Eating paranthas from the Moolchand dhaba at 4 in the morning, driving down Rajendra Nagar and visiting his parents’ grave… A nostalgic Shah Rukh Khan says memories of Delhi are “deeply embedded” in him.
“It seems like it was in a past life. It has been a long time doing this (films) now,” the star says reflectively, adding that his exuberance on screen did not always translate into his real life.
He is actually very quiet and “needs the aloneness” from sounds, colour and people, Shah Rukh, who was in the capital to promote Jab Harry Met Sejal said. The film released today (4).
Ever the charmer, Shah Rukh Khan can be funny, introspective and philosophical in the course of a single conversation.
Excerpts from an exhaustive interview on his influences in life, his relationships, his cinema and his growing up years:
Q: Do you ever run out of words? You are giving so many interviews but no two are similar?
A: I never get bored with talking about my films. It is not because I am obsessed with it but because I think it is my duty. And I don’t answer the question, I answer the personality asking the question. Depending on how one asks the questions whether the person is serious, frivolous or just being cool, I will answer accordingly.
I’m an actor and to me every person asking the question is a subject… somehow it has become a second nature.”
Q: Shouldn’t you write a book?
A: I have been writing one for 20 years now. Someday, I will finish it but I write only when I feel like writing. I don’t do it as a job, I’m not a professional writer. It is some selective memories and very personal. It is therapeutic for me. Whenever I am feeling a little off-colour, I write.
But lately I have not felt off-colour so I have not written a lot.
But when people come to talk to me, I assume that there is always a respect and dignity attached to it and one should return that. So, no matter how banal or uninteresting the question, sometimes this is what the other person might want to ask to someone who they have watched, want to watch or don’t want to watch. They have a query with someone who is a public figure and one should dignify that.
Q: You have this exuberant side to you and then there is this introspective persona that somehow matches the character in Jab Harry Met Sejal in certain aspects.
A: Harry is quite close to who I would be in a certain sense. There is an exuberance that suddenly comes and because of that people think that I am a happy go lucky guy. But in real life I am not like that. In my family circles, people say, “He does not laugh or joke… picture mein to bahut lively lagta hai”.
I am quite reclusive actually. I am very quiet and I can sit alone for hours. Only my family knows that aspect about me. I can be very lonely not because I am lonely but because I just need the aloneness from sounds, colours and people around me. It is all positive, there is no negative in it but you just want to go quiet.
Q: Could that be a reaction to all that you are surrounded with?
A: I can’t tell anymore. I have been doing this for so many years. I don’t remember any other part of my life than just being with people whether I am shooting or promoting a film or watching a cricket match. It takes me a while to come to Delhi and drive to Rajendra Nagar and that’s also beginning to seem alien. It seems like it was in a past life. It has been a long time doing this (films) now.
Q: Is there a nostalgia for that, for the past?
A: There is. I have big attachments. My parents are buried here. So, I visit them. Everytime I am in Delhi, I pay my respects. I get very excited when somebody asks me about the roads, streets and houses. I did bring my children here to show them around a couple of times. I don’t know if they are interested in it or not because they have been a part of my life when I started in Mumbai. So for them, there is no other life of their father had. This is quite alien for them.
But there are moments… like last night we landed very late around 4-5 in the morning. Imtiaz (Ali) was like “Sir, I have got paranthas from Moolchand for you.” We sat in our room and had ‘Moolchand ka parantha’. I was like “Yaar, you should have told me earlier. We could have gone for a drive.” There are nostalgic memories of Delhi that are deeply embedded in me.
Q: There is this perception that the industry is fickle but you have retained all your old relationships and if there were issues, you have mended them.
A: It is very strange but I am very difficult in forming relationships. I don’t know the regular way of keeping relationships going. I had very deep relationships which were lost early on in life. May be, it is a defence mechanism, you know, my parents died so I had no one.
It will be honest on my part to say that if I form a relationship, it is the others who make a better effort in keeping it going. Not because I don’t like to but I don’t know any other way to be.
I am a little awkward with emotions and relationships in real life and over years the one thing that I have gained a lot is patience. If suppose something is not happening the way it should, I have patience enough to realise that this is not the end of a thing. I don’t hold things to heart.
In fact, I am so emotionally inept in real life that sometimes I forget I have a problem with someone and make friends with them again. I don’t realise and I’m like, ‘Accha, I had a problem’ because I have forgotten that emotion.
This is why I am not good with relationships except my family, my wife, my sister, my kids and some four five close friends from Delhi and Mumbai. I am happy in their company because they kind of leave me alone. They don’t impress upon me too much emotional expectations.
Q: You get so involved with your films. How do you deal with failure if they don’t work?
A: The fact that I give it my best. When I do a film, from the day of its inception to its release, it belongs to me and no one else. I am not taking away the credit from my actors or the director but it belongs to me and I have to give my best to what belongs to me.
In spite of that, if anything goes wrong, I will never think, “I wish I could have done a little more?” To live with a feeling of having not given it your best shot is worse and more painful than living with the feeling that “I did my best and it was not enough”.
Of course, you feel sad and you want to work better. You don’t want to make the same mistakes, though I don’t think any film is a mistake, but if I was not doing this and running myself into the ground by the end of it on that Friday, I would be devastated.
Q: After Imtiaz Ali, you are working with Anand L Rai.
Going by your Twitter exchange, it seems you are really happy with the collaboration. You recently said that you wait to work with directors.
A: I wait for the director to have the first belief. If I am able to put myself into that and ride along, then it is much better. I have limited emotions, every human has a certain amount of life, circumstances and they can be very interesting or uninteresting… but it is limited by the experience of the life.
So, I suddenly get into your life and maybe see it in a different way. It is much more interesting for me as an actor.
But you should be willing to take me on that ride with you. I need other people. As an actor, you have this big responsibility because you are riding on someone else’s emotions.
It is better to wait for that director to feel that this actor is good enough to live my life. I am an actor who truly believes that I don’t have to believe in what I am doing, I have to make you believe in that and that’s based on somebody else’s belief. I am just a conduit.
When I ask them to do a film with me at this stage of my career or even 15 years ago, it can become a compulsion rather than love. It can become an estranged relationship because they will be like, “how can I say no (to Shah Rukh)”.
… As much as people say that I do commercial films and xyz, I have done the most varied roles within the parameters of commercial cinema from the beginning till now.
I am always ready to take on the emotional journey of someone who trusts me with their emotions and I will keep trying it.
Q: You have completed 25 years in the industry, which is a milestone in itself… Your thoughts…
A: Half of my age is gone and it is dedicated to filmmaking. I have gained a lot of name, fame and money.
Whatever I am today is because of cinema and I hope I continue to do it. Twenty-five is just a number. My children and wife keep telling me “How can you do this day in, day out. Don’t you get bored?” No, I don’t. I am really high on films and life.
I hope I continue to serve this medium, which has given so much to me. I want to return as much as I can.
Sometimes so much happens to you… So many positive things that you have to start believing that it can’t be just because of you. You can’t take the credit for it. And unimaginably good things have happened to me, which is not humanly possible. There are other forces, other humans and I give them due credit. But it humbles you.