Shah Rukh Khan. A name that can be a sentence all by itself. SRK stopped over in Chennai for an awards gala and got chatting with Mrinalini Sundar at midnight.
You received a standing ovation at the Vijay Awards. How does it feel to be back here?
It is very humbling. I have worked with so many people here and have learnt so much. There was Kamal Hasaan, Rajinikanth, his daughters (Aishwariya Dhanush and Soundarya). I have worked with H Sridhar, the sound engineer, Rahman of course. There is this huge amount of talent in the South and to work with all these wonderful people was humbling. I was asked to dance and coincidentally it was Chamak Challo from Ra One. It feels at home to be in Chennai.
Have you learnt any Tamil while shooting Chennai Express?
Yes! The villain says something, so I become all macho and say this dialogue in Tamil, something like a typical punch dialogue.When I played Amjad Ali Khan in Hey Ram, I had to speak one line in Tamil and I needed 43 takes for that. Kamal, as usual, was very sweet and said, ‘take your time’. Except myself, Deepika and Niketan, 99 % of the people on the sets of CE are Tamilians. Sometimes it is difficult to communicate because we don’t know the language, but it is wonderful.
There was some bad publicity that you were making fun of Tamilians in this film
It was very disappointing that some people thought I was making fun of South Indians. You know some people well and that’s why you joke with them. What is wrong in eating noodles with dahi? Even my children know that I am half South Indian — my mother is from Hyderabad and dad from Peshawar. So I have a good mix of biriyani and haleem. I wouldn’t have made it 22 years in this industry if I had made movies with the intention of making fun of people.
Everyone seems to have been bitten by the remake bug. Have you?
I think Bollywood is led by South Indian cinema. A lot of stories are retold there. If you ask me which movie’s remake I want to be a part of, I would say Appu Raja for Kamal and Robot for Rajini. As much as I respect the guys who make remakes, as far as possible, I think people should try writing original scripts. I often tell people, “write me a new script” and I will do it. In fact, I was asked to do Angur by Rohit Shetty. Then Chennai Express came along and things got rolling.
Trains and you seem to have some chemistry, ever since Chaiyya Chaiyya..
I was from a lower middle class family that used to travel only by train. Besides, I find trains romantic. I actually miss travelling by train, now that planes have become common. Chaiyya Chaiyya (from Dil Se) was very close to my heart and a lot of people including Baz Luhrmann were inspired by the song. We were even thinking of having a train dance in Chennai Express too, but I said nobody should ever try that again.
Anupam Kher and Big B have gone the Hollywood route. Your plans?
I have so much more here. There are hits and misses — you have the same actor doing a Paheli and a Ra One. But I want to be greatful to the people here and leave behind a legacy. I am in a position to make films for the next 20 years. If I am recognised in Germany, Peru or Morocco, I will still use that to make only Indian films.
Who is your inspiration?
I think everything I have seen and experienced is what I have portayed in my movies as my inspiration. Even Chak De! India was inspired by my teacher, Mr Neghi.
Have you planned your life at 50?
I think I never planned what I would do at 20, 40 or now at 50. I am 47, but I find it stupid to confine what you do by numbers.Even today, when I am going to jump from a building, they ask me, “Will you be able to do it” and I say, “Why not?” Age means nothing to me.