"Swades" again looks very different.
Like "Veer-Zaara"? I'd say "Swades" was a more difficult role to play. Here I had very few props and crutches. Every project comes with its own requirements and baggage. Every film of mine crosses a certain budget and is targeted at a specific number of people. The whole world is the target audience. One cannot afford to be different just for the sake of being different. Even when I play "Devdas", it has to be a little bigger, a little richer, larger than life. I've to play my roles on that level.
How larger than life is your character in "Swades"?
It's hundred percent the director Ashutosh Gowariker's interpretation. By virtue of what it says, "Swades" is a very important film. It addresses itself to a core issue regarding the shape and destiny of a developing nation like ours. Hopefully, it will make the audience think, if not change their thought process. Being in the entertainment business, it's important to be focussed on the job of entertaining people and yet at the same time try to make a difference to our world. "Swades" attempts to do that.
"Swades" falls within the purview of commercial cinema and still says things which are normally untouched by the genre. It has its own stark and minimalist appeal to it. It addresses its theme as seriously as it deserves. And, let me add, it's entirely Ashutosh's dream, not mine. I'm only being used to communicate the director's vision to the audience.
I remember during "Veer-Zaara" you told me you didn't bother with the script, just did what Yashji and Aditya told you to.
The same is true of "Swades". Since the ideas and thoughts in the film are not mine, I'm completely ignorant about their nature. In such a situation I'd rather just do my job. If I did anything more I'd only expose my own lack of education.
"Veer-Zaara" was about India-Pakistan relations from the 1980s to 2004. I'm sure Yashji and Adi had researched enough on the topic to make my character believable. I'd rather go with the creator's vision than try to confuse the issue with my own input. Again in "Swades", I let the director decide. "Swades" is set in a village. And I've never been to a village in my life except as a tourist. Maybe you haven't either. Most city-bred people haven't.
So now you are doing films which make a difference...
I always have. The social message is never the main point. It's subservient to entertainment. I think I've got a sufficient fan following to watch me entertain them. So if a message is teased into my film I'm all for it. It's like someone as important as Amitji talking about polio on television. I'm sure he doesn't know much about the disease. But by telling the masses to take the vaccination he's helping to eradicate the disease. I think it's good to use your celebrity status to make a social message. Even if "Swades" makes only some people think, I've succeeded. I don't know whether "Swades" will be liked --that's not in my hands. But I hope the issue will be driven home.
Would you like to do more issue-based films?
It's not about what I'd like to do, but what I'm offered. I can't go down on the streets and shout for issue-based films. If someone comes to me with an idea that appeals to me, I'm fine with it. I've been doing so many films which discuss issues. But sometimes the issue gets overpowered by the entertainment value. My cinema is feel good cinema. I like my audience to feel happy while watching my films. This doesn't mean I'm an incurably noble guy. I'm open to playing an ugly dark character, and I've done so in the past. But I won't do it for the heck of it. Even when I did negative roles like "Darr" and "Anjaam", they were rounded off by a sense of fair justice for the wrongs done by my characters.
People call my films eye candy and all that shit. I'm proud of making people happy. Even "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" was over-simplified by the media. It was the first film of its kind. Now, after so many years it would be stupid to still consider it eye candy. It fulfilled a dream for thousands of Indians abroad who wanted to get back to their roots. It told us that NRIs needn't lose their Indianness just because they live abroad. I believe there can never be a successful film without a well thought-out idea. The masses like films that are simple and truthful, the simpler the better.
I see a director lurking in you.
I'll make a James Bond film. Bond films are the simplest and therefore the most successful. It's about Good making Evil look stupid. There's Ravana within all of us. We need to use the Rama within us to eradicate the evil.
Your voice and your son's will be heard in the animation film "The Incredibles" on the same day that "Swades" is released.
It wasn't as though I had a hand in his being chosen. My son joined me much later. He was part of an audition with many other boys. He was chosen from among many hopefuls. I was told that they were in two minds about Aryan because they needed an older boy for the dubbing. But after two-three days they decided to go with Aryan. I think the Columbia-Tristar people are experts at handling kids. They do so many dubbed animation films where children's voice are required. They proved far more professional than I thought. I didn't want Aryan to get into a situation that would tire him. But it was easier for him to dub than me.
How long did he take?
Three-four days for an hour every day. But there were beautiful ladies to handle Aryan. They took very good care of him and the other four kids who also dubbed. He had a good time with them. He would go every day at 3 p.m. and return at 4.30.
What was it like dubbing for another character?
t was nice. In animation films, the voice is decided first, then the character is created accordingly. "Shrek" or "Sharks Tale" had characters designed on the way Antonio Banderas or Martin Scorcese sounded. In my case, it was the other way around. I think the character I've dubbed for in "The Incredibles" could've been a slightly different personality from me. If I had modulated my voice accordingly, then the whole purpose of using my voice to get the Hindi audiences interested would've been defeated. The whole point is to get audiences to see Shah Rukh Khan speak in the film. But it's okay. I think it works well.
I love animation films. I've great faith in them. We can't make animation films of the quality made in Hollywood. But we could start a tentative trend by weaning Hindi audiences into watching dubbed animation films.
Would you consider producing an animation film?
I doubt if we can do it. They spend beyond Rs.100 crore (Rs. 1 billion). It makes sense for us to make animation films, but only if we make it on a par with Hollywood. We can get away with lower standards in the average Hindi film, but not animation films. We can't have kids watching a substandard "Lion King" after seeing the superior quality of the original. I don't think my production house can ever afford to make an animation film.
What does your production house plan to make in 2005?
We're producing a film to be directed by Amol Palekar in February. I like the story he had to tell, and he was on. It was very simple. We didn't have a big discussion or anything.
Will it be typical Palekar kind of film?
I wouldn't know. I haven't seen any of his films. I don't know what kind of films he makes. But it's a good, sweet story. Finally it will be a typical Shah Rukh Khan movie. Simple, interesting and nice. Rani Mukherjee has agreed to do it. So the cast is also agreeable.
So far that's the only film I'm producing in 2005. Then I'm doing a film with Karan Johar in April. Farah Khan is working on her script. I'll most probably produce her film as well. These are the three on the anvil.
And Aditya Chopra's next?
I don't know. He hasn't spoken to me about it yet. I've agreed to do the three films I've mentioned.
Why did you tell Aaj Tak that there's an ice-hockey match in "Swades"?
They just come with questions for which they don't want to hear the answers. Ice hockey or not, audiences won't go away disappointed from "Swades".
Finally, how's your back and neck now?
I'm okay. I'm fine. It hurts a little only when I laugh.