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I Believe it is Very Important To Be a Director's Actor | In Conversation with Shah Rukh Khan (Part II)
After a great response to Part I of our candid conversation with King Khan, we are back! Raees is just a day away from release and needless to say, fans of the actor have ensured the advance bookings for the film gets a tremendous response. But, before you get all prepped up to catch Miyan Bhai in action, grab a cuppa and settle down to read our tete-a-tete with the Badshah. As promised, here's Part II of our special interview with Shah Rukh Khan. Excerpts:
What is your state of mind on the sets like? Do you enjoy being on the sets?
I am a very happy go lucky guy. Even if I am tired, I am always very happy on the sets. Most of the people who I work with, are a little wary of me, because many of them have grown up watching me. Like or dislike is besides the point. But, I completely understand that. So, I want the atmosphere on the sets to be very happy. I want everyone to have a good time. I really enjoy myself on the sets. I like to have fun and crack jokes.
What was the on set atmosphere like during Raees?
While working on Raees, I would notice how everyone was somehow very serious. So, I thought because Rahul Dholakia is a very serious director, maybe he has told every actor to focus on their work. You know, because some directors are like that. Farhan (Akhtar) is very serious on the sets. He likes to be quiet. Karan (Johar) is very funny on the sets, while Adi (Aditya Chopra) is very strict. A lot of other directors have been that way, and obviously, it’s their space and I respect that. So, I thought Rahul must one of those directors who is very serious. But, after 15 - 20 days, my cameraman, who has worked with me on a lot of films, told me, “Sir, is there a problem? Are you going through some bad phase. You look like you are in a very bad mood. Is there something wrong with the film?” I said no. Since everybody is serious on the sets, so am I. I thought maybe that’s how Rahul wants it. He said, “No, no. Everybody’s saying Shah Rukh Khan is a very angry person. He is very scary. But, I tell them that no, he is very happy and always loves having fun. Maybe, it is because of the Kajal.” (laughs) So, after that, I called everyone to my room. Since we were shooting for 50 days, Riteish had made this beautiful huge room for me, which had everything including a playstation (smiles). I said, please call everyone and let them know that I am not angry with anyone or anything. But, because of this whole fierce look, complete with Kajal and that voice I used to take out, everyone got very scared. So, I had to actually stay back and party with them, hug everyone, including Zeeshan, Nawaz Bhai, Mahira, and tell them, “Listen guys, I am not like that. You can say anything you want, but I am not so serious.” So, that was very shocking. Nobody knew me, as it was a new set and I was working with all of them for the first time.
I had to get everyone on the set together and say, Listen guys, I am not like that. You can say anything you want, but I am not so serious
How do you prepare yourself for a character, especially before the film takes off?
For me, script leads the way. You have to get into a state of place. First, you have to device the world of the film you are going to be in. Like, if you are in a Bhansali film, you have to become a part of that world. So, your pitch, tone, dialogues, inaction and everything has to match. At least, that’s what I believe in. I will never go into a film and be in my own world, when the film demands that I have to be in a different world. So, Imtiaz Ali’s world is more edgy, relaxed, easy and natural. When you do a Farah Khan film it is over the top, funny. You have to do things in her zone. Similarly, Karan Johar, Adi (Chopra); everybody has a different world. So, you first understand the world of the director. That’s why, I spend about 6 - 8 months with the director. I spend time with them, chat with them in order to understand their ideas. That way, I understand ki unka world aisa hoga. The enactment has to fit into that place.
What is the mental process of approaching either a negative or positive character, before essaying it on screen?
I always tell everyone, if you are playing a really nice person - like a Rahul or Raj, the devta samaan guy, or if you are playing a character who is darinda samaan, like a Don or the one in Baazigar, the common trait is always the passion and obsession. You have to be really obsessive to be very good or extremely bad. Rest of the characters fall in the middle. So, these two character types are the two extremes. To be both a really good and a bad guy is extreme. So, as an actor, when you play a character like Raees, you have to forget everything, especially stuff like - Arey! Log bura toh nahi manenge main yeh karunga toh. What if I beat up someone, say something or behave in a certain manner, log yeh toh nahi kahenge ki yaar, dil nahi hain iska. Similarly, for a good guy, even if a small hair pin falls down from the desk, toh bahut acchai dikhani padhti hain (laughs). You have to be really nice while doing it. So, they are both unreal, because all of us are somewhere in the middle. We are not so bad or not so good. I do a lot of reading. I read a lot of books, and find characters in them. I also see a lot of people, including you and everyone else around. When I see people, I pick on things - like gestures or physicality, and then, very naturally, I bring them into my films. It’s like, you could be a part of my next film and you won’t know it (smiles).
