Celebrated director Karan Johar brings together Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol after nearly nine years in My Name Is Khan. The last time they came together was in Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham in 2001.
His latest film, which has sparked political controversy in India, had its global premiere on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi and will hit UAE theatres today. According to Johar this is SRK's most challenging role to date. Excerpts...
You've been tackling issues like extra-marital relationships and now terrorism... why?
Cinema is a reflection of society around you. What's around us will enter our subconscious mind and therefore translate effectively into films and that's exactly what has happened. But My Name is Khan is not about terrorism. As soon as I'm done with this film I'll see what crisis is around me and start working on that [laughs]!
Did you do any research?
Shibani Bathija, the screenplay writer, put in a tremendous amount of research. She visited various people with autism, read a lot of books on the disorder. We even met people who were suffering from Asperger's syndrome and also a couple who've written a book called Aspergers in Love — the story of a lady married to a man with this disorder. This research actually helped us add more weightage to the love story in My Name is Khan. After completing our research we put all this matter together and gave it to SRK. He reviewed it for nearly two months and had his own experiences with the research. Finally the research helped him create a character that's authentic on celluloid.
SRK's reaction when he heard that his character was autistic...
He was challenged because he has never dealt with a character of this nature on screen. This is possibly the most challenging role he has ever played. He has always done things in a certain way — be it in reality or celluloid — and this character required him to express, emote and walk with a completely different body language. He had to create a different character, which he has done beautifully.
How easy or difficult was it to convince Kajol, as she's picky about the films she does?
Kajol isn't picky at all! She said ‘yes' to My Name is Khan not be-cause she shares a comfort level with me or Shah Rukh, but because she loved the role and the script. So it wasn't hard to convince her. She's a mature woman who divides her professional and personal space beautifully. Kajol does a film if she loves it; she won't say ‘yes' to my film just because she loves me.
How different are SRK and Kajol off-screen?
They are very normal people, cool and relaxed. They never boast about their stardom. They are committed actors who have complete control over what they're doing. Working with Shah Rukh and Kajol is like working with family.
Has Kajol changed?
She's the same mad self, spontaneous and brilliant. But motherhood has made her restrained and responsible as an actor and more evolved as a woman.
What is the real SRK like?
He's the most passionate and intelligent man, most loving hus-band and doting father. He can be crowned as ‘father India' and ‘husband India'; he can die for this family. The love he has for them is heartening. Life, circumstances have changed, but he's still the same. The Shah Rukh I met in 1992 and the one in 2010 are the same.
What message will the audience take from My Name is Khan?
Oneness, unity — about standing ground as a race. The film shows why divides need to be done away with. I hope when people walk out of the theatre they imbibe this message and put it into practice.
You want to make a film on SRK and his wife Gauri. Why?
They've a brilliant love story — drama, love, conflict and eventual triumph. They are the poster couple of the industry with a great family, beautiful home, success and love. I think theirs is an inspirational marriage, which will make a fantastic story. BM
did you know?
According to Karan johar, shah rukh khan spends six hours in the loo, BUT he doesn't know why!