By Sunny Malik
Shah Rukh Khan is undoubtedly the most recognised Bollywood actor in the world. The 48-year-old superstar has seen enormous success all over the world, especially in the UK. For example, Oscar award-winning Titanic was the highest grossing movie in 1998 across all UK cinemas; except at the well-known Cineworld cinema complex in Feltham. Khan’s rom-com Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had considerably earned more and played at the site for over six months.
Shah Rukh has always had a special connection with Britain. The Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham star has filmed several movies here, held lavish premieres in the capital for his movies and even owns a house in Mayfair, London. Bedfordshire University also conferred an honorary doctorate upon him in 2009.
The actor was back in the UK for Slam+ The Tour recently along with the cast of his upcoming release, Happy New Year, directed by Farah Khan. He also humbly accepted a global diversity award at the House of Commons and interacted with the UK media to promote his film during his stay in London.
Our Bollywood Reporter Sunny Malik spent some time with ‘King Khan’ in the Happy New Year UK Bus, which has toured various cities in the last few weeks, while the actor along with his co-stars drove up to The O2 Arena to perform to thousands of screaming fans.
Speaking exclusively to Sunny Malik for Asian Sunday, Shah Rukh talks about the Happy New Year Bus, his company Red Chillies Entertainment and distribution of Hindi movies worldwide…
You are travelling in the exclusive Happy New Year UK Bus. What do you think of it?
I think it’s very nice and cool. I just think we should have kept the front window uncovered on the upper deck so that we could see where we are going. Right now, you could take us anywhere (laughs). I think, it is a great idea because as a team it feels nice to travel together. Usually we all sit in separate cars. It’s also nice to meet all the fans here who are attending the show.
You have just toured the US, are working as an actor, producer and businessman. How do you manage it all?
I don’t actually manage it. I just let things go. I just let them happen. I am not someone who sits on little details and works on them. I have an amazing team. If they ask me if I want to do something, I just say ‘yeah, let’s do it’. I am available for a film or work all the time. It isn’t work for me. If my team members tell me I have to do something, I will. In this case, I have to be careful about the other artists. There are two ladies (actress Deepika Padukone and director Farah Khan) who may not be able to do something e.g. they may say they can’t go into a crowd. I consider that and tell my team to take care of it. My cricket team, KKR is playing and I have a team who handles that part of my business. The production of the Happy New Year is also happening as we speak, hopefully (laughs). I think, at the end of the day if you believe and do something with happiness, it turns out alright. It has for so many years.
As an actor and producer, how do you choose your films?
I haven’t done a film as a producer yet. My company produces movies that I act it. I don’t choose my films as a producer. I choose them as an actor. My next project after Happy New Year, FAN is produced by Yash Raj Films. We are not producing it, but as an actor that is the kind of film I want to do. I never think ‘Oh, Oh, what it my production going to do because for the next six months they don’t have a film with me?’. But now we have a system in place where we do two-three films with other actors. My next with Rohit Shetty and Raees is with my company again. If I like a film as an actor and my production house is making it, it’s okay. But I have never done a film out of the twelve the company has produced with me so far, keeping in mind that we need to produce a film like this and I will just act in it. My choice is purely based on what I feel like acting at that time.
Hindi film distribution has expanded across the world now with films releasing in new territories now…
Yes, I think it has changed quite a lot, especially in the last five years. A lot of the non-diaspora audience has started watching our films. It’s a good sign but not a big leap. My office was recently discussing a non-classical method of releasing movies in non-classical territories. For example, Hungary or Russia, where Indian films used to release many years ago but right now we don’t have a distribution system large enough to afford the release. I think, alternative methods will be found and the internet is a great medium. If you crack that, you can at least introduce people. I remember in Germany, I wanted my films to be shown there. I attended a small function of forty people in Frankfurt. They were Germans who liked Hindi films. That’s how it started. They sang some Hindi songs and I dropped in for half an hour, chatted with them and went off. That suddenly became a trend and then our films were being shown dubbed on national TV channel RTL 2. I think, the process by leading actors should be to take films to classical territories like the US and UK. But within each film, we should try to introduce Indian cinema to the rest of the world. If people get a taste of it and it is nice, people will adapt to it and want it more. For international movies, we need to make them in the uniform of international cinema. They need to be shorter and without songs. Finding Fanny is nice example. It could have been watched even if you don’t know that it is an Indian film, like Happy New Year will be known as one. In the next five or ten years, things will be much better.