Donning a trouser, jacket and shoes, looking charming as always,  we catch up with Shah Rukh Khan at Mehboob studio late evening for a chat, just as his latest film ‘ Zero’ has hit the marquee. Here we discuss his experience on the film, working with Aanand L Rai, his character amidst much more…

‘Zero’ seems to be a very experiential film after a long time, what do you have to say about it?

Not really experimental, I think it’s how you try to create a character and in this it’s just a physical difference in the character, it’s as much as growing a moustache; but the technology to do this is very long.  But I think also the film’s basis being that all of us spend most of our life, thinking, I wish I could be happier, I wish I was like this and now people are even telling us how we should be and we don’t realize that each one of us isn’t perfect.  Except I joke Katrina kaif is. (Laughs) But no one is perfect either emotionally, mentally, physically. I think we should accept it and don’t waste time trying to be someone else while life passing us by.  Life is just one and you need to believe and say – This is who I am, this is the best I can be, instead of thinking as an incompleteness you should think of it as uniqueness. We just think and enjoy this one life which god has given us, to be able to create that; I think we needed three kind of incompleteness. One we thought should be physically vertically challenged person, one mentally challenged person who is actually a genius but has cerebral palsy, and then you have the most beautiful woman in the world that is emotionally challenged.  So generally we have these three aspects we think we are lacking in and if we accept them fast then we can enjoy life. That is why we needed to have the physicality of Bauua to be, it could have been any other the characters but this just helps the story.  As a matter of fact from the last one year we have been worried that it should not become the main stay of the film and whatever I have seen in the film and its different stages; I think the first 10 -15 minutes and even after the trailer you overcome that, that doesn’t become the gimmick and we didn’t want that to be a gimmick.  So we haven’t shot anything impossible but something that is accepted by a vertically challenged person.  And second thing we didn’t want to do in the film was that when a film is made on special ability, everyone tries to gain sympathy so what we have tried to do in the film is that, the three characters are not sympathizing on them or is anyone around or even the audience will not sympathy towards them.  Also, not even Anand Rai as a storyteller has tried to show anywhere  in the film that a character needs sympathy.      We just wanted to bring about equality and that we don’t want anybody’s sympathy and in real life also I don’t think anyone of us would like to seek sympathy. We want love, we want friendship, we want happiness but we don’t want sympathy and empathy from anyone so for that reason we needed to have these three characters.


Will you call this as your most challenging role till date?

No I think the VFX made it very easy and I guess the first 7-8 days it took us much longer as we thought it will and then we realized and then we took 200 days to make the film. The film is very cozy, emotionally , small film,  so we didn’t want to lose out the smallness, the relationship , every angle to the film that we are making  a VFX film so the VFX people told us to behave the way we are, they will manage around us. There were small things we have to take care of like I couldn’t walk a longer strike, certain things like if I am trying to climb stairs, the stairs not had to be made but ramp had to be made and that they will made into stairs because then the leg will go higher, and some bits of dancing and touching some places. Otherwise more or less they had told us to behave normally so most of the time I was in a pit so that people could see me as that height.

How confident are you about ‘Zero’ because Aanand Rai looks very confident and zero is a complete number in itself, when have you ever felt complete in your acting career or in personal level and if not then how do you strive for it?

Zero is a perspective where we can see it both ways, it being complete or it being nothing at all, and that’s the whole film about as to when we change our perspective towards something.   I have never felt complete. As an artist I am very incomplete and I know that. And if I am then I would not like to work and then why would I wake up in the morning and work hard and still try to do something, so as an artist I am very restless. I always think of brining in something new in the commercial cinema that I work as an actor, a producer, in whichever capacity it may be.  And to be honest if you think you’re complete then you’re boring. I don’t think as things completing, the journey is important if I think I have crossed and achieved something I don’t think it as an end line, I think of it as a milestone. I don’t plan things; I feel it’s very organic because if you work things in films as long as I have, specifics become less important, you can’t tell if we make particular kind of film then it will work, Fridays will be great collection, holiday dates will be beneficial, all that business part is completely depended on the story you’re telling. No matter what people say, what they think, how much ever expert they become so I find myself becoming less and less expert about a film and I am loving doing the films I am doing. I am not looking for an end in the film and can’t work strategically.    I feel very happy after 25 years of working the only reason you should work is for happiness of your art.

