King Khan of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan speaks of his upcoming release Om Shanti Om, it’s comepetition with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, his fees and many more. An interesting interview, read on….
Even before the release of Om Shanti Om (OSO), you have made a huge profit.
We have made good money with OSO. Going by the reports, I have already made 85 crores for the film. If I had made 85 crores from my film, I would not be sitting here and promoting it. Every film that I have produced except for Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani has been a plus before the release of the film. In PBDHH, we had 45 lakhs surplus but we spent that on publicity. Most of the films that I have produced, we’ve had a little more funds on the day of the release but they are not qualified to be defined as profit, because if the same film doesn’t do well, then I return the money.
Is that a norm? To return the money if a film loses money?
No. I have this feeling that I am the biggest actor in the film industry, and so everyone dealing with me, needs to earn from me. So far, I have not dealt with corporates. I think, with them, I will deal a little differently because money-wise, they are bigger. When Paheli didn’t do well, even to distributors like Ashtavinayak, I returned money. I called them and asked them how much money they’d lost and then I sent it across. Some of them have been kind enough to say, no it’s okay. Some say okay, we don’t want the full amount, just reimburse 50 per cent.
Are you planning to only work in your home productions from now on? Not counting one film a year for Karan Johar and Yash Chopra?
It’s not like that. I would do any film. Unfortunately, the other one I was supposed to do with Vinod (Chopra) has not worked out because I wanted a little more time for Robot, and now Robot has also not worked out. So I am free now to do things. I am unemployed for the next eight months. What’s happening is that as an actor, one gets offers of money, which are huge amounts. I’ve never taken this kind of money in my career. I’ve never taken even half the kind of money, which is being touted as my price.
This is happening after Chak De! India?
No, this has been happening for the last one year, ever since the corporate companies came into the business. The money being offered has changed for all actors. But I wonder – is it okay for me to burden a film with the kind of price people are ready to pay me? So I think of it this way – I will take my regular price as an actor, and then maybe I’ll produce the film, so if we actually do make money, it becomes the cost of the production. And that goes as a profit for the production, and not as my price. If the film flops, then you are sitting with an actor who is nearly 50 per cent of the cost of the film. That is just bad economics for me. You make three films a year and if those films cost 150 crores, you end up with 75 crores – that’s just not right. And if those films don’t do well, you’ve really become a flop star. So it’s not that I would not work for others. I need to work with people who would keep the pricing of the film low, and not burden it.
Sajid Nadiadwala recently said that it’s not wise for OSO and Saawariya to release on the same day and one is bound to suffer. Comment.
(Laughs) Sajid is speaking from experience (last year, Sajid’s Jaan-E-Mann and SRK’s Don released together, and Sajid’s film suffered). But I haven’t had that kind of an experience. I don’t know… I don’t think it’s wise, smart or intelligent. We are both selling films. Two products launched on the same day; obviously it’s not good business.
Didn’t you ask Bhansali to postpone the release?
I’d asked Bhansali to tell me his release date, so we would not clash but that didn’t happen. Not because he didn’t want to tell me, or he was hiding. He was not sure and then we had to take a call. I am a little sticky about my release date. That’s been a thing with me as an actor also. I like to fix the date in advance. It’s one of the organized bits of my filmmaking. I remember we didn’t go ahead with Miramax for Main Hoon Na because they wanted to change the date. And we would’ve been the first company to tie up with an international company but I said no, I am not doing it. And they were really shocked. They said, it’s just a date change. But I stuck to my date.
This doesn’t have anything to do with numerology, right?
No, it’s a normal business practice. If your paper comes at 8 am, you won’t change it if some rival paper comes at the same time. You stick to what you believe in. Because that also fixes how you make the film. You start the film a year-and-a-half in advance and finish it.
What about the six-pack. Still there?
Just about… I have lost some weight; I have been down with viral fever for the last two weeks, so I have been eating khichdi but there is still definition and I will be back to working out soon and get back there.
You lost out on AR Rahman for OSO because he wanted to share the music rights. Regret losing him?
I don’t. Rahman would’ve been fantastic but I think Vishal-Shekhar have done the best job of their career so far. I am thrilled with their music. I am very clear that one should work for the happiness of the film. If I have a problem working with you, I will not. Nothing personal. Everyone follows a few organizational rules and Rahman had some contractual issues. He was very clear. He said if I make an exception for you, I won’t be able to set a precedent for others. And I believed for his business, it was better that he didn’t work on our terms, so we didn’t.
Salman has gone on record to say that he would promote your film if you asked him to.
