In the last piece on our coverage for Chennai Express, the star cast informed us they reasons they think the film is guaranteed to be a superhit, and also discovered Deepika’s secret to kicking SRK’s butt. Continuing on from where we left off, in this part we look into their thoughts on culture clashes and the King Khan feeds back on his undeniably huge NRI fanbase.
The film is about culture clashes between loved ones. Any advice for anyone marrying outside of their culture?
SRK: My dad was from Peshawar in Pakistan and mother was from Hyderabad so this film appeals to me because of that. I would see them argue sometimes and neither of them would understand what they were talking to each other about. But I think it makes for the most exciting couples. To become completely different, have a different culture and fight about it, discuss it, have issues sometimes. It’s more exciting than if you both knew about each other. There’s a scene in Chennai Express where Deepika kicks me and I turn around and tell her in the last scene of the film that, you know, I hope you keep kicking me every night. So you’ll be kicked around but that’s okay.
Certain sections of the south Indian media have made observations that the accents in Chennai Express sound more Malayali than Tamil. Any comment?
SRK: If you want to question anything you can. Sometimes it happens that if you happen to be someone in the public eye, it adds a little bit of weight to your point of view, whether correct or not. When you make a film like Chennai Express, I’m sure the purists will have an issue. However you have to realise that it is a film garnered towards a more popular kind of cinema. I understand both kinds of cinema. I’ve participated in both, whether serious or commercial. The level of cinema you have, whether you’re going to go a bit over the top or keep it realistic, you have to accept all these things. People have a lot of viewpoints. Lately it seems because of the social networks, everyone has a viewpoint and a space to come and talk about it.
Similarly, the film posters have not been well received due to their stereotypical images of South Indians…
SRK: As an entertainer for the last 22 years, I have it clear in my head that except a few instances where I may have been wrong, I have never been a part of a film where knowingly I am depicting something that is wrong. I would never do so because that’s the kind of person I am as an actor, as a producer. I have kids, I have family, I have friends, all of us are above board, educated, and wouldn’t go to any controversial aspects to make a film. It’s unfortunate when it was brought to my notice but having said that, everyone has an opinion and you respect that. You don’t need to adhere to it, you may not try to explain it, you may not even reciprocate but it’s there. You don’t become a legend without controversy.
Deepika: I am a South Indian myself and we do have a lot of Tamilians in the film as well. I mean if any of this was anti any of that then I’m sure I would have been the first one to not accept it. As far as the accent is concerned, I’ve had a tutor, a trainer, a diction coach and they are all from Tamil Nadu.
SRK: I think her accent is fantastic. Nobody says ‘bokwaas’ in the way she does. And if they don’t’ say it like this in the South of India then they will start saying it after this. (laughs) It’s so sensual. ‘Kahaan se khareedi tumne yeh bokwaas dictionary?’ It’s a big turn on.
Deepika, was it a conscious decision to have four films releasing in one year?
Deepika: Not at all. I can’t control when the films release. The only thing I can do is go ahead and do a film which I think I will enjoy doing. Releases are always in the producer’s hands and when they want to release the film. Even the kinds of roles I’m doing, that’s not a conscious decision either.
Shah Rukh, Is Chennai Express a conscious decision for you to try something new?
SRK: Sometimes I’m in the state of mind to do a certain kind of film but it’s not offered to me, or it doesn’t come along, and then I settle for the second best or go back to the default of director, someone I know. It’s very difficult after 22 years to wake up in the morning and go to work with the same gusto that I did on the first day. It can only happen if I’m really wanting to be doing that. It’s got nothing to do with money, fame or name. After having finished Jab Tak Hai Jaan which was a true spirited love story, Ra-One which was physically very challenging, Don which was kind of intense and My Name Is Khan which was mentally intense, I was kind of wanting to do a comedic kind of film.
Have NRI audiences’ tastes have changed over time?
SRK: Every film has a different life. Like Chak De! India. After we saw the film we loved it but didn’t know if people would like it. We never thought it would be liked so much. I was in England at the time for a special screening in Somerset house and I felt depressed. I went out for a drink dinner and just went off to sleep as I didn’t know if it would be liked. But I woke up to the fact that it was liked by a lot of people.
You said earlier that London and NRIs pretty much accept your films. Is it safe to think that nowadays? That they will simply love the film because you’re in it…
SRK: No you can’t talk like that about a film, ever. Films are extremely subjective, what people like or do not like. People simplify by saying this is an overseas or ‘Diaspora’ kind of film. I think you are questioning the intellect of every individual audience when you make a generic sweeping statement like that. When I came here during the shooting of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Dil Se had just released and it was only shown post 11pm in the theatres but it ranked number 8 in the UK charts. It was the first Indian film to do that. Over the years things have changed so much. You thank audiences, the distributors and theatres that a change like this has come in.
Chennai Express is set to receive the UK’s widest ever Bollywood theatrical release on 125 screens. Does that have something to do with your fan base here?
SRK: London audience is not a pressure at all. I think you’ve been really fantastic especially for films I’ve participated in. I have no reason to believe that actors have a regional-wise appeal, whether regionally or abroad. But I have to accept that a huge amount of star value that is given to my films is because of the audience in England. Thank you all for that. In all humility and kindness, please keep doing what you’re doing… and don’t stop.
Do you still get ever nervous when a new film is about to release?
SRK: No I’m just sad letting go of a thing I’ve lived with for a year which has a part of my personality. I feel really hollow by the end of a film. In Indian terms it’s like getting go of my daughter.
Chennai Express released on Thursday 8th August 2013.
Pictures courtesy of UTV-Red Chillies.