 Do you think ‘Zero’ will be a game changer for you?

I think in technology it already is, I think VFX has to be made very prominent in Hindi films for cinema to have better story telling in India. We are making the biggest films, we are making the largest numbers of films, we assume we are the best filmmakers in the world but I think the new influx of the audiences that will come say- kids who are 7-8 year old; they are not going to be very forgiving about the cinematic visual and sound experience because they are use to watching the latest movies on phone, and in India there are some beautifully looking films that are released. And it’s a matter of time, that all of them will be dubbed, or even if they are in English. I feel most of the children will grow up even in small towns watching those films; then they will be very unforgiving and this excuse that we have in Hindi cinema “that it’s okay in Hindi films”.  So I feel that excuse is fine for us and we are the last generation, we see a tacky films and say its fine.  It was 15 years back that I had gone to a multiplex and now I am use to that chair, that reclining, I am use to that screen, I am use to these things, but when I was growing up; cinema was very run down. But now I am use to that chair and now if you take me back to that place I won’t be able to sit.  So the little youngsters are going to be use to that quality.  People think that I am thinking of VFX as only ‘Bahubali’ but that is not true; I feel VFX should be used even for smallest of films. Some of the small films in Hollywood like ‘Zodiac’ which are made in 15-20 days, lot of VFX are used which we can’t tell; so I feel people have to educate themselves; big directors, small directors should come forward and use the technology to enhance story telling.

Do you think your films were ahead of its time for instance ‘Phir Bhi Dil hai Hindustani’ it’s a satire which is happening in today’s time, also ‘Ra-One’, ‘Swades’ and again you are going with a technology  which has  not been tried and tested.

When the film is flop it’s a good excuse to say, it was ahead of its time. (Laughs)  Somebody told me about three-four months back. What doe ahead of its time mean?  This is the time what we living and ahead of time how would we know? But it’s good to feel like that and yes ‘Swades’ was one those films and now everybody talks about ‘Swades’ being  a lovely film so was it ahead of its time or may be the relevance of the film we realize it now or appreciated more.  But that time having SRK in it, Ashutosh Gowariker after ‘Lagaan’, people went with an expectation of seeing an exciting , thrilling film like  ‘Lagaan’ but we gave them something else, they were little more expectant of a commercial film so may be some of the films are like that, some of them are ranked bad,  so I hope ‘Zero’, because it is not based on technology; ‘Ra-One’ was based on technology, this one is based on an Aanand Rai kind of story telling but because of the characters we needed to do this, even  small things like we shot in America, New York , but we couldn’t shoot at the actual place, a lot of it is created VFX wise and which can be done. For example – ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, you can actually make a set with real actors and make it easier for film making and actors also; so, ‘Zero’ may not be ahead of its time by virtue, by it not being a meant to be technology film but hopefully the story is familiar.

“I think VFX has to be made very prominent in Hindi films for cinema to have better story telling in India”

Anushka Sharma is playing a cerebral palsy person and she is still a scientist, have you seen or the research team has seen any such cases where such things have happened may not be NASA but something similar?

No. no, we are also not NASA. We just made a space centre NACR because we wanted to personalize, because some of the things NASA was shooting first man on the moon so they allow only one film to use the name once a year, so we were second to move there but we shot there, also we requested them as to can we use some other name. We have taken cinematic liberty for some things so they can get a little disturb.  Stephen Hawking and some other wonderful scientist are the cases we have seen, also if we have seen some films like ‘Beautiful Mind’ and I think sometimes genius people have some kind of affliction which makes them unique but having said that, the concept was to get the most intelligent person having an issue with motor control that is cerebral palsy, the most brash and unseemly person having a physical challenge, and the most beautiful woman having a emotional issues. It was all amalgamate, all three incompleteness human beings normally faced.