(Laughs) I was with him two hours ago and we were discussing that. I know even when he is promoting Saawariya, he will promote OSO. I don’t have to ask him.
Your take on Saawariya?
See, there are too many friends involved in that film, and I know Sanjay very well. Though I don’t know what kind of a relationship Farah and Sanjay share…
But even Farah complained about Sanjay…I think they share a love-hate relationship. I think I should not get between them because I got to know Sanjay and Farah a little after they’d gotten to know each other. They will continue to have issues and problems. I am not a part of it. I am fond of both of them. If he tells me to promote Saawariya, I will.
Did you expect Chak De India! to become a cult film?
When I do a film, I think it’s the best film in the world. I thought it would do very well but it has done even better than I thought. To be very honest, it surprised me like DDLJ did. It might not run for 10 years but business-wise, it might be even bigger. In today’s times, if you run for eight or nine weeks, it’s big. And I think it has done X amount of crores business so it is the biggest hit of the year. But for me, it’s done business that’s 200 times more, in terms of creativity. I always felt but have never said it -my wife and friends have – that my career has been really nice but there was one film lacking – a film that said that I could genuinely act great. Chak De India! became that film. But you had Swades! (Laughs) Oh, I think I did great in Duplicate also. I think this sort of puts it to rest. It completes my career. I can do this, and I can do that. I think this proves that I am a good enough actor to be where I am. And it makes matters easier for me that to beat the best film this year, I have to beat my own film. I don’t have to compete with A, B or C hero. I am competing with myself.
Were you upset with Sajid Nadiadwala for leaving out OSO trailers from the Heyy Babyy prints?
Oh no, I don’t get upset about these things. I think if my trailer is in any film, it does the film good, and not vice versa (laughs). For some reason, our promos didn’t come in Heyy Babyy and it’s no big deal. Not as an actor, but as a producer, I feel that my film doesn’t really need to be promoted through some other film. I’ll promote my own film.
You didn’t charge anything for doing the song in Heyy Babyy, did you?
(Laughs) I have not charged for my full-length films; what am I going to charge for just a song?
Name one such film.
I don’t have a price for a film. I tell my producers and directors that when you finish the film, pay me whatever you deem fit. I don’t even look at the envelope.
You don’t have a fixed price?
Not for the last 15 years. Actually, maybe I did that for the first two years. If you really ask me, Adi (Chopra) paid me extra money for Chak De India! I was shooting and suddenly the executive producer came and handed me an envelope saying, ‘Shah Rukh, Adi has sent you a thank-you note.’ I was surprised because Adi had been with me till three in the morning. I thought I’d said something – you sometimes get emotional with friends – and maybe he’d sent a note about that. When I opened it, it was a thank-you note with a cheque. I was surprised. Then I called Adi and said he didn’t have to do this. And he said, ‘You don’t have to get sentimental with me, so shuddup.’ I think every producer I’ve worked with has shown an immense amount of grace.
So you’re saying money doesn’t matter to you?
To be really honest, when someone like Yash Chopra pays you an X amount, considering the kind of things he’s done for me as an actor, you say, ‘You’ve given me a good film; you’ve given me 200 crores.’ A hit is more important to me than money. I think I must be the lowest paid actor.
C’mon, get serious!
Honest to God. I don’t know what kind of money people think I charge. My price is about three-and-a-half crore rupees. That’s how much I got for Chak De India! Even if you give me 100 crores, you cannot make a film with me if your story is not good.
Every Shah Rukh Khan release is like an event. Does that scare you?
I know! It doesn’t scare me but it makes me awed. 200 films come in a year – some do well, some don’t and everybody forgets them. But my films become like life and death, man! I am like, what’s this? I don’t do five films a year. I’ve done two. Suddenly it’s like 50 per cent success or failure. It’s like half your year’s work has gone wrong, if the film goes wrong.
You are very close to the Gandhi family. If they asked you, would you campaign for them?
They won’t ask me.
And if they do ask you?
I don’t know…. I want to ask Rahul (Gandhi) to act in my film. It’s as stupid as that. They are my friends; they’ve known me long enough, so it’s not something they don’t know about. It’s not like they don’t know my kids are called so and so. So they do know that I am apolitical by thought. I’m willing to campaign for any political party commercially. Like an ad. Just give me lots of money. But they won’t be able to afford me. It would be too expensive. They won’t be able to run it (the campaign) for a year; maybe just a month.
But actors do get asked to campaign for political parties all the time.
Actors who have a bent mind about politics probably do that. I don’t, so I won’t.