'Aditya Chopra says the only time Shah Rukh acts is when he laughs'
'I never realised this, but when I see him, I realise that he has never laughed.'
'So I asked him why doesn't he laugh.'
'He said he didn't know, that he never thought about it.'
Samar Khan's book, SRK: 25 Years Of A Life reveals different sides of the superstar, as seen through the eyes of his directors.
30 directors have shared insights into SRK's life and craft.
Samar Khan, journalist and a filmmaker himself, tells Rediff.com's Patcy N about his book, and the superstar.
What made you write this book?
I was doing a documentary on Shah Rukh, Living with a Superstar, for the Travel and Living channel.
At that time, he said he leaves a part of himself in every character that he plays. That stuck in my head.
If an actor has done 65 films and has played some 30, 35 characters, then all of those characters today make Shah Rukh Khan.
You and I don't know Shah Rukh Khan. I only know what I see on screen.
He is a mix of all those characters. So to understand that man, you have to understand those characters.
And you understand those characters by talking to the makers of those films.
That was the thought for my book.
When I shared it with Shah Rukh, he was excited because nobody had ever thought about this.
This is a unique book because nobody has thought of taking this route, talking to filmmakers.
I have been a journalist and so it was exciting to interview filmmakers and understand what they thought about Shah Rukh.
Did you speak to all his directors?
Yes, all the directors with whom he has done lead roles.
Only three directors could not be a part of the book -- Raj Kanwar (who directed Shah Rukh in Deewana) passed away.
I could not get in touch with Prem Lalwani, who directed Guddu and Shashilal Nair, who directed One Two Ka Four.
Has Shah Rukh read the book?
Yes. He likes it.
For him, it was like going down memory lane, to see what the filmmakers thought about his characters...
If you have spent 25 years in the industry, you forget your first and second year. It's just a haze.
So it was interesting to get his reaction on that level, where he would say, 'Aare, he said this?'
How did your journey with Shah Rukh begin?
I first met him for a profile for Newstrack, in 1997. I have known him for 20 years now.
I have done a million interviews with him on his films, life, whatever.
Then I became a filmmaker and he made a guest appearance in my first film ,Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaaye.
He wrote a poem for me for my second film, Shaurya.
He started a television division and I became its head.
So I have known him in various capacities: As a journalist, as a director, as an employee and as a friend.
I can never repay what he has done for me.
Which director, do you think, had the most interesting things to say?
Aditya Chopra is my favourite because it's rare that he talks about Shah Rukh or even meets a journalist. He was the last person I interviewed.
I went to Shah Rukh and said that everybody had been spoken to, but we can't have a book without Aditya Chopra.
So he requested Adi, told him this was a book on 25 years of his career, that he would like Adi to be a part of it.
That's how I got to interview Adi.
He spoke about how their journey started, how they were looking for other actors for Darr, how Shah Rukh did it, how Shah Rukh was not happy with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, not convinced about that role, how their friendship has grown...
Another favourite is Yash Chopra because he is the senior-most filmmaker to have worked with Shah Rukh. He started his career in the 1950s, when Shah Rukh was not even born.
The biggest thing about Yashji's interview was his comparison of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan and how both of them are different in their own ways and yet, so similar.
Talking to his earliest filmmakers like Aziz Mirza, Kundan Shah, Rajeev Mehra, Rahul Rawail and Ramesh Sippy was also interesting.
Today, everyone associates him with Karan Johar, Rohit Shetty and Farhan Akhtar, but we don't know what the earlier directors feel about him and his journey.
I don't think today's generation would even know that Shah Rukh did films directed by Hema Malini, Ramesh Sippy and Ketan Mehta.
In the book Ramesh Sippy says he did not do justice to Shah Rukh Khan.
It's very magnanimous and truthful of Ramesh Sippy to say that he had such a talented actor and that he didn't do justice to him.
A lot of filmmakers hinted about that. I think that is fantastic.
It's also very honest.
Subhash Ghai seems upset with Shah Rukh.
Subhashji has his reasons to be upset.
What I admire is that Subhashji said what he had to say without mincing words and Shah Rukh never asked me to change it.
Kundanji has been critical of him. He says as an actor, he's not done great work. Shah Rukh is okay with that. He said that is what Kundanji feels, so let it be.
Mansoor Khan has given a great comparison of working with Aamir and Shah Rukh. Both of them were big stars at the time. And to decide to work with Shah Rukh and not Aamir (in Josh) were insights you get.
Santosh Sivan's insights were also interesting, of how he made Asoka a film which was not in the Shah Rukh Khan movie zone.
Hema Malini speaks very dearly about Shah Rukh Khan and he spoke very dearly about her at the book launch.
She has fond memories of Shah Rukh.
When I came into the industry, I was only 25 years old.
When you meet *the* Hema Malini, you go, 'kitni khoobsurat hain.' I think that was what Shah Rukh's reaction was.
That relationship was more of awe. She was just indulging a little boy who had just come (into the industry).
Dil Aashna Hain was his first ever film and I think that special relationship remains with him till today.
