Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai
As I walk through the gates of Shah Rukh Khan's home Mannat in Bandra, a western suburb of Mumbai, a fleet of cars greet me. From Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and BMW, there are quite a few expensive cars parked inside the compound.
His office, located on the second floor, is lavish.
A life-sized M F Husain painting covers one wall of the big room. The centre piece of the room is a Swarovski chessboard.
As we wait for the superstar to arrive, we are treated to several rounds of tea, coffee, sandwiches and puff pastries.
His close pals and colleagues from the film industry like Farah Khan, Anubhav Sinha, Farhan Akhtar and Riteish Deshmukh are in the building as well, as SRK has kept a special screening of Chennai Express for them in another part of the house.
After waiting for a couple of hours, Shah Rukh walks into the room around midnight.
But before he does, the film's PR puts forward a request: “Nukkad ke uss paar wale actor ke bare main mat poochna (don't ask questions about the actor who lives down the road),” referring to SRK's famous neighbour Salman Khan.
Dressed in a black pathani, Shah Rukh looks tired. “I haven't slept for nine days," he explains before adding, "I can go for for three more."
In the conversation that follows, Shah Rukh explains why he wanted to do a film like Chennai Express, why he doesn't fear losing his stardom and his newborn son AbRam.
How is AbRam doing?
I am very happy that I am blessed with such a beautiful child. AbRam is my best production (Laughs).
I would not like to talk a lot about him because a lot of people have already spoken a lot of things before my family or I could say anything.
I think it was unfair for people to know half-truths and talk about it but I don’t hold it against anyone.
It is depressing and sad that someone, who has just entered this world, is subjected to my life.
I don’t want my kids’ personal lives to be a subject of appreciation or unappreciation because they happen to be my kids.
I would like him to be untouched by world as much as possible.
'Rohit Shetty has a mad sense of humour'
You have shown the desire to do an over-the-top comedy film for a while now. What are the particular pleasures of doing a film like Chennai Express and working with Rohit Shetty?
I saw Golmaal 3, and really loved it. He is the only brand director in our industry today; Yashji (Yash Chopra) was another brand director.
Rohit is earnest about his work. I was looking out to do a film like Chennai Express for a long time.
Rohit had actually come to me to narrate the remake of Angoor. I had primarily agreed to do it. When he was leaving, he told me he had another script in mind and would like to narrate to me.
The next day when he narrated Chennai Express, I fell down laughing. I said, ‘Even if it is half as funny as I think it is, it’s great; I would love to do it.’
He has a mad sense of humour, and I wanted to do it and just completely be mad. I wanted to be the part of this mad world as I have never done this kind of a film.
I want to work with directors who make cinema, which is really wonderful and push the bar a little higher for me.
Are you saying you were bored of the kind of cinema you were doing?
No, I was not bored.
My last few films Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Ra.One and Don-2 were very serious. My roles were physically demanding. Also, if you notice, we shot these films in some of the difficult locations in the world.
I consciously decided I wanted to do something light, funny, which I had not done in many years.
During the start of my career, I did films like Badshah and Duplicate, which were out-and-out comedies. At that time, comedy films were not given the status of romantic or action films.
I have always liked comedy. I am always in a state of mind where I want to have fun, joke around, make people laugh.
'My success is the real reason behind my everlasting energy'
You are playing a 40 year old in a film. Are you trying to play your age?
No, not at all. I am 47 in real life and whether I am playing a 40 year old or a 27 year old, we always lie about our character’s age in the film. I am an actor and we are supposed to do that.
I played a 65-year-old man in Veer-Zaara.
My character in Chennai Express is about a person whose life has become very boring because of the routine things that he does.
Suddenly, certain incidents take place which completely change his life and make it very exciting and energetic.
Taking about the energy, you tweeted that you learnt a new word -- ‘Exhaustipated.’ where you said you were too tired to do anything
I have not slept for nine days, but I still feel good (smiles).
Even if I take a bath now, I am sure I will feel alright. I can stay awake for three more days.
I think my success is the real reason behind my everlasting energy.
'Suhaana liked Deepika in Chennai Express'
How have your friends from the industry reacted to the film?
They just finished watching the film, so I went up to them and asked them if they liked the film. All of them found it immensely clean, funny, and a happy-go-lucky family film.
I have been very careful with the kind of jokes in the film. It’s a film which releases on a festival and we wanted the entire family to watch it.