When I see people, I pick on things - like gestures or physicality. Then, very naturally, I bring them into my films
Many believe you are a director's actor. What is your take on this statement?
I am very clear. If I am playing Jehangir Khan in a film, I learn my lines, understand the essence of those lines and then, I am very open to the idea that Gauri (Shinde - the director) will tell me how to do it. Every film maker has a vision and point of view. I have a point of view as well, but I am only the actor here. I don’t need to believe in what you (the film maker) are telling me. I just need to make you believe whatever you tell me to say. That’s what my job is. I meet a lot of actors who turn around and say - ‘Oh! I don’t believe in this.’ Honestly, it doesn't make any difference, because you are an actor. I don’t believe I could be throwing a girl off the terrace like in Baazigar, or I don’t believe I can drink myself to death like in Devdas. I don’t believe I am as good a person that I was in Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham. I don’t believe I can be Raees, nor do I want to live in the kind of house that he does. I want to make you (the audience) believe, and that is an actor’s job. I have to believe what my director believes in. Sometimes, I may not agree with their opinion and that is alright. It is just a point of view ya. So, I will do what Gauri wants me to do in Jehangir Khan, Rahul wants me to do in Raees or whatever Karan wants me to do in his film. At least, I will be different that way. Otherwise, I will be just giving my point of view in every film. So, personally, I think it is very important to be a director’s actor. Otherwise, like I said earlier, you will be working in a different world and the director will be making a different world. So, you need to attach it by listening to the director.
Nahi ya, Nitin (smiles). I didn't really have to learn the language, as the character just required me to say ‘Aavjo’ and some little bits and pieces. Rahul (Dholakia) was clear that the character doesn't speak too much Gujarati, but he understands it. Sometimes, he may say 2-3 lines. But, I wanted to make it look natural. It shouldn't look like I am trying to speak Gujarati, so a few words would just flow naturally in a conversation.
Hi Devotee! That's an interesting handle. Thank you for your love (smiles). See, it's very tough to choose. Don is completely different from my character in Raees. Don was more sexy, suave, with an over exaggerated swag. He was very unreal. I remember telling Farhan how Don was like a James Bond gone rogue. He is a bad James Bond. I work characters in my mind and for me, So, Raees is nowhere close to Don. Raees is very calm, quiet yet powerful. It’s more of a desi character. Also, Don was very mean and selfish, whereas I don’t think Raees is selfish at all.
I think it is very important to be a director’s actor. Otherwise, you will be working in a different world and the director will be making a different world
Red Chillies VFX is one of the best in the business today. In fact, the Paris Images Trade Show also has a special tribute to RCVFX planned this month. What are your thoughts on the journey so far, since it has also completed a decade last year?
I think visual effects is a very interesting space. We started the Red Chillies VFX wing with Harry (Hingorani) and Keitan (Yadav). We were three boys when we started and the first film we worked on was Paheli. We had a very small unit. In fact, we didn’t even have proper machines. Now, it has been more than a decade. So, I am very proud of them. To make a film like Fan, Ra.One or Krrish and what they are doing with Aanand L Rai’s next is a very big leap forward. I am not saying this because it is my company. It is hardly my company. But, it is a difficult business. That's because a lot of people in this country, especially film makers don’t use VFX right. They think it should only be used for superhero films. It should be used to enhance the way a film looks. It looks cleaner and better. Even in a normal love story, one can use visual effects and we will try that in Imtiaz’s next, as that is our company’s film. So, I am very proud of everything that they do, and also about the fact that they are going to Paris.
What are your thoughts on the use of VFX in Indian films? Also, what are your strategies and plans for Red Chillies VFX in the future?
I think there is a huge necessity for bringing in technology and VFX into this country. I won’t say I was disturbed, but it was very strange that some people don’t even realise that Fan is a VFX film. We assume that if we are only flying or shooting, then only VFX should be used. See, those are also wonderful. I am not deriding it. But, I think the recognition, acceptance and belief in visual effects and special effects in the Indian film industry is extremely necessary for us to go international. We (Red Chillies) can do it, Prasad (The Prasad Group) can do it, and even the 4-5 other big companies who are trying it. I would implore all the film makers, directors and writers to think about this. VFX is much cheaper in India than anywhere in the world. We, as a company, and the others as well, are making VFX for some of the best films that you are seeing in the world today. And, it is high time India made them too. You know, all these brilliant films that you see, be it Sin City, X-Men; the VFX was done here. If our Indian film makers have the vision for that, it is possible here and it is much cheaper. So, I think it will be interesting in the next five years, if we can hold on to Red Chillies VFX and take them forward. I am excited to see how things pan out with Aanand L Rai's next.
I think the recognition, acceptance and belief in visual effects and special effects in the Indian film industry is extremely necessary for us to go international.