How did you get Colonel Raj Kapoor, who directed Fauji, to be a part of the book?
I flew to Delhi and met up with him. Colonel Kapoor says he has fought two wars, but people remember him for discovering Shah Rukh Khan.
He says he just happened to give him a break. He would have become whatever he became even otherwise.
Shah Rukh always acknowledges that there would have been no Shah Rukh Khan without Fauji.
That serial was his launch pad. He's always grateful to Colonelsaab for that opportunity.
Farah Khan mentioned their misunderstanding.
Everybody knows about that. Everyone knows their friendship went through a rough phase and they became friends again.
I did the book before Happy New Year and they had just come back together.
So the book does talk about the fact that there were differences and they are now rebuilding their friendship.
Every friendship goes through its ups and downs. That's what Farah has said.
They had a problem and now, they are working on it.
Karan Johar said Shah Rukh did Kuch Kuch Hota Hai so that Dharma Productions could earn money.
Duplicate had lost money and they were going through a tough phase.
Shah Rukh Khan had become a huge star after Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, so at that time, any film made with Shah Rukh Khan would make money for the company.
Of course, Karan turned out to be a fabulous filmmaker and he made a fabulous film.
Once you make a fabulous film with an actor, then the association only grows from there.
After that he did Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, he produced Kal Ho Naa Ho and then Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. The relationship has only grown.
What did you learn about Shah Rukh Khan in the course of writing this book?
What I came to know is how he approaches every character.
This book is not about learning the little known things about Shah Rukh. It is deeper from that. It is not a book about anecdotes.
It is about every filmmaker showing you the way they see Shah Rukh Khan.
Aditya Chopra saw him as a flamboyant lover boy, Mani Ratnam saw him as a sweet little boy from Delhi, Karan Johar sees him as something else...
Shimit Amin saw him as a guy who had this deep intensity inside him.
Aditya Chopra says the only time Shah Rukh acts is when he laughs.
According to him, he can't laugh.
I never realised this, but when I see him, I realise that he has never laughed.
So I asked him why doesn't he laugh. He said that he didn't know, that he never thought about it.
Somebody pointed out that his eyes are very sad. I never realised it.
So when you see his characters, you do realise that there is something that he is hiding.
If you see his movies, there are a lot of scenes where he isn't laughing, but he is smiling.
I realised these little things about him while doing this book.
What makes your book different from other books written on Shah Rukh?
It has got interviews of filmmakers, which is unique.
Secondly, the portraits make it unique and different because I haven't seen such portraits in any book.
Why didn't you involve Shah Rukh's family in the book?
The book was about the actor, it is not a biography on Shah Rukh Khan.
It is a book from the directors' point of view.
How much do you think he has changed in all these years?
He hasn't changed at all.
He has become more handsome. Otherwise, he is pretty much the same person that I know.
He still works hard, stills drinks as much coffee, still talks about the world, still reads many books...
He's just got older.
How did you keep up the friendship?
(laughs) I don't know. I respect him a lot.
It's wrong to say Shah Rukh is a friend. My equation with him is that whenever I need something or have a point of view, I talk to him.
It's not that we meet often. I meet him maybe once in every five or six months, just to get my gyaan from Shah Rukh Khan because he has a lot of it to give.
I just keep listening to him.
I always tell him that one of the reasons he has a soft corner for me is because I am from Delhi like him and I am an outsider like him.
I consider him my mentor, my senior.
You met him when he was 29 and you were 24.
In the book, you have asked everyone about their first memory of Shah Rukh Khan.
What is yours?
My first memory of Shah Rukh is him coming out of a car with a cigarette in his hand. He was very casual.
I went up to him and introduced myself. This was at Filmistan studio where he was shooting for English Babu Desi Mem.
'Hi, I am Shah Rukh Khan,' he said. 'How can I help you?'
That's how it started.
What do you have to say about him?
He is the most genuine human being.
Even if he is doing one scene in your film, he will give his hundred percent.
He is one of the most hardworking people I know.
I feel he needs to take care of his health because he doesn't, thanks to his cigarettes.
Also, because he works too hard.
He gives so much and is always there for everybody.
He has so much more to give to this industry.
He should do films that challenge him. Not that he should stop doing romance.
He can do romantic roles in different ways.
I see Shah Rukh Khan as the George Clooney of India. Both are 51 years old and super sexy and charming.
I also see him as Brad Pitt, experimenting with what he does.
Shah Rukh is in a position to do that and he will because he wants to break the image that the world has built for him.
I don't think he will ever stop doing romance.
But he seems keener about sci-fi and action these days.
Every person has a desire. I think Shah Rukh gets naturally drawn towards fast cars and superheroes, running around, buildings crashing... He likes all that.
Which is your favourite Shah Rukh Khan film?
His greatest performance is in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na because it's a real film.
His character Sunil is so real that I identify with him.
He played the underdog so well that we are still rooting for him.
The other is Chak De! India.
Are you going to direct again?
I am working on a film script.
I'm also working on a Web series. It is been directed by Nagesh Kukunoor and stars Nimrat Kaur.