Shah Rukh Khan on his personal parameters of privacy
Tell me, do you sleep in pink pajamas?
I'd die if people didn't recognise me. I would not be able to walk on the road if people didn't mob me. That's what I work for
When I have the right to make you cry in a dark room for three hours, you have the right to ask me any question you want. That's the price I pay for being a star (close up) There are many things I never talk about, that nobody except my family and very few friends know. I'm an actor and my face gives away only what I want it to give away.
Ultimately, both of us are selling dreams. I know I'm lying and you journalists know you're lying. I need you and you need me to do this job for people who want to read this kind of thing
When I set out to act, I make sure I put the very last ounce of my blood into my performance. So that you don't go home disappointed. So that you go home saying, "I love this guy so much. And he's given me value for my money." Unfortunately, I've been able to equate it only like this: I'm being paid Rs 10 to make you laugh or cry, to entertain you, to make you happy.
Do you realise how much power you and your ten rupees have over me? Thanks to you, I've seen the world, lived in the best hotels, eaten in the best restaurants, been entertained in the best cinema halls, the best theatres. Thanks to you, I find myself standing next to Amitabh Bachchan, saying hello to Hema Malini,
dancing with Madhuri Dixit, talking to Parmeshwar Godrej and Rahul Bajaj. Mr Vajpayee watches my film with me. After a point, it begins to get unreal. Soon, I'm floating over the Eiffel Tower, I own the Taj Mahal, I can do anything. You make me believe I'm a demigod. I'm on a different plane altogether.
And then, while I'm flying high in this world of unreality, an unknown face suddenly pops up: "Tell me, do you sleep in pink pajamas?"
Pink pajamas? You don't ask demigods such questions! Who are you, I growl.
"I'm the guy who gave you ten bucks, remember?"
Oh yes, you're the guy who gave me ten bucks, you're the face
I've been acting for. And when I have the right to make you cry in a dark room for three hours, you have the right to ask me any question you want. That's the price I pay for floating over the Eiffel Tower, for being a star.
I love being a star, I hope I die a star. And if millions of people are going to look at me and trouble me and watch my every move; if they want to know what I eat, what I drink, what I breathe, and whether I wear pink pajamas or red underwear, it's okay. It's better than dying without being known.
That's why I think this whole privacy issue is sometimes blown out of proportion. Nobody asks me, `Do you get angry because you have to wear make-up every day?" Of course I don't like wearing make-up; it's embarrassing. But it's part of my job. I also have to dance, do silly steps, run through fire, hold my heroines'
hands and say `I love you' to them. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'm the luckiest man in the world and I don't want to hide from the faces I'm acting for. So I don't surround myself with guards, I've never given an interview in which I've said I feel bad that I can't go shopping or I can't go to Chowpatty and eat bhelpuri without being mobbed. I'm not the kind of guy who goes out wearing dark glasses (I don't think I'm a big enough star to hide behind them, honest). I go to see movies in the cinema theatres, I go to restaurants with my family and friends even though I know people are going to
disturb me there. I don't think of it as an intrusion but as an occupational hazard. It irks me, but it's okay.
Am I saying I've surrendered my right to privacy? No, let's just say I've learnt to accept the lack of it. What choice do I have? How can I want to be a public figure and expect the publicity and the public not to follow me? That's stupid and I'm not stupid.
But I do hurt. When there is plain and simple disrespect. When I'm walking down the road, I don't mind someone being familiar and saying, "Ai, Shah Rukh, kaisa hai re?"-- that's quite sweet.
But it's a different matter altogether when someone says, "Ai Shah Rukh, tera picture dekha, ekdum bundal hai." Or "Ai, Shah Rukh, ai c------a!" It used to get me mad in the beginning-- "Kaun bola? Kaun bola?" I used to shout back--but not any more. I've learnt to live with it.Just as I have with all the assumptions that people automatically make about me. If Shah Rukh Khan has such a big house, he must be a cheat. If someone abuses me and I get angry with him and have a fight, it will be assumed that I was drunk, that I was in the wrong. If I go into a heroine's room on the sets, I'm going in only to sleep with her. If I'm with a woman in a hotel room because she's shooting with me or working with me, then of course, I'm sleeping with her too. That's what all film stars are like, yaar.
