When you are Bollywood's leading matinee idol Shah Rukh Khan, you can be forgiven for believing that you are invincible. After all, we experienced it first-hand last week when Gulf News launched an online RA.One contest. More than 8,000 readers participated.
"I don't feel invincible at all, and whenever I do feel it, I try and do a film that challenges me. That keeps me younger, fitter, faster and better," said Khan over the phone from Mumbai.
Enter RA.One. The sci-fi magnum-opus sees him play an all-conquering superhero called G.One (posters show a blue-eyed Khan wearing a costume with blue electricity running through it) on a mission to destroy evil. Khan, along with his co-stars Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal, is slated to walk the red carpet tonight at Dubai's Grand Cinemas at Grand Hyatt for the film's world premiere.
Billed as Bollywood's most expensive sci-fi venture, this one is estimated to have cost over $20 million (Dh73.45 million).
"Every film brings with it its own set of nervousness and my own realisation of my own insecurities as an actor. Movie-making is like making a small life. Life can either go right or wrong," said Khan.
The suave actor is surprisingly on unsure footing here. According to insiders, RA.One — which is also co-produced by Khan's production house Red Chillies Entertainment — is a make-or-break film for this larger-than-life personality.
"Actors or stars can't rest on past laurels," says Khan. "Nor can they be bogged down by past failures. They need to get up, get dusted and try to do better in either case."
One look at the blockbuster-laden catalogue of his career spanning over two decades — including hits such as My Name Is Khan, Om Shanti Om, Devdas and Chak De! India — proves that he follows this philosophical principle to the letter. But as far as size and hype go, it's unlikely any can surpass RA.One. Apart from a stellar cast, the film boasts a cameo from South Indian star Rajinikanth and a voice-over by the legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan. Khan also managed to rope in R&B singer Akon. These titbits have been sold, packaged, and re-sold by Khan, who is on a massive publicity drive.
‘Gracious and humble'
"When we were writing the film, there was a wishlist in mind. And of course, one was that Amitji [Bachchan] would give a voice-over for the introduction of the game and the other was that when G.One comes to the real world from the virtual world, he will meet a superhero like Chitti [Rajnikanth's hit superhero character in Robot]. The thing about them is that they are so gracious and humble," said Khan.
Not only did he nail a casting coup in cameos, but with this move Khan proved that reports about animosity between him and Bachchan were false.
"We are very respecting of each other's talents. I am, of course, very junior to Amitji and Rajni sir. And I have always loved them and showed respect towards their work. In spite of what people say and write about us, we share a definite camaraderie. Of course, there's a huge amount of respect in that camaraderie."
Khan, who is known for his quick wit, confidence and fun interviews, seems to have taken a leaf from their lives. "What I learnt from them, is that the bigger the persona the more gracious they are."
When asked why he chose to unveil his film for the first time in Dubai, he did not launch into a hard-sell mode as expected. "I am very fond of everyone in Dubai, Abu Dhabi. I often spend my winters there with my family, and I have many friends like Mohammad Al Abbar there.
"Also, the UAE have been very kind towards my movies. Apart from that, it is an essential market for Indian movies. Business-wise it makes sense to me and my partner. After that, we head to London and Toronto."
The glamorous trio will also attend a charity auction gala dinner after walking the red carpet at Grand Cinemas. Rumour has it that SRK's RA.One outfit and film memorabilia will go under the gavel.
"I am just deciding with my office on the stuff we should auction. We are preparing a goodie bag and I promise to make it interesting for everyone."
This gala dinner night could also be your chance to see Kapoor and Rampal, who have been missing from the film's promotional blitzkrieg, in the flesh.
"I normally don't come in the forefront of my movie. I would like everybody to come up and talk. Even for My Name Is Khan, Karan [Johar, the director] was the main spokesperson for it. Unfortunately, with Kareena there was a family tragedy, so she had to take some time off. And because she had to take time off, she had to adjust her shooting dates."
Khan said Rampal's low-key stint was orchestrated. "Arjun and I were very clear that Ra.One [Rampal's evil character] will be introduced at the last rung of film marketing. And since his look is not out, it is difficult for him to speak about his character. He also sprained his ankle, so he couldn't come to a few cities with me. I was just telling Kareena that Dubai will be the first place where we are all together."
And with each passing minute, he's aware that all eyes trained on him.
"I have been working for twenty years and people have believed in my work for those twenty years. It's only natural that they expect excellence. And inshallah, I will give them a lot in return."
- Akon: "I met him in New York and I just asked him whether he would do a Hindi film. I am not much into English music, but Akon I really like. My son and I love Smack That. It's wrong for a kid, but we love it. And I think singers have a yen for languages. His diction is 95 per cent better than normal Hindi-speaking people."
- Creating a home-grown Indian superhero: "I have played a hockey coach, I have played a radio operator and I have even played a struggling actor. One just feels as if this is the time to take a step forward. I have a big visual effects company and I want to take India forward with that."
RA.One is released in cinemas across the UAE on Wednesday.
Did you know
The RA.One world premiere, organised by Essar Events, will be held at Grand Cinemas at 7.30pm, followed by a charity gala auction dinner. The RA.One team has a packed schedule filled with meet-and-greet sessions, interviews with press, red carpet appearance and more. We'll be tweeting live. Follow it as it happens GulfNewsTabloid.