'Chennai Express' has broken several records, be it the fastest 100 crores at the box office in India within the first four days, the highest international opening of 51 crores, the highest preview collection of 6.18 crores amongst others. Looking at Shah Rukh Khan, you can see he is happy. Whether you are or not a friend or fan of Shah Rukh, there are three things you have to grant him — his generosity, his unabashed capacity to promote and his clarity that records are made only to be broken. Excerpts from a conversation with the extremely charming and satirical man:What makes you India's biggest star internationally?
I have no idea. I think I just look really cool. Aristocratic world class looks.Chennai Express has broken several records. What does that mean to you?
It's very nice, but, as far as I am concerned, none of these records matter as they will be equalled or bettered in a few months and they should be. Carl Lewis can't sit on the laurels of being the fastest runner. Usain Bolt will come and that's how it is and it should be. Anyone who keeps harping on records will get stuck in a time warp. Anyone who keeps bothering about records will not make a film from the heart and anyone who keeps desiring records will have the darkest time creating stuff.
So, I don't indulge in either of the three. The good thing is that the business of Hindi films will become bigger. With 1.2 billion people, our openings will be equal to international films. Personally, the film has done what it was meant to do. It was meant to involve maximum number of people from big or small unit families, ranging from the kids to the grandparents. Everybody is liking it. An 80-year-old lady met me yesterday and hugged me saying, 'I enjoyed the film and so did my eight-year-old grandson'. The film bonded them as they both laughed at the same things. When I get tweets from people in Mauritius to Mazgaon saying the same thing, it's really nice.With the film crossing 100 crores (net India theatrical) in just four days, are you now targeting the 200 crore number?
If I give a number, I am limiting myself. I want as many people to see the film, be it today on Independence Day or the coming week, they should throng the theatres and see the film. People are seeing it multiple times, which today seldom happens, and I think it will turn out to be a longish running film.While TOI rates both realistic and popular cinema based on reader tastes, some critics take themselves too seriously and have given the film as low as 2 stars. Has the success of the film defied critics' ratings?
You defy things that are important. There is no defying in story liking and story telling. You just like something. I am a filmmaker for 22 years. I loved The Hangover part 1
and hated part 2, but it did as much business. It's very subjective. People have preconceived notions. They evaluate realistic with popular and do not like to rate popular cinema well. Cinema should just be gone to and seen and you make up your mind after the film. If you tell me about a film you didn't like, but if I have to see a film, I will still see it.
Every critic has his or her right to have his or her opinion. I have never thanked a critic for giving a good rating nor have I ever questioned a critic for his opinion. I am not nice to people so that they review my film well. I am nice to them, as I am just a nice guy. I have made the film I wanted to and can tell what kind of films critics like or not like.One unanimous thing one hears about you is your generosity. And the beauty is you never talk about it. Did you inherit it?
I have no reason to be anything else, genuinely. I have everything in the world. Some people tell me I am generous as I am scared and that is why I am always nice to people. Allah Miya said, 'If you are giving for a reason which is personal, then it is not charity. In Islam, a part of anything we earn should, in any case, be given. My mother used to tell me the story of Prophet Ali. He was breaking casks of wine because drinking is discouraged in Islam. He kept breaking casks till he reached 99, when he realised 'Kitna achcha kaam kar raha hoon'
in the name of God. So that time, it had become a personal thing as he was feeling proud about it. I am extremely generous with people I deal with. Allah has given me so much because of me being like that.
My children sometimes say, 'Papa, that person was like that and you are still being so nice.' Let me tell you a Sant Kabir doha even though it may sound cliched: Jo toku kaata boye
(the one who pricks you with a thorn), Tahi boye tu phool
(you take a flower and prick him back), Taki phool ke phool hai
(your flowers will remain flowers), Wako hai trishul
(it will be like a trishul to him and he will realise his mistake)
We were poor and if you came to our house, we had a dining table on which there was just one vase, which was the only piece of adornment we had. If someone came to our house and said that it looked nice, we understood that he was saying it because that was the only thing he could compliment us for. But, before he would walk out, my father would have packed it in a newspaper and given it to him. That's how I have been brought up. If somebody tells me they like something, I give it to them. Both my parents were extremely generous. In our house you never had to ask, you just had to say. I found out later after my mother died, that there was a loan she had taken of five lakhs just so that I could have a Maruti van in college. I had not asked her for a car but had just told her that my friends came to college in a car. She bought it fully knowing that she could not afford it.
My kids don't ask for anything. I give them so much that they are fulfilled. I always take a gift for them, but they always say, 'Why papa?' You have to give enough. I know I am generous and so are both my kids. It's very strange that one of them looks like Gauri and one like me, but their nature is just like me. They both have a sense of humour. They both read, have anecdotes and stories to tell and are giving in nature.Is Gauri serious?
She is actually a joker and is really funny.After so many years of marriage what do Gauri and you like the most about each other?
The space we give each other. We have never had an issue of why are you doing this, have dinner now, spend time with the kids. There is no binding. We have known each other too long and have a tacit understanding in our relationship. The kids really bind us and we both have a great time with them.We have a great sense of entertainment in our kids. Don't know how they will turn up when they grow up, but at this point they are an interesting set of toys.You are considered a generous producer. You don't have a problem putting in your own money. Is that true?
I do put in my money. If I remember my last film RA.One
has not paid me. I put my fees into the film. I give my blood and sweat for a film. It's easier for me to make money doing opening ceremonies of people's shops and programmes. If I decide to, I can make money in 30 days than what I can make in 10 films as an actor.What are people liking about Chennai Express?
This film is a little different from a Rohit Shetty film, and a little different from me and it's the little difference that has made all the difference. '66 years of independence and you can't be considered independent till your women have a say in life.' To me that is the most important thing in the film. Gauri's dad saw it and said, 'Mujhe jo achcha lagta hai yaar woh yeh hai ki acchi achchi batein ho rahi hai, haste bhi ja rahe hai log and aap achchi batein bhi kar rahe ho.'
People are enjoying that and it has a universal appeal.Who did you share your excitement with first of the big opening?
An award has never been a vindication for me. I have 14 Filmfare awards. Every award I would alternate and put it in Suhana or Aryan's bedroom. When they would wake up, they knew whose turn it was and for them, it just meant that their papa is doing well. On Saturday, both my kids came to wake me up and by that time, there were lots of messages on the phone about the opening, so I shared my happiness with them.You have redefined how a film is promoted?
If you are proud of something, you should talk about it. Most importantly, promotion is for informing people and is not just about being seen. It's for informing people about your product, as it will improve the chances of them seeing it. I have nothing else to do. This film, for my company Red Chillies, is very important. It's a huge film and you get such chances once in 10 years. My friends' production houses have had big films be DDLJ
or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
. For Red Chillies, it was Om Shanti Om
and now Chennai Express.
The film will make big monies for the company and will help them run other businesses they have and help them take up exciting stuff in the future.