With only one movie release in 2013 it might seem like lean times for Shah Rukh Khan. Following the lacklustre response to his outing in Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hain Jaan (2012), he has some work to do to recapture his crown as box office king.
The same cannot be said for Deepika Padukone, his co-star in Rohit Shetty’s forthcoming action-comedy, Chennai Express. The young star counts this year’s big Eid release as the third of four films amongst super hits Race 2 and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and the eagerly awaited Ram Leela.
So can a big budget culture clash comedy, in which Khan’s north Indian hero goes head to head with Padukone’s south Indian damsel, help the Baadshah of Bollywood regain his ranking and boost his leading lady to top position?
Here’s what the lead stars had to say about the cinematic locomotion hurtling towards us.
What kind of experience has it been making Chennai Express?
SRK: It’s been a great ride. It’s been a funny film, a film that is full of everything. It’s different for me too. I’ve never done a film like this – a complete comedy. Personally I feel that after working after a long time with Deepika she’s done a marvellous job in it.
Since 2010 there has been a trend for remaking south Indian movies but Chennai Express seems to be mix of north and south Indian movies…
SRK: There is a whole culture of Tamil, Telugu and Malayam films which are brilliant, but this is not a South Indian remake. As far as Rahul my character is concerned, he just happens to be from south of India. Sometimes the people in the north of the country do not understand the language of the south as India is a vast country. But whether you understand the language, culture or comedy of the south, it’s the fact that love conquers all and how the country and people are united that sets the situational comedy. It’s not something that has been decidedly made to attract an audience from down south, it just happens to be the subject.
What’s the USP of Chennai Express?
SRK: We have these ‘holiday time’ films which encourage the whole family to come together and I think this film falls in that genre. Also, rather than calling the film a comedy or an action film, I think Rohit Shetty is one director who has a genre of his own called the ‘Rohit Shetty’ genre. It’s really a mass appeal and a family appeal kind of film, a very clean, honest, earnest, without any frills or trappings except for the fact that you’ll have a good laugh. It’s a family entertainer.
How was it doing the lungi dance and paying tribute to Rajinikanth in the item song?
SRK: It feels very airy. (To Deepika) We will not talk about that… about the way you guys were behaving when I was wearing the Lungi? No. There are too many girls here and this is a family film.
Deepika: It was a lot of fun. Honey Singh gave me one of my best songs in Cocktail. I’m glad that he sung the song for us. We shot it in two days and we had a blast. To dance like that in a sari felt very liberating.
SRK: There is a scene in the film which has a kind of tribute to Rajini sir but as the film went along, that scene didn’t make it to the final. When we finished the film it just so happened that Honey Singh had the song and it wasn’t initially part of the film. We shot for two days for 12-14 hours per day for the song, which is 3 and a half minutes. When you make a film called Chennai Express or Chennai anything, and not pay tribute to Rajini sir, it feels incomplete. So we thought of this tribute, I spoke to his daughter and she said that’s what he’s called now, ‘Thalaiva’ which means ‘the big boss’ or ‘the big man’. Everything fell into place.
What was it like filming in Rameswaram in the extreme south of India?
SRK: It takes 24 hours to reach there. You take a train and you take a drive; it’s a long journey especially when you’re travelling with 100 people, so we did because we wanted to have – if I’m not mistaken – the iconic, the longest bridge in India, the Rameswaram bridge. The whole film starts with that, the scattering of the grandfather’s ashes. Rahul has to take his ashes, the father has to go to Haridwar and then to Rameswaram. So yes, we did go and it was beautiful. It was nice to be there and you’ll see it in the film.
We saw you dancing on top of a train in Dil Se. What are you doing on board the Chennai Express?
SRK: This time I’m singing in the train, which is as big a stunt anyone with my singing capability can pull off. I fly on a motorcycle in the film, I go through a wall in a car, but actually the biggest stunt of all is picking up Deepika Padukone and walking up 800 steps. That’s really super-heroic. I don’t want to sound rude but it did take a couple of days to record it – she’s so long! (laughs)
When was the last train journey you took and where were you heading?
SRK: I do it here actually when I go to meet my son in Kent. Is that considered a train journey? I did that last month.
Deepika, how many takes did it take to perfect the scene of you kicking SRK’s butt?
Deepika: I could have done it in one but I chose to keep doing it wrong.
SRK: It felt good. I’m that kind of guy. I’m a little kinky like that.
Join us for part two of the interview tomorrow for Shah Rukh’s advice on intercultural relationships and Deepika’s thoughts on King Khan’s ‘bokwaas’ dictionary.
Chennai Express releases on Thursday 8th August 2013.
Pictures courtesy of UTV-Red Chillies.