Tomorrow, writer and filmmaker Samar Khan will launch a book, SRK 25 Years of A LIfe on Shah Rukh Khan. He has known the actor for the 20 years when he met him on the sets of English Babu Desi Mem. It took him four years to put the book together with co-author Sonali Kokra. Samar says, “The thought behind the book was to show why his directors thought of such iconic characters for Shah Rukh. I had made a documentary called Living With A Superstar on him where he had told me that every piece (of character) he does, leaves a piece behind and today he a culmination of all the characters he has ever played in his life. If I had to know the man completely, I had to talk to the filmmakers he has worked with, so I have spoken to all his directors except Raj Kanwar (passed away) and Shashilal Nair (whom I couldn’t contact).” Read on for an extract from the book. Meet the SRK that only Aditya Chopra knows. In his own words.
“I’ve made three movies with Shah Rukh – Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Three movies mean three characters and three stories. But in my head, all three stories are actually one person’s story. They are just three different versions of the same person. In DDLJ, I made Shah Rukh play this adorable, rich, spoilt lover-boy. He is a bad boy but he has a heart of gold. He is the kind of boy that girls are irresistibly drawn to; the stylish rogue that every girl wants to tame. Initially, I had wanted to make a trilogy based on the character’s life at different stages.
Over time, the stories evolved and changed, but yes, in a way, all of Shah Rukh’s three characters draw from each other and are interconnected. When I thought of how Raj would be 10 years after DDLJ, if he had lost the love of his life, the answer was Raj Aryan Malhotra. That was the starting point for his character in Mohabbatein. With Surinder Sahni, I was trying to portray the Raj that is hidden in each one of us. In our own love stories, we are all Raj and Simran. But just because we don’t have the paraphernalia – the leather jackets and the Harley Davidsons – is our story any lesser? It was a very sudden realisation brought about by a very everyday thing. I saw someone from my office buy flowers and chocolates for his girlfriend or wife.
And it made me realise that deep down, we all try to be the Raj that we see onscreen. Surinder Sahni is that common man who is trying to bring a little bit of the magic of movies in his own married life.
Just like the character of Raj, my relationship with Shah Rukh has also evolved over the last two decades. When we cast him for Darr, to be honest, neither dad, nor I really liked him. He was working on Rakesh Roshan’s King Uncle then and we had managed to get our hands on the reel of some footage. Neither of us were very impressed but somehow, maybe because everyone kept rejecting the negative part, we ended up signing him.
Our first shot with him was the Holi song. I think that very day itself, I knew that this man was going to be a superstar. He had a strange kind of madness in his eyes that was very exciting. I was the first assistant director on Darr.
We became casual friends, but it wasn’t like we were so pally that I’d hang out with him over beer. When I decided to make my DDLJ, I knew I had to have Shah Rukh. Mostly because in those days, Shah Rukh Khan was two people at once. There was the Shah Rukh the actual person and there was the image that he projected. Most of his roles were about this brash, arrogant and aggressive person – all the things he isn’t in real life. A good boy was playing a bad boy. In real life, he was an honest, well-read, kind boy. And that is the side of him I wanted to bring out in Dilwale… I wanted to flip his image over. Also, I didn’t want someone who had done a love story before.
I wanted the reel Shah Rukh to make the transition to the real Shah Rukh in Dilwale… So no one else would do. Initially, Shah Rukh wasn’t excited by the script. He was expecting an action hero’s role and I was asking him to play a soft, romantic character. It’s not that he didn’t like the story; it was just that it was very unexpected for him. I think being Yash Chopra’s son gave me an advantage here. His respect and reverence for my dad wouldn’t allow him to say no to me. But I think that mentally, he came onboard a 100 per cent while shooting Trimurti.
Lots of fans would come to meet the stars on the sets. One day an old lady who had been waiting to meet him, told him, “Tum itne acche ho, acche roles kyun nahi karte?” I think the woman’s words changed something in him.
By then, we had the kind of equation where I knew his dreams and aspirations for the future. I knew his ultimate goal was to become the biggest superstar in the country. I told him that he’d have to become every mother’s son, every sister’s brother and above all, every woman’s fantasy to realise his superstar dream. I told him that in DDLJ, there would be no fight sequences, no blood and chains. He would have just himself to tell his story. That was the day he said yes to the film. In retrospect, I think that old woman was an angel sent by God. By the time we started making Mohabbatein, I think I had started taking Shah Rukh for granted.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi happened under very strange circumstances. The company wasn’t doing well and I needed to make a movie to get the company’s finances rolling. But at the same time, I didn’t want to make a movie just for the sake of it. When I made Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, I could have made a far bigger film with a star-studded cast. But the only story that compelled me was that of a simple man and his simple life. That is when I had the extraordinary-in-the-ordinary epiphany about love. I went to London for three weeks and came back with a finished script. I called Shah Rukh and told him I wanted to start shooting in three months and he said yes instantly.
When I narrated the role of Surinder to Shah Rukh, he got very excited. One day he walked into my office with a pile of notes and started telling me how Suri would walk, how he would speak, his clothes, his mannerisms, everything. I had never seen him do so much homework for anything. I think the contrast in the two characters he’s portraying in the film appealed to Shah Rukh’s own dual personality.
Over the years, as a producer, a director and a friend, I have seen Shah Rukh perform multiple characters and portray all kinds of emotions. But I’ve always felt, and still feel that Shah Rukh doesn’t laugh whole-heartedly. His laughter never reaches his eyes. Somehow, it’s always a bit hollow, a bit fake. I think that maybe that has something to do with the fact that he lost his parents very early in life. I don’t think he ever got over that loss. As an actor, I think he is the best actor in the whole world and that we’ve seen only 10 per cent of his talent. That 90 per cent is still to come and blow us away.
As a filmmaker and a friend, I hope that soon, he is offered roles that tap into the remaining 90 per cent. l hope I can give him roles that tell the world, ”You’ve seen Shah Rukh the superstar, now see Shah Rukh the actor.”