Shahrukh Khan tells Jyothi Venkatesh, (who knows him from the time that the former was acting in the TV serial called Circus over two and a half decades ago) that if we stop pulling each other’s legs and overcome jealousy and pettiness, Indian Cinema will become truly International
The title of your film Jab Harry Met Sejal was originally The Ring. Why was the title changed at the last minute to Jab Harry Met Sejal?
Look here. We are all too close to the film to be objective. I was reading an article where the writer had taken great pains to go into the depth of why the film’s title is not good. People have to understand it’s just the title and there’s more to the film. There’s got to be a strong enough reason why the film is called that. It is true that various titles were doing rounds before the official title was out. The Ring would have been boring. Rehnuma was something we were considering, but it just didn’t go with the story. It is an upbeat film about Sejal Parikh (played by Anushka Sharma) and Harinder Mehra (played by me). It’s not like I am not happy with the title. I am happy, but eventually, it’s the director and the writer, who are most attached to the name.
Is it true that it was Ranbir Kapoor who suggested the title Jab Harry Met Sejal?
Yes. I am reluctant to say that it was Ranbir Kapoor who had given the title to our film. It is not a myustery any more and every movie buff soul in the country by now is aware of the fact that Jab Harry Met Sejal got its title from Ranbir Kapoor.
Was Jab Harry Met Sejal, the title an amalgamation of a Hollywood film titled When Harry Met Sally and Imtiaz’s previous movie Jab We Met?
Neither of the films –Jab We Met or Jab Harry Met Sejal is related to JHMS. I think Karan (Johar) said, ‘make it, Jab Harry Met Sejal’ because maybe it’s Imtiaz’s own film. Jab Harry Met Sejal is a beautiful, comic and slice-of-life kind of a journey film. People perceive that we have mixed the names of two films but it’s nothing like that. Maybe, Ranbir’s thought came from When Harry Met Sally as everyone knows about that film.
How did Ranbir play an important part in the discussion of the title?
I don’t want to say it but Ranbir suggested it so, and we have to give him Rs 5,000 for the. He called me the day the film was launched and said, ‘Shah Rukh bhai, the film should be called, ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’. I really liked it but Imtiaz said it’ll remind people of his old film (Jab We Met). Then, when the title song comes on, the title’s meaning also comes along. So, after thinking a lot — at least internally — we all started calling it JHMS. It is the third time that Anushka Sharma and I will be seen sharing screen space after Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
Do you think it was a collective business decision which will benefit both JHMS and Toilet Ek Prem Katha?
Whenever there is an open date close to the original release date, one should take it. I have always gone and requested people to adjust their dates knowing that it is sometimes unavoidable. But, this time we got August 4, and were told about this decision two three weeks ago. It was a collective business decision that will certainly work better for both the films. We have a long weekend with Raksha Bandhan coming up and our film is also a long-running one with a more nurtured, unabashed love story that does not depend entirely on one weekend. Hopefully, it will run into the second weekend as well, at the same time the other film gets its solo release.
To what would you attribute your star status today?
I would like to believe that a lot of my star status is only because of the way the media-both the print as well as the electronic has behaved with me. Till date, I have never been rude or non-cordial with any member of the fourth estate
What do you feel ails the Indian film industry?
I think we can make it much better, because script-writing is a science by itself. If we also stop pulling each other’s legs and overcome jealousy and pettiness, I am one hundred per cent sure that we will become truly International then.
How selfish are you as an actor?
I am selfish. Every actor is. But I have never ever been selfish enough to wish that only my films should click at the box office and films starring other actors should fail. On the contrary, I have always felt that we should stand united to make our country smile with good films. I have always maintained that how much paisa a film collects at the box office is not just important, but how many successful films the film industry is able to churn out every year that is of paramount importance, to each and everyone of us in Bollywood.
What does acting mean to you?
I just try to enjoy acting. I do not think that I will stop enjoying acting soon till I get tired of it, because very few people are lucky to get the opportunities to do what they really want to do and face new challenges every day in their lives , like I do. I get to visit places which I have not even dreamt of. As long as I am excited about doing a thing, I continue to be happy.
Is it true that you are basically a serious actor?
Contrary to the image with which I have been slotted by the media, I am a serious actor though many people think otherwise. I try to give my best to each character that I set out to play. I also try to learn from every character that I portray on screen. I learn from every character that I play and try to better my performance with each character that I get to play.
To what extent do you miss your own parents?
I find the importance of my parents now when I have my own kids. A lot in my life have been shaped by my parents. I do not look at any one else as my idols in life except my parents because it is they who had shaped me to be what I am in life today.
Who else did you think of when you set out to make your film, besides your father?
To tell you the truth, I think of Yashji, Karan Johar’s father who was like a father figure to me when I set up my own production house. In fact, Yashji even trained Juhi Chawla’s brother Bobby Chawla in the ropes of production when I set up our production house Dreamz Unlimited.
Who is your super hero?
If you ask me who my personal favorite among the various super heroes is, I would not hesitate to state that it is Batman, because by day he is a playboy and a Batman by night.
Are you open to doing more super hero projects in the near future?
After Ra One, I do not want to do any more super hero roles. I will be happy to get into the romantic mode and sing and dance with all my heroines in my future films and leave the job of playing the super hero to all other actors.
To what extent do you interfere with your directors?
It is almost twenty-five years since I had made my debut in Bollywood with Raj Kanwar’s Deewana but even today I do not give ideas to any director of mine, because I have always believed that it is the director, who is always the captain of the ship.
Now that the Independence Day is approaching next month, tell me which is the patriotic film you liked in recent times?
A patriotic film that I liked in recent times has been Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Farhan Akhtar transformed himself into the character of Milkha and Rakeysh made every viewer watching the film feel the raw emotions by making the film a memorable experience. The USP of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was that it was not very overtly in the face kind of patriotic film and it stirs your patriotic instincts instantly.
How would you rate Aamir Khan as an actor?
Aamir Khan is one actor who is not only intelligence but also very conscientious. I am glad that though he was a big introvert by his own admission in the initial days of his career as an actor, has of late developed a terrific sense of humor. With all honesty, I’d say that his films are not only good, but also always ‘look’ good.
Do you think that film making has seen a sea change over the last 73 years ever since we became Independent?
There has definitely been a paradigm shift as far as approach is concerned. It is definitely for the better, because we have to keep pace with the change in times. Why should we keep on making the kind of patriotic films which were valid at that point of time, because, besides the fact that the masses have to face different issues these days, the generation of actors also have come who have an entirely different line of thinking. When Amitji strode on the scene with Zanjeer, the entire nation started playing to the tune of the angry young man but when the economy of the country was in good shape in the 90’s , the pyar mohabbat era came along. Today what plagues our country is over information and under utilization of the right information.
My next few films as an actor are Brahmastra, Pathan and Aamir Khan’s new film after Anand.L. Rai’s film Zero, in which I played the role of a dwarf
– Jyothi Venkatesh