When I first saw stories like this in print, it wasn't my privacy so much as my integrity that I felt was being questioned. I would tell my wife and friends, "Don't read that shit." And I've got into quite a few fights with journalists over this issue. They're so happy that they've `found us out', but sometimes they're so off the mark that I've now even learnt to enjoy it. The only problem is that this makes it very awkward to work with the person after that.
But then, I think, if I was just Mr Chopra or Mr Kumar and I did any of this, nobody would give a damn. There's more dignity in accepting the importance of people wanting to know everything about my life and journalists giving it to them. I know I can't fight them, so I join them and I don't think that's a defeat for me.
Take the time when Vir Sanghvi asked me, on his show, whether I was bisexual. (He's not the first person to ask me that. Since I'm not sleeping around, it's assumed I must be gay or bisexual at least.) He had told me that if I didn't want to answer a particular question, he'd stop the camera. So I could have asked him to cut it out and he would have done it because that was part of the deal and he's a gentleman.
Whether it was a genuine question or a moment he wanted to capture, I don't know, but he was putting himself in the line of fire too. I could have asked him, `Are you? You tell me and I'll tell you.'
But then again, if I weren't Shah Rukh, I wouldn't be on Vir Sanghvi's show, I wouldn't be doing him a favour by doing his show, there would be no TRPs for that show, there wouldn't be a question like this. It's a small price to pay for owning the Taj Mahal. If asking me whether I'm bisexual, whether I'm sleeping
with X or Y gives you pleasure, then so be it.But overall, I must say the media has been more than fair to me.
I've never used them to get to where I have. I've been approachable, I've been cooperative and I've given them good copy when they want it. Because that's part of my job. I'm a commercial actor, an entertainer, and my interviews should be entertaining. (Actually, when I read them, I sound so good, my
reaction is: `Did I say that? That's cool!' Journalists make me look good the way Ashok Mehta and Binod Pradhan do).
It's like a director and actor working together to give the public what it wants. But when journalists start messing around, it's like a director saying, "Main is hero ka vaat laga doonga"--how can that film ever be good? And that hurts me in more ways than one. Because you're doing this to me, to yourself, and you're doing it wrong.
Ultimately, both of us are selling dreams. There is no truth, I know I'm lying and you know you're lying. I need you and you need me to do this job for people who want to read this kind of thing.
That is what I say to every media person who meets me--can we accept that both of us are lying and get on with the job?
And please don't think that because you've done an interview with me, you're getting an in-depth analysis of Shah Rukh Khan. C'mon, I'm an actor; I can't stop acting. I will let you see only what I want you to see. Don't imagine that you've got some great insight, seen some deep, repressed part of me--and in one meeting of two hours! That's stupid. I can understand my wife thinking that way, but not a journalist.
There are many things I never talk about, that nobody except my family and very few friends know. If a journalist starts getting near them, I'll start hiding them. Don't forget I have an advantage--I'm an actor and my face gives away only what I want it to give away. There is some part of me that I keep only for myself, which nobody can encroach upon because I truly don't want anybody to know what's in there. It's not as if there's much hidden there, it's not full of skeletons. But it's only for people who are very close to me.
Everything else is open. Including my house. I don't think of my home as some private space that I should keep away from people. My personal space is in my heart, not in those four walls. I like people to come to my house; it is this Muslim etiquette I have, that people should be welcome there. I think it gives my house barkat.
At one point there was a story doing the rounds that I had built a house with no windows. Don't ask me why--my house has 37 windows. Yes, the walls are high, but only because people have this habit of throwing stones at my house for their entertainment and my children could get hurt when they play in the garden. I'm not hiding behind high walls, I still haven't gone into an ivory tower overlooking the sea. Never will. Because that would be the death of me as an actor and a star.
I have this great fear that one day I'll wake up, walk out of my house (who knows, maybe this house won't be there either) and there'll be no posters with my face on them, nobody outside, nobody shouting "Ai, Shah Rukh!" Nobody will know me or remember me and I'll have all the privacy in the world. And I wouldn't want it. I'd die if people didn't recognise me. I wouldn't know what to do with myself at a function if people didn't come up to me. I would not be able to walk on the road if people didn't mob me. That's what I work for, that's why I want your ten rupees. Hell, I don't want no privacy.