Aim for the stars: Do Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan feel trapped in their public image?
Editor's note: With Shah Rukh Khan's Fan and Salman Khan's Tubelight not quite hitting the mark in terms of box office success, there are some crucial question we found ourselves thinking about. Is Bollywood's male movie-star bound by his 'image'? What happens when stars experiment, and give their fans something 'new'? What happens when their experiments fail and how do the stars themselves react to this failure? This is part one of a three part analysis on this very idea — what is bigger, the star or the image of the star? Read part two here.
Bollywood is something we all have consumed, admired and aspired for all our life.
Be it as a child, when you wanted to be heroic, or while proposing to your beau with enough dialogues to make them melt, or also watching your favourite film on TV for the umpteenth time. There's no escaping hindi films.
We all have awed and had our jaw drop when stupendous stars walk out of their spic-n-span cars with their entourage. A thought that most of us have: what a life these stars live!
But beneath the surface of glitter and glamour, there is a person who is petrified of walking alone. Everything we see is an armour, which shields them from what a nightmare one failure can be.
I remember meeting with Shah Rukh Khan right after Raees hit the theatres and initial buzz claimed that the film was good. The first thing I had to ask him was if he was relieved. He smiled at me, and said, “ When someone has been working for a very long time, what happens is that they are already in the minds of the people. I meet mothers and they tell me that their second child also loves me. If you look at all my films historically, they open very well as a lot of people come very excited to see the film. Now that causes two problems for me personally. When so many people are coming to watch my film, I hope and wish that I can give most people what they have come for. And secondly, if I am doing the same thing again and again, I start having problems with that as an actor."
He furthered, "You know, if you give the audience something new and it doesn’t work like Fan, I get heartbroken, not discouraged. But if you are trying to do something new and it works, the happiness just doubles. I have been in the business for a very long time, so I can sense whether people are liking the film or not. Before the release of a film, I keep sitting on the black sofa at my house, my family knows what I am going through that time. I keep sitting on it and don’t do anything. No phone, no TV and I only meet my kids that time."
Having been the boss of Indian Cinema for the last two and a half decades, how does one stay humble and vulnerable when you have everything at the hit of a button?
“Strangely, I know my life will be remembered by the work I do. Everything else will take second set to it. I really appreciate the fact that my family understands it. I am a public figure, I have to do what I have to do. Even if I don’t take my problems home, my family has to bear them. My daughter calls me once or twice a week, my son calls me once in two weeks but in the last four days as the film during the release of the film, my children have called me multiple times in a day and strangely I missed the calls as I wasn’t expecting them. I know they will just call to ask how I am or to tell where they are but I know in their mind they know that papa’s film is releasing and we need to be with him," he said.
But the fact remains that one is tied down by image they make for themselves.
SRK has often said that he is the master slave to the image of Shah Rukh Khan. But is there any way out when you want to satisfy the artist in you?
He ponders over it and tells me, “If you have been working for so long, then the responsibility on you increases. I always say that love is unconditional and I believe in it genuinely. When I go back home after failure or success, the love is there as it is unconditional. So I feel that people love me so much that if by mistake I don’t do something very good, they will still love me. They know that there is no selfish reason behind it, but I was just trying and when I will do something correctly, they will love me the same. That is why I have strength to try out certain things. I feel a lot of pain when something doesn’t go right especially when I decide to do something different."
It all boils down to how responsible these stalwarts feel about their stardom. They say that fans are the ones who take the honest decision of creating or bursting the bubble, do the stars believe this too?
Fan favourite Salman Khan had once told me how the last word has to be your fans and not yours.
"When someone is paying money, you need to see good things. Whatever is happening in my life is going to happen in my life, is my problem. What are you coming to see? A great movie right? You have come to see entertainment, and that is my duty to keep my problems aside and give you what you have come for. I have to deliver. Deliverance is my thing towards my fans. I have a huge responsibility towards them and no matter what stress I am going through, it is not going to stop me from doing my work and whatever I do for my fans," said Salman.
But how does the artist survive in the middle of the rat race and the fans? The bubble does make you a slave and all you do is obey to what your super star alias tells you to do.
They say an artist is a wanderer but in Bollywood where everything is so mechanical, is he really wandering?
Stay tuned for part two, on Sunday, 9 July 2017.