Q. Apart from what’s already being much spoken about, what is your personal reason for picking a film like ‘Dilwale’?
A. I think the storyline is interesting; trailer doesn’t really tell enough of the story. It’s dramatic in the typical Rohit Shetty manner, but what’s more is that he (Rohit) has taken the legacy of Kajol and me as eternal lovers, retained that kind of romance and dignity, and woven a story around it. And it is garnished with his typical madness.
Q. But the trailer doesn’t really highlight that aspect…
A. To be honest, I didn’t want the trailer to divulge too much. It is just a montage rather than really telling the film’s story. I am deliberately holding back with this one because I think that aspect should come as a pleasant surprise. You seldom get commercial films that have something beyond what you expect. But having said that, it is a film by Rohit Shetty, who likes blowing up cars. Each filmmaker has a style — Yash Chopra saree udaate the, Rohit Shetty gadi udaata hai. Karan Johar does movies on society, Imtiaz Ali’s films show darkness in love stories and Anurag Kashyap makes edgy films. They all have their own style.
Q. The trailer received a mixed reaction on social media.
A. I don’t check on that; my office does that for me. But I can say that the feedback we get on ground is very different from what we get on online. Social media is exciting and fun, but you can’t go by that feedback because it can be quite misleading, positively or negatively. Only a minority goes online to check about films. It is definitely not the right way of measuring the real response to anything. I would rather go by what I hear on ground. Like yesterday, I was at Yash Raj Studios and people came up to me to talk about the ‘Gherua’ song. If you hear a song of yours playing in a rickshaw passing by, then you know you are doing well.
Q. You have the wonderful gift of the gab, and that is evident when you tweet, write or give inspirational speeches. Don’t you think as an icon you could use it for a larger purpose?
A. My reply will be in two parts. Yes, I think I should. I have an idea, but haven’t been able to put it to practice. I want to create a weekly video where I could present myself to the world. I could be talking about everything, not just films. But then, I also think I should speak less. I talk about something and it is misconstrued, and I get into trouble. That’s a nuisance. Like that thing which blew up recently — I never said India is intolerant. When I was asked about it, I said I wouldn’t like talking about it, but when they insisted, I had just said that the youth should concentrate on making this a secular, progressive country. It is just that people like to believe what they want to believe. Misconstruing my words might or might not suit a particular political agenda, but I am annoyed because I didn’t mean what is being portrayed. I am an actor and make films. This is enough of a job. I am an icon because I can be what I am on screen. I would rather stick to that. I don’t enjoy spending three nights explaining to hairstylists that I didn’t mean to offend anyone by naming my film Barber. These things take away from my source of happiness. I must say I love talking. My experiences in life have been such that I can give away certain nice things. But then you can’t expect everyone to understand your way of thinking or even your sense of humour. That is the reason why I stopped hosting shows… I was offending too many people. One truism in this industry is that you can’t please everyone all the time.
Q. What other life lessons would you say your experience has taught you?
A. Clichéd as it may sound, it is that there is no alternative for hard work. What life has also taught me is that you cannot plan a successful film. You can’t write it in a way or think that this will be a blockbuster. I still keep it simple. My only criteria is: Am I doing the kind of film for which I am excited to wake up and go on the sets and wear make up? Longevity and freshness in an actor reflects in how he feels about the work he does. You cannot manipulate anything. I watched ‘Golmaal 3’ and really loved it. So I asked Kareena (Kapoor) to get me to meet Rohit. He knows which world he belongs to and doesn’t want to follow a pattern just because it might work. Popular patterns are fads, not classics. When KJo became successful and we made films together, people used to say, ‘Oh, but he only makes pop culture films’. My reply was, ‘If you think it is that easy, why don’t you try making it?’ When you don’t like people’s success, you want to put them in a box. Being true to your form is the most important thing. I tell young guys to find what they are not good at and try improving on that. Only then you can hope for longevity.
Q. Is it more head than heart for you after these many years in the industry?
A. No, if I did anything following my head, I would have reached a different level of material success. I still do what my heart says; I do films I have some emotional connect with. Even as a producer, Juhi (Chawla) and I started out only to be able to enhance the director’s experience, to let a good director be able to do what he wants to do. I can, at times, afford to tell the director to go ahead with his vision, however big it is. I have suffered in the process, but I am also the only producer who has a nine-storey office and 210 people employed in it. Sometimes, I feel bad that I don’t get to do the films I really want to, because my office people tell me to work on something that brings money too. But within those parameters, I do the best I can. I may have the biggest house or the best cars, but none of that is the extension of my manhood or my stardom. Who needs all that when I have my dimples? (laughs)
Q. But don’t more crores feel like bigger toys for you?
A. Not at all. There is only so much that you can do with money. I have a theatre at home but I have not been able to watch a movie in it for the last year and half. I have a swimming pool, I have not had the time to use it. I practically live in my van for 20 hours a day. I don’t get to spend any money on myself. I am grateful for the amount of money that God and this job has given me, but as they say you can never be too thin or too rich (laughs). Right now, I think I am fat.
Q. Is there any insecurity that lingers on from your struggling days?
A. Let me tell you something: I am the most under-confident, nervous, insecure man who keeps asking himself if he’s got it right. I know it is difficult to believe because I don’t come across like that. I was to watch Fan yesterday and was so nervous. I didn’t want to see it because, honestly, I wouldn’t be able to gauge if we have done a good job. This is my biggest insecurity, but also my biggest asset. In spite of being in the industry for 25 years and not knowing, can work for you.
Q. You mean it stops you from being cocky?
A. In my profession, yes. This confidence that I show is an act. When I have to make a public appearance and speak, I get really nervous. People say, ‘Are you mad? You just have to be present to make people happy’. But I know my just being there would make me the most boring person; doing something to make them happy will make them happy. When I see actors who come out of their own films and say ‘I nailed it’, ‘I killed it’, I get really curious. How do we know we gave a great performance? You get to know when the audience says or accepts it. Also, you can’t get too confident about these things because you never know why someone liked something you did. It could very well be because of some personal thing that made them connect to it.