Chit Chat

Don’t question my intelligence: SRK

SRK ke affair ki story mein ek byte communal harmony ka bhi chala do is how stars’ perspectives on national issues are treated, says SRK, which is why he doesn’t always say what he thinks. Except, of course, to TOI

Last week, the Mumbai police asked cine stars to appeal to people to maintain communal harmony as the Babri verdict approaches. You’ve spoken earlier – after Emraan Hashmi’s press conference on not getting a house in Mumbai – and you’d said that you have a point of view, but you’re defensive about expressing it because

a) it’s always misinterpreted, and b) the media doesn’t take a stand. Today, if approached for bytes on communal harmony, are you willing to go beyond the one-liners?
Perhaps we should not be taken very seriously because we are film stars. You don’t go to every engineer or doctor to take his viewpoint on communal harmony. The contrary argument to this is – oh, but you guys are public figures! My contrary argument is, we are public figures to the extent that we are entertainers. Beyond that, if there is an issue that I want to talk about, it may be personal, it may be women’s education, I’ll say it. You don’t have to take it seriously, but if I felt it, I said it. If somebody takes it seriously, wonderful.

But I do feel that the line between how seriously we can take movie stars is rather fuzzy; we ask every movie star to talk about a national issue – whether it’s the games, a cricket match, communal harmony, using contraceptives, polio vaccines… And on the same hand, we ask them some really silly things too. By virtue of subjecting a profession to two diverse thoughts – arre, bataiye, aap ne toh wahaan badi badtameezi ki thi, aap to sharab pi kar danga karte hain, humne suna hai ki aap ne toh… – you get a little schizophrenic. Am I someone who should talk about a larger issue in the overall interest, or am I someone who is just meant to be doing tomfoolery?

Yeah, the last time you spoke on this, you said, I’m just a dumb, vulgar star, why should I have an opinion?
Yeah, so why do I have to answer all this… so you are always in two minds when something like this is said. There are days when you feel, I’m not gonna speak, yaar. Because with the stage and the time of the work that you are doing, you reach a point when you cross just personal satisfaction. Then you think, I’ll do this because cinema will look better. Of course you want your films to do well, but at some point you also begin doing it with a thought beyond just the BO returns.

But people only weigh it like that – that you can’t think beyond your next film’s future. That makes me go back to a thought – films and filmmakers and actors are part of a strange art form, which is only measured by the yardstick of commerce. So it’s a dichotomy; it’ll always be so. Ki hum artists hain, lekin jab tak woh painting biki nahi ek crore ki, tab tak hum bade artist nahin hain. It’s a strange thing, that you are weighed purely by commerce, while you are artistic by thought and belief. So sometimes, the question is put to you as an artistic person, about national interest. And you’re like, haan, main artist hoon, main aapse is baare mein bolta hoon. Suddenly, it’s a commercial question – and you go, arre, yeh kahan se aaya… It’s a fait accompli, an occupational hazard, and I’ll never be able to resolve it.

So when someone says to me, speak about communal harmony, I will say – yeah, I believe in communal harmony, in my house there’s communal harmony. I believe my nation is truly secular, I truly believe that. So I will talk about it. And on the same platform, like you were just pointing out the contradiction, someone will ask me – toh aapka six pack aa gaya? So you’re like… how do I answer something on communal harmony and on six packs in the same breath? So you’re, like I said, schizophrenic. You know you’re playing two parts simultaneously, and so on days, you try to avoid playing at least one of them.

I don’t know if people understand, from the outside, the dichotomy of questions that we are subjected to, ki bhai, kya poochh rahe ho same breath mein? You don’t ask the other part to national leaders, you never ask them a frivolous question. And just because we entertain, by jumping and doing fight scenes and dancing, it does not make us… it takes a lot of intellect to do the silly things that we do on screen to convince a billion people that this is true. It takes a lot of intellect to be able to convince people to believe in fantasy – but people don’t seem to be able to recognize that.

Like, Walt Disney wasn’t a cartoon…
Absolutely. Walt Disney is not a cartoon. He is genuinely, internationally, the longest lasting phenomenon. You don’t laugh at him when you see his face and say, he’s Mickey Mouse. He’s not Mickey Mouse – he’s the creator of dreams. And some dreams are funny, some are silly, some are sweet – that does not make the creator any of those things, it just makes him very imaginative. It makes him versatile.

I like talking when people ask me sensible questions. Ask me senseless questions also, but in a context, and I can have fun, I can make you laugh at my answers. But it should not be that you are just doing it for a purpose which is so transparent, and you are questioning my intelligence by asking me a question like that; ask me a question, but don’t question my intelligence. That’s what it comes down to, many times. Come with a question, but don’t come with a motive behind a question. But… you live with it. You do get irritated also, at times… maybe that is why people are taking to more social networking stuff. They are actually moving away. That is why you may find in the long run that the fastest information, the most important information, finally, all celebrities will end up giving through their own channel – be it a book, a blog, Twitter, XYZ. If I’m not talking about a topic on my channel, it means I don’t want to talk about it. I’m very clear now, for example, I don’t talk about religion. If somebody asks me a question, I usually won’t answer, because what I say hurts people. So, it’s like, sorry, now you can’t have my views on religion, publicly, because you don’t know how to appreciate it, because it causes too much strife.