  Talking about incompleteness, the sense of that, this comes from being vertically challenged. So when you were shooting it, you felt like a dwarf, but when you go back from shooting to be a normal man.  How was the switch for you as where the physic was concern?

When I was shooting I shot a lot in pits like one and half feet deeper so personally I didn’t feel short, I could feel short standing next to Katrina or Anushka. With Anushka we had kept a thing and I think that’s in the trailer too that a relationship of equality because w are actually of same height when she is sitting and I am standing. So I didn’t feel l like it, it looks like you are walking 2 steps below but it was very difficult because a lot of time I did a scene and then after 3 months when we saw the structure change, it does sometimes become better, sometimes it becomes worst, but we have to live with it.  Because after 10-15 days of shooting we realized it and I don’t think we reshot anything because we couldn’t time wise, but the other day I was doing a song with the new song director and he kept on telling me to do things in style.  But when I did something with style on shorter person it looked something wrong, I don’t know how to describe that. Even in romantic songs the things he is doing is child like because he can’t do tight moves so even the dancing and all he had to loosen up. So some things you have to adjust like hand movements, sometimes the entire prop’s were bigger for me, my clothes are different, my shirt and pant size are fitting. We wanted him to have a little porch not prominent, we didn’t want to deform him, he should look attractive; anyway movie star you see, you don’t want to change it too radically.

“I feel very happy after 25 years of working the only reason you should work is for happiness of your art”

Bauua Singh comes with a lot of wicked sense of humor is it a character derivation form your own end?

It could be because Himanshu, I and Anand have a wicked sense of humor. Yes you’re right because when the girls saw the film in the beginning they were like – he is so mean and wicked, they are not use to seeing Shah Rukh like this, but there’s a reason for it. There’s a line in the film where his friend tells him that – god will punish you and he replies, how much more will he punish me? He has already punished me! So there are sometimes people as a hero character can’t portray too much but at times people are not happy with some or the other flaws in them. So we didn’t make him angry, we didn’t make him angst, we didn’t make him wicked, we made him funnily like that, and thus he replies in that way. He is a bit rude in replying to people and will make fun of them but as the film progresses, you find his rudeness very honest.  And eventually his honesty becomes better than his wickedness and you’ll say its good for him to be like this only because he is like that till the end, there is no change in him and I think that’s the beauty of the story telling; he is, who he is, and none of the people change to make others happy. We just become happy with being who they are.

You have always worked with some of the best directors of Hindi cinema be it Yash Chopra, Rakesh Roshan, Ramesh Sippy, so is there somebody you wish to work with; an experience film maker or a new film maker you would like to work with?

I really enjoyed myself working with Mani Ratam it was too much fun so I wish there is a film and I if he ever tells me too.  He wanted me to do the last ‘Ravan’ but I was busy with ‘Ra-one’, I found it difficult to do both. Anand sir is someone I would like to work again, I want to make an action film with him; I think it will be really good to make an action film with him (Smiles). Bhansali is fun and its being a long time I have done that kind of film which he wanted and he had told me to do the other one but again I was busy with ‘Zero’.  And amongst the new people RajuHirani will be nice to work with and I had fun making films with some interesting film makers.

Bauua’s world is far more different from your world what is that you would like to borrow from his world?

Yes it’s not a world I have been part of, the whole setting and not that Himanshu and Anand have lived there. It was really new for me, being a Delhi boy I know some of the language and thought but the way they live their lives, especially his relationship with his father. In big town you don’t expect calling your father by name; so I asked Himanshu and he said it happens at times.  Also we have taken cinematic liberty, I am not saying in all small towns this happens but these things were was odd, I mean the Kakcha Baniya itself was odd (Smiles) but I think the simplicity of the world, the little friendships and friendship is not the talk and chat ones, it’s a forever connection, even if you don’t talk to the person on regular basis. But the relationships are very different in area like these smaller towns where life has still not taken a stole in terms of time and patience in people.

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