued a fatwa against Khan for the actor's comments in a magazine suggesting that the Prophet Mohammed was not a purely historical figure. Khan has said that he was misquoted. A few months earlier, Khan changed the title of his film, "Billu Barber," because barbers in India felt the title was disrespectful. But he says he refuses to let any controversies rule his life.
"I think it's unimportant," Khan told India-West. "I don't want to waste time from things I like to do, like making movies or having intelligent conversations with intelligent people. Watch a movie. Work on my laptop. Spend some time with my children. Think of a script and do what I do best."
But like it or not, Bollywood news thrives on such controversies; look at what happened when Akshay Kumar let his wife unzip his jeans on a fashion runway (Kumar, and his wife, turned themselves in at a police station); and look what happened when Jaya Bachchan inadvertently offended the Thackeray camp in Mumbai when she refused to speak in Marathi (she later apologized).
"I don't know why they do what they do," said Khan. "I do it because I'm moving on to do some other project that needs to be released. You don't like 'Barber'? Take it out."
"If I walk out of here and there are 500 people standing there, and I turn around and some girl says, 'You hurt me,' I won't ask her why. I won't ask her how. I won't say, 'What the hell are you saying?' I will just say, 'I'm sorry if I've hurt you. I don't know how, but I'm sorry.' And I'll move on.
"Because whenever people say, 'I love you,' I don't ask them why. I just say, 'Thank you very much.' So I have neither the right, nor the time, nor the inclination, to sit down. As a matter of fact, to sit down and explain your point of view to a lot of people I find it boring. I'm unsocial when it comes to wanting to explain things that are unimportant."
The speed with which such news stories spreads is part of the problem, he said.
"Those days are gone when you read the newspaper and believed everything you read in it. I don't hold it against anyone. You guys [the press] are now like UPS, like Fedex. You have to get it in time. The line between entertainment and news is completely obliterated.
"When I see the unfortunate coverage of Michael Jackson, I want to see it too. The funny part is, I'm a party to it. I want to see as much of it as possible, right or wrong. So I'm as much to blame.
"That's how the world is now. I feel when all this is happening, it's all fun. Let it go on. I need to do the things which are not fun, which are more important. It's never that I've backed out. If people think 'He got scared,' good enough.
"These days when I meet people I think instead of saying 'Hello' I should say, 'I'm sorry,'" Khan told India-West with a smile.
In "My Name Is Khan," Khan plays Rizvan, a Muslim Indian man with Asperger's syndrome, who befriends and falls in love with Mandira (Kajol), a Hindu single mother living in San Francisco. Their relationship reaches a critical point after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Khan decides to travel across the United States in order to meet the president and tell him that he is not a terrorist.
Audiences are eager to see Khan and Kajol reunite after an eight-year gap since Johar's "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham." But Khan himself can't put his finger on what makes them such a special pair.
"We have no chemistry at all. It's a misnomer!" he said. "We laugh at this every time. I don't know what chemistry is. Neither does Kajol. Neither does Karan. Unless you're sleeping with each other, you don't understand what chemistry is. And I don't sleep with any of my heroines.
"I go to work, we have fun together, I've said this a million times. I think 'chemistry' is a term used from the outside — how it looks on the screen. I wouldn't know, because I'm inside the screen. When I see me and Kajol in a film, I find what we've done personally before it comes on screen better than what comes on screen."
But he adds, "Sometimes I shout at her because she's younger to me. I get very, very angry with her. If you see us together on the set and I'm shouting at her, you'll find there is no chemistry like that!"
The equation of Khan, Kajol and Johar leads audiences to expect a certain kind of film, but Khan does not concern himself with that, and indeed looks forward to a new, more mature synergy between the three of them.
"I love working with Kajol and Karan. I've done 65 films and not one has been done keeping in mind the expectations of what people would like to see. The idea is always that I will do something and make sure that people like it.
"Why would we get together 15 years later and make 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' again? One has to give us a little credit for a little bit of growing up that we have also done.
"Obviously it's not 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.' That film was made by better-looking, younger people than us. We've done 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham,' 'Kuch Kuch' and 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.' They have an inherent niceness in terms of love.
"This film will have a lot of love. I only make love stories; even 'Don' was a love story."
Khan worked with screenwriter Shibani Bathija in researching the role of Rizvan Khan. "The character I'm playing has Asperger's, a milder form of autism," he said.
"I've studied a lot, met a lot of people, and read a lot of books on it. When I was young, I used to work with autistic children in theater.
"I've always had this desire to do a character — it's not a disability — I've always wanted to try and understand how a mind works that works differently than mine and yours. Just because we don't understand things does not mean they're not well. I may get sued for saying this, but I think of Asperger's and autism as the way we're going to evolve. The mind is going to become much more logical, less passionate and emotional."
The film also depicts what it is like to live as a Muslim in America. "The film is about the relationship between the Western world and Islam and how that has changed over the past few years," said Khan. "The journey of one family and how it changes because of 9/11, we touch upon that in a very unbiased and educated way.
"It was important to play this guy, and it was important for me, as a Muslim. I know a lot of things that I have felt sometimes, and tried to utilize that. Some of my childhood education about Islam has come in handy, too. It's an important film and I hope people understand it and like it."
Although Khan is able to shoot acting scenes, and show up in person at live appearances like a meet-and-greet he attended in San Jose later that evening (see separate story), his old shoulder injury, and the February surgery he underwent for it, have meant that he has to curtail dancing and action scenes.
But Khan is eager to start work as soon as possible on "Ravan," a superhero film to be directed by Anubhav Sinha that will reportedly be India's most expensive film.
"I wanted to make it, and I want to start it," said Khan. "Prashant [Shah, line producer for 'My Name Is Khan'] is the producer here, and I've been troubling him for months now. "Part of it is to be shot here. It's a special film for me. I want to put on my tights and my kids' blanket on my back. I want to do this film for my children.
"I've always wanted to make a superhero film, but I never had six-pack abs. Now that I have them, I want to do this. It's not an animation film, as many people believe; I would like to clarify that. It's a live action film.
"I'm getting a little depressed about my injury because for me to do something physically active, such as Farah Khan's 'Happy New Year,' 'Don 2' or 'Ravan,' I have to be physically fit, and I don't see that happening until about October or November. These are the three films that I will start working on as soon as I get better."
More, more, more: Khan, quick talking and energetic, seems like a hungry young actor, and not a complacent superstar.
"I don't work for posterity or prosperity. I work because I want to work," he said. "I just hope my kids learn from the good things that I know and not from the bad things that I have done. Hopefully, I will have a happy and healthy life. I tell my kids, remember me as someone who tried very hard."http://www.indiawest.com/readmore.aspx?id=1306&sid=1