Shah Rukh Khan discusses his health, Chalte Chalte and what he is really like minus the greasepaint in an exclusive interview with Senior Editor Shyam Bhatia in London.
What is Chalte Chalte about?
It is a very simple film. It's about the relationship between a man and woman. Being an Indian film we had to broadcast it through a marriage. It's a bigger canvas -- we wanted to show relationships have their own problems.
I have made it as an actor and producer. My logic was always to make a simple film about marginal life problems, like K3G [Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham], Asoka. One can do a very simple, middle class-oriented film.
I wanted to make an issue-based film. I thought [of making something] close to heart, small, compact. It's a Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Bhattacharya kind of film.
Are you pleased with the product?
One never is, to be very frank. Overall, I think we have achieved 80% to 85% of what we had set out to make.
Distributor Kishore Lulla says your impression is that people have liked the film in India.
Look, unfortunately it's like your wife having an affair. Nobody will ever tell me to my face that it is an awful film. Everybody is nice to you, most people who have access to your number will call you; they like you. That is the reason they are biased towards you and like the film more than they should.
I am getting one call after another from not only well wishers, but [also] those who have seen the film. [They] called and said people are crying in India, which is always a very good sign for a Hindi film.
Women love it; I think younger boys may find it less appealing than girls.
Our target was middle-class women. It has worked wonderfully. Of course, people say the first half is long; second half too short.
I think in totality, if I set out on a mark of 10, I think it will get 8.5. It is excellent to start with.
Is there anything particular you want to convey to your audience when they see the film?
Yeah, every couple has more or less the same problems. They should not be isolated and should not take it so seriously.
What you should take seriously is the first instinct of love and see it through -- that is how the logic of the film goes. Aziz [Mirza, director of Chalte Chalte] has had a good marriage for 40 years. I have had a good marriage. Juhi [Chawla, Khan's business partner] has a good marriage.
Everybody has the same thing [problems]. That means it is normal. Don't take it to heart.
So you are doing a service?
Hardly a service if I can't save a couple of hearts. I feel some couples will fight after watching the film.
Is there any other film you can compare with? Someone mentioned Saathiya.
Saathiya [in Tamil] was designed with me by Mani [Ratnam] when we were doing Dil Se.
Aziz and Juhi saw the original in Chennai. We requested Mani to show it to us when we recast Rani [Mukerji] in it. So it would be silly of us to make a story like Saathiya [again].
That film is not about maturity. It is a college romance. [But] Bottom line is every film has a marriage. K3G, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had a marriage.
A lot of people want to know about you -- you are the nation's heart-throb. We want to know what happened to the health of this munda.
I am recovering; it is a slow process. My surgery has gone off well, as good as it could go. The recovery period will be very long because my muscle is wasted on the left side of my body. Without getting into technicalities, it will take six to eight months to recovery fully.
What exactly happened? Did you fall off the stage?
I really don't know. I think it was during the shooting of Shakti. I was doing a fight or it was during the show I did after that. But I got a neck pain and it just went on.
Finally, it came down to my nerve, which goes down my left hand and which could lead to paralysis later on in life. I had to take a decision -- I could get a surgery done which would get rid of this danger. But the weakness would last five, six months.
The chip is in my neck, the place where your neck actually bends if you touch it from behind.
This must be a very trying time for your family and you?
Yeah, but I think it is part of life. I have seen worse, I have had a few surgeries on my knees.
Will the operation affect the type of roles you play in the months to come?
I really don't know. Honestly, the doctors doubt there will be any problems. But, of course, I have to rest a little while.
I have not worked for the last three, four months. I won't work for the next few.
I still have to get back to work. Unless you do it, you will not know.
Kishore was talking about your resuming a level of work from July 6, but you are saying it will take longer than that.
I will start working, but [at a] very easy [pace]. Two films are stuck [Farah Khan's] Main Hoo Na and [Nikhil Advani's] Kal Ho Nah Ho. The second is an action film, so I have to push it to September-October. But I will start the romantic scenes and songs in July.
Is this the time for you to consider direction?
No, I am not a director kind of person. I am more of an acting kind of a person. I think I will stick to that.
How have you managed to be on the straight and narrow?
My interests are a little conservative. I read books; I play video games. I don't drink, but smoke a lot, which is very bad. I don't do drugs. I have had kids for the last five, six years.
Personally, I am very shy. I normally don't go to public places. I am odd with crowds. It's very strange to be a film star and be like this. But I think this is a personal trait of mine -- being shy and conscious.
I am very kicked off as far as work is concerned. I am a little focused. I have children and I have a wife, some lovely friends. I'm so involved in work. I hardly get time [for anything else]. I just have enough time to get home and sleep for three, four hours.
I am very involved with production. I am into post-production. I enjoy that a lot.
Do you spend more time in Mumbai than before or are you traveling?
No, most of my films are done abroad. Asoka was made in India; it couldn't have been shot anywhere else. I don't do songs in places like Manali unless the film is set there. I hate traveling; I travel [only] with my family.
I am in Mumbai -- I find [myself] going out less.
Do you have a message for rediff.com readers who would be devastated to know you are in poor health and will be pleased to hear you are recovering?
I know people have been very kind to my work and me in the 12 years I have been working. People do develop a special bond and liking. I know a lot of people also talk in terms of lack of knowledge about my injury.
This is a minor operation but a major thing for an actor who has led an active life. So I have done this to lead an active life. I hope that decision turns out right. I have a whole team of doctors looking after me. They all seem to know their job.
There are so many people who like me and there are so many who don't -- I thank all of them. I will be fine very soon.