April 17 2016
One of the most eagerly anticipated Indian releases of all time hit cinemas in many countries this weekend, and the main actor and creative force behind it was in London, explaining why he wanted to make this film, in which he plays both a star and his obessive, younger doppelgänger…
IF you’re going to see “Fan” and worship at the alter that is Shah Rukh Khan, don’t.
This is not Bollywood as you know it – and some will say this is not Shah Rukh Khan as we know and – some undoubtedly – love him.
His press conference at Madame Tussauds in London on Wednesday (April 13), hinted as much, but without seeing the film it was hard to make much of a judgement call. Now, we can.
As ever he was charming, generous and oozed charisma and presence.
In “Fan” – with special prosthetics and computer generated images he plays both himself as obsessive fan, Gaurav Chadna – and mega Indian movie star, Aryan Khanna (to all intents and purposes his real life alter ego) and the movie star to whom Gaurav is hopelessly devoted.
Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) has a 20-year plus career in Bollywood and is widely regarded as the industry’s no.1 draw.
At the press conference, he answered a question from www.asianculturevulture.com: “Did you have to think a lot about the concept behind this movie or was it a very natural choice for you to make?”
And: “Would you ever do an independent movie or a Hollywood film and what criteria would you deploy when you were perhaps being offered a role in a western movie?”
SRK told us and the assembled media: “The concept is extremely genuine. I think it’s an extremely innovative film and when we did go to creatives in Hollywood they felt it would be difficult to do…and a couple of times it seemed like it was not happening.”
They were huge obstacles but SRK being the man he is, rarely gives up on a dream.
“Why would I think of a film like this, because most people said it couldn’t be done.”
SRK, the producer of “Fan”, Aditya Chopra, who is an experienced director as well, and director debutante Maneesh Sharma, “a young boy who has lived with this story for 10 years” in SRK’s own words, continued to believe in the concept and the trio just did not give up and “Fan” is a vindication of their self-belief and determination, as much as the technology that made it possible.
SRK also said it was not huge production – a 45-50 people crew unit, rather than a 200-strong one and that collectively they all came through for the film.
“They all believed in the film – and just because it couldn’t be done (and they wanted to do it) – and I think that is the main reason for ‘Fan’.”
To the second part of our question, he answered: “I’ve never really been offered a big Western film…and I keep saying this – how many people would like a 50-year-old with a thick mop of hair who has no unique (quality). I don’t do Kung Fu or I can’t dance like John Travolta, they have enough actors like that but yes, given an opportunity I would like to play a character that, how do you say, is not stereotypical of the sub-continent. I’d like to play an actor or a star who is just universal.”
That’s probably as strong a statement as you are going to get along the lines of…Hollywood, come and get me – but on my terms, please.
There was further proof when he explained that “Fan” has no songs or dance sequences (only simulated or almost in parenthesis) and never as a conventional item number.
Indeed, compere British actor Ameet Chana pushed him on whether he believed there was more scope for actors from India in the West and whether he viewed that positively.
“Absolutely,” responded SRK. “Irrfan Khan, Anupam Kher, and some others, I’m not remembering, if you notice, they’re all powerhouses of talent…they have the talent, they are wonderful actors and if you are a good actor and a hardworking actor like all of us are, then there is no distinction between where we come from – language is not a barrier, colour is not a barrier.
“I think it’s just about how well you act and you’ll be accepted the world over.”
He expressed his pride with these actors and said he found the development encouraging, not just for himself but for anyone in the diaspora, trying to break through.
Chana then asked him if he wanted to make a film for a more Western film sensibility, rather than wait for someone in the West to offer him a role.
SRK reacted: “More than changing the characters, it is the film format we have to work on. The film has to be acceptable to the format of the western world or the rest of the world, so like I mentioned, I think India is the only country with an intermission in its films, so we need to change that.”
He didn’t want to overstate the case but argued that “Fan” was something of a move in this direction – it does have an intermission even though it is only two hour and twenty-four minutes or so, which by average Bollywood fare is slightly on the shorter side.
“This one is geared towards that kind of cinema. Maneesh, these new directors think like that, without making it un-Indian. It doesn’t have songs – which I think is a good thing about it. It’s a shorter film. It’s a thriller.”
He felt it still possessed strongly Indian attributes but that the characterisation was more typical of western cinema.
“I think more than the characters – this is true to the form of cinema that international people are utilising. ‘Fan’ is a move in that direction,” expressed SRK.
It is – or at least the first half is.
- For the full review see below…
- We were live tweeting during the press conference and to see those tweets click here and drop down till you start seeing SRK pictures…
- More from London launch – #FANUKTAKEOVER
- If you really like SRK – something funny