Into a feel-good world
Will Shah Rukh Khan's presence make ``Main Hoon Na" (release on April 30) a super hit? And what is special about the flick? SRK talks to GOWRI RAMNARAYAN, with all his charm in tact.
"THE WEAPON of one mission is Gun and that of the other is Love." In "Main Hoon Na," (to be released on April 30), Indo-Pak relations will flood the screen with action, romance, comedy and melodrama.
This masala-topped new age Ramayana has Major Ram Prasad Sharma (Shah Rukh Khan) ringing in peace for the subcontinent. His `Mission Milaap' fulfils patriotic father's (Naseeruddin Shah) dream of ending all enmity, despite the evil machinations of Raghavan (Suniel Shetty). The process involves Ram's return to school to protect brother Lakshman's young heart throb Sanjana (Amrita Rao).
Producer Gauri Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment promises sizzling chemistry between the schoolmarm (Sushmita Sen) who teaches the subject, and the student with the hidden agenda. The Bollywood mother is incarnated yet again in Kirron Kher.
Ace choreographer Farah Khan ("Dil Se," "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," "Dil Chahta Hai," "Monsoon Wedding," Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Bombay Dreams") turns debut director in "Main Hoon Na," with Javed Akhtar and Anu Malik to provide word and song.
Since formulas are no guarantors of success, the film may need Shah Rukh Khan to prove "Main Hoon Na," as he did with super hits from "Deewana," "Baazigar," and "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," to "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" and "Kal Ho Na Ho." Occasionally but forgettably, SRK went off the beaten track in a "Maya Memsaab," "Gajagamini" or "Asoka." However, SRK's best came with gorgeous support from Madhuri Dixit, Kajol or Aishwarya Rai. His effervescence in "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" remains hard to beat, while his drunken stupor was as credible in the "Devdas" extravaganza.
Picking up awards for Best Actor and Best Villain along the way, SRK's stardom includes overseas sway. Is he number one? ``Only telephones have numbers,'' he quips, admitting the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time and with the right filmmakers. Is Farah Khan one of them? Time will tell.
In this telephone interview from Manali, SRK retains the boy-next-door charm we see on the screen, and a no-nonsense attitude towards himself, and the unreal world he inhabits. The voice is a surprise. It remains expressive despite the spluttering connection, and pungent, high decibel chatter around him on the sets. You sense the actor in the star when he pitches the tone to chatty ease, scattering your name in friendly banter. Your thanks at the end is more formal than his quick SMS ``God bless, SRK.'' Excerpts:
Your first film, "In which Annie gives it Those Ones," had a woman director in Arundhati Roy. Now it is debutante Farah Khan. Are women directors different?
It's nice to work with women, they relate richly to the world and to people. More imaginative and creative, more responsive to colour, tone, movement, gesture, thoughtful in a way different from men. They understand beauty more.
And men fall short in these areas?
I find some directors like Karan Johar and Yash Chopra sensitive. All of us have male and female traits. Men become more creative when they explore their feminine side.
Do Indian films offer scope for genuine comedy?
It would be unjust to call "Main Hoon Na" a comedy. It seeks to recreate the masala film of the 1970s, like "Amar Akbar Antony," when Prakash Mehra, Yash Chopra and Manmohan Desai blended everything in a single genre. You get drama, comedy, romance and emotion, and lots of thrills.
Why is your villain named Raghavan? Are Tamils more diabolic than other communities?
(Quickly) The name has nothing to do with language or region! Okay, I'll tell you something that you may not discover for yourself when you see the film. This is a take off on the Ramayana. The hero is Ram, his brother Lucky is Lakshman, and the nearest we could get to Ravan was Raghavan.
What happened to your Dreamz production with Juhi Chawla? Did you launch the Red Chillies banner because you were disheartened by the tepid fate of "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani" and "Asoka"?
They didn't take off as our "Chalte Chalte" did. But this company is still the same thing. Juhi was away for six months and could not be actively involved, but we showed the rushes to Juhi and Aziz Mirza and changed the climax according to their suggestions.
Anything special about "Main Hoon Na"?
(Noticeable pause) As a producer you have to be lucky to get a team like this, fresh, charged, talented... Boman (Irani) ... like all good actors he's nervous before every shot... What? Yes, so am I... In Darjeeling we had to pack up early, gets dark pretty soon, and guess what from 4 p.m to 10 p.m it was riotous fun. Most of them didn't talk about money at all, wanted to do the film for free.
Your film is about exchanging enmity for amity between warring neighbours. But aren't you tired of the over-worked Indo-Pak relations theme?
If I say let's be friends, won't you say okay? It's natural for human beings to be friends. Indians and Pakistanis are no exceptions. Three and a half years ago some people told me this was a Utopian script. The climate has changed now.
The cricket series has drawn such good will.
Sports are meant for goodwill, only earlier that goodwill was ruined by people who were not sportsmen.
Sushmita Sen in "Main Hoon Na."
Bigger budget, higher risk does "Main Hoon Na" scare you?
The film wasn't so highly budgeted as it turned out to be, because of my injury and surgery. Inshallah I hope the distributors get their money back, we've had a great relationship with them so far.
How do you deal with your active schedule despite injuries, first leg, now back?
Can't wish them away. Travel was not easy. I have to take hot water baths, painkillers, rest. You saw me in "Kal Ho Na Ho," yes, I manage.
Is Ashutosh Gowarikar going to pull off another "Lagaan" with you in "Swades?"
(Controlling annoyance) For 14 years I've known Ashutosh, we're good friends, he wrote "Lagaan" sitting in my house, and now he's done our country proud. No one should question him for the next few years, just let him do what he wants. Not easy to make a film on issues, educating the middle class Indian on grass roots problems when he's looking for greener pastures abroad. One should want to be associated with projects like that.
You say you're tone deaf. How do you handle songs?
My dance directors and the gods are endlessly patient. My dream is Inshallah one day I should do a perfect song.
In a nation of frenzied fans do you feel a sense of responsibility about what you do on and off the screen?
Yes, after my kids were born. No ethnic jokes, no comedies about disabilities or regional characteristics. I don't want to do a single scene that I will find difficult to explain to my kids. I see an accident on the road. Why describe it in gory detail? I want my films to make viewers happy, not troubled, disturbed or uncomfortable.
Escape into a feel-good world?
Why not? I want my viewers to get on a roller coaster high with me, forget the tragedies and pains of life. The need to get away from sorrows is also a reality experience.
Is it true that you are now reading the Koran a lot and are concerned about the way Islam is misrepresented?
I'm too small a person to be thinking of changing world perceptions. I am reading a lot more now, not only about religion, but history and geography and every subject under the sun. When I was a child I knew I could come home and ask my father questions on any subject and he'd say, give me two hours and I'll find the answer. And he would too. I want to do the same thing for my kids.
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