Transmission losses?
Ya, ya, it all gets… in fact, in some time, I’m gonna take a position that I will not answer questions about co-actors. Ask me about my film, my work, my job, my stuff – good. Bas.

So if it is about your suit in ” Ra.One”, or the six packs, the pop answers, you will answer anyone, but if it is about something that you actually think about, like religion, you won’t take a public platform, won’t share it?
No, I won’t share it. Not with the popular media. I don’t think they’re even interested in knowing. I doubt if there is any real interest. It is like – aap bol dijiye na, thoda sa bol dijiye communal harmony pe… matlab? It’s like advertising. They just want me like someone who is selling that thing right now. Thoda sa bol do na… Shah Rukh ka affair ka story chala denge, toh uske andar ek yeh bit bhi aa jayega communal harmony appeal ka. I think a lot of actors and right thinking people will be perplexed by that, won’t they?

You’ve stuck to that line, of not commenting on issues of social relevance?
Yeah, I don’t think movie stars are nationally relevant – it’s as simple as that. Or, are thought to be not relevant enough to speak in the national interest, on national issues, without it turning out to be a full blown controversy. We are not supposed to have an opinion. If we have an opinion, it has to be controversial – that is how we are always projected. It is difficult. I do have my opinions, in a private room, and I like to share them, and I do like to figure out if they are correct or wrong; I am an open, ‘discussive’ kind of person, but it is so unfortunate that today, I am so worried about saying anything – can’t even say anything nice about the city (Delhi) ki bhai kisi aur city ko bura na lag jaaye! I may say things with the right intention, but more often than not, people will misconstrue it.

I couldn’t help overhearing you talking to friends about the question of money-making in projects of national relevance, before we began this interaction…
If anyone is working on something in the national interest – even if there is this human nature, that I would like to earn because I am working the hardest in this activity, or whatever, if you feel you are not being paid enough for it as per your efforts, say so, make a clear-cut demarcation about these things. But be clear, whatever I am doing in the national interest, for a public activity, at least 51 per cent should go to the nation, I can look to make 49 per cent from it. It cannot be that 99 per cent I make and give 1 per cent to the nation! You need to give back. And when I say give back, I am not being idealistic, I’m a material guy, I’m a businessman, I’m a f****** rock star! Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be talking like that, but the point I’m making is that, if I’m ever asked to do something in the national interest, do a project of national relevance, it’s not as if I will not charge for it, but I will ensure that what I give back is not just worth that money, but is a little more than that. It should not be just value for money, it should be a little more than value for money. If you are in a business, your personal venture, take 100 per cent profit, take 500 per cent profit by all means, but if you are working on a national project, the objective cannot be to take back a 500 per cent profit. If somebody is working very hard, or deserves a lot of money, pay him upfront, say he is going to be working for so much time, he deserves it – and then put the rest of the money where it should go. But unfortunately, that sort of transparency is rarely there.

In that context – Rahman being paid 5 crore for the games song, which is widely seen to be a fiasco. Do you think this is an instance of delivering more than a little value for money, as you say, or is it that when politicians and bureaucrats commission something, even a Rahman ends up delivering a sarkari output?
Uh… you see, yaar, creativity has this problem, sometimes it’ll be liked, sometimes it won’t. It’s unfortunate that perhaps we expected something more popular from this music, and it isn’t that. See, this is very subjective. You will find enough people who like that also, I think. But perhaps one has decide at some level to take the Commonwealth Games and say, everything is wrong. Ek predisposed idea ho gaya hai – Commonwealth hai, sab kuch kharab hai. Paani aa gaya, dengue aa gaya, traffic aa gaya, yeh ho gaya, woh ho gaya… sab kuch galat hai. Ek wrong footing par aa gaya hai games, and the song is also caught up in that.

Also, I think the whole spectacle is a reflection of how little we appreciate sporting events in our country. We as it is are quick to demean it, and of course all these recent controversies in cricket etc are not helping it either. It’s a slightly grey area for us.

A Bollywood superstar, brand ambassador for a state, a little later is brand ambassador for another state with a completely different political ideology…?
You can see it one way, I see it the other way, like I am affiliated to, say, Pepsi. If I leave Pepsi, and later Coke tells me to do something for them, I’d do it. I have no issues, whether Coke and Pepsi have different ideologies or not. See, I’m called for a job, I’d do it. I used to endorse a computer company; they don’t use me any more, for the last one and half years. There’s another computer company that just called me, and I said of course I’ll do it. Of course I believe both the companies are good at their job. And I believe it is my job to tell people about what the good points of either company are. I’m not lying in either case.

If I’m called to launch the Delhi Eye, I’ll say okay, I’ll come, I was excited by the London Eye, so if there’s something like that opening here, and I’m called, I’ll come. Tomorrow if I’m called to launch the Chennai Eye, I’ll go and do it, or the Bhopal Eye, or the Lucknow Eye. There’s no political line, as far as I see it.

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