My family also likes the film. My son Aryan is busy playing video games, so I am not sure about his reaction. My daughter Suhaana liked Deepika a lot. She laughed a lot and found it very funny.
How are you going to celebrate Eid?
This Eid is going to be very special because I have a new member in my family. Everything else is secondary. I am going to celebrate it with my family and my close friends.
'Box office numbers have never been important for me'
Chennai Express is about a train journey. Do you have any special memories of travelling by train?
I remember many years back (singer) Anup Jalota was performing at the Siri Fort auditorium in Delhi. My friends and I were working as ushers for the show.
I had earned Rs 50 for it.
We all took a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. That was the first and only time I have seen it. After visiting the Taj Mahal, we were hungry and since we didn’t have a lot of money we decided to drink Lassi.
When we took the train back for Delhi, we started feeling nauseated and vomited during the entire journey (Laughs). It was the worst journey of my life.
A lot is at stake for you with Chennai Express. Do you think you are under market pressure to deliver a Rs 100-crore hit?
Box office numbers have never been important for me. After being in the industry for 22 years, I have all the materialistic things in life that any man would want.
I don’t need to work, but I make films which I like to make.
If box office was a concern I would have never worked in films like Chak De! India or My Name Is Khan.
Rohit Shetty is a hit director; Deepika Padukone has been successful, so if Chennai Express works I will be happy that their luck has rubbed off on me.
'I am really looking to play a negative character again'
You have maintained that you like to do films with friends. How difficult does it become to reject a film or a script that is offered to you by a friend?
Films choose actors and not the vice versa.
I have never chosen the films that I have worked in. I know my next film is Happy New Year, but I don’t know what I am going to do after that.
I never make films to make profit. In most of the films that I produce, I never get paid.
In the films, which are produced by other producers, I don’t ask for money or quote a particular figure. They always pay me after the film is released.
I have some friends in the industry and during our informal meetings, they narrate me a script or an idea.
If I like it, I agree to do it, but if I don’t, I clearly tell them that this isn’t what I want to do right now.
I have a production house and I can design films for myself, but I have never done that.
I am really looking to play a negative character again so if anyone comes up with it, and if I like it I will do it.
'I always tell my daughter that if she has to find a boyfriend, he has to be like me'
You recently mentioned in an interview that you don’t like the tag of romantic hero. Why?
I think I have done enough films not to be categorized as just a romantic hero. Films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai have created a deep impact on the minds of my fans and the audience. They like to remember me as the romantic hero, and I don’t really mind being that.
I remember when I did negative characters in Baazigar and Darr, my friends told me that I would never be able to become a hero, but destiny had something else written for me.
Pretty much every girl in the country wants their boyfriend to be like Shah Rukh Khan…
(Interrupts) They should. I am nice and a gentleman. I am educated and have always been a caring person.
I always tell my daughter that if she has to find a boyfriend, he has to be like me.
'I am not scared of stardom. I enjoy it.'
You have completed more than two decades in the industry. Are there any regrets? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I have had a wonderful career so far. I have spent more than two decades in the industry and time has just flown. At this stage of my career, I don’t have any regrets.
I do wish I was physically as good as I was 10 years ago, as I have hurt myself a lot and gone through a lot of surgeries, but I think it's just a part of my work.
Do you fear that one day you will lose the stardom you have achieved?
I am an actor and not a superstar. I have a problem with people who always think I am someone special.
These people think that if I fought with anyone I must be drunk because I am a star.
If I make a statement which doesn’t go down well with them, they call me brash because I am star.
They don’t realise that I have a normal life and I have never been trapped by stardom.
I get up every day and work hard to achieve my dreams. I am not scared of stardom. I enjoy it.
At the same time, I am aware that my stardom will not last forever. My children and my wife are happy that I am a star.
My fans love me so much. I was in Delhi to promote my film when a 75-year-old lady came up to me and told me, “I was dying to meet you for so long, thank god it has finally happened.” She sweetly showed me whatever she had shopped.
If this is the definition of stardom I don’t think I should be scared of it.
'I would like to do a fiction series or host a show'
Are there any plans to return to television?
I would like to do a fiction series or host a show, but there hasn’t been any offer which has come my way.
Also it has to come at a time when I am not doing anything else.
I did KBC (Kaun Bangea Crorepati) when I was also shooting for Om Shanti Om. I was working round-the-clock which took a toll on my health.