Also showing: Shahrukh Khan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 December, 2008, 12:00am

'I honestly don't know where I'd be if that film wasn't made,' says Indian actor Shahrukh Khan, referring to Diwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (which translates to The Brave Heart will Take the Bride).

The 1995 film was Aditya Chopra's directorial debut and it defied the sceptics' predictions in Bollywood and eventually ran in Mumbai for almost 10 years, earning 700 million Indian rupees (HK$110.43 million) and 10 Filmfare awards (India's equivalent to the Oscars).

It also propelled Khan to stardom.

He would eventually become the most well-known actor to have emerged from Bollywood in recent years. His popularity has since spread far beyond India through films such as Don and Om Shanti Om.

He has a solid fanbase in Hong Kong, for example, where he's been dubbed the 'Andy Lau Tak-wah of Bollywood'. With the same film production unit that produced Diwale, Khan hits cinemas again after a year-long absence from the big screen with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (God Brought the Duo Together), in which he plays a simple country bumpkin from northern India who gets married to the most desirable girl in his village - much to the young woman's distress.

It's a remarkably different role for an actor who is more well-known for playing hunks and there're no swanky cars or designer clothing to be seen anywhere. It doesn't matter, as Khan says it will be 'one of the funniest films' he has ever done.

The 43-year-old - now with more than 60 films under his belt since his movie debut in 1992 - is adamant that the all-singing, all-dancing slant of his commercial films has more value than gritty cinematic fare.

'You know when you see a so-called serious cinema [offering] and fall asleep in the theatre and about 30 people saw it? I'm not mentioning names, but the director has then failed completely to make a compelling story. That's it. It's as simple as that,' he says.

Despite having won numerous awards, the Bollywood star says box office take is more important to him. 'It's always fun and great to get awards but nothing beats box office success. If the audience hasn't been won over, then you've failed somewhere along the line,' he says.

'I think it's an easy excuse when directors or actors say the film could have been a big hit but it was released before its time and it would do well today. That's just bulls***. You didn't know what your current audience wanted, and made a film that didn't work.'

He adds, laughing, that his past four movies have not done so well at the box office.

As for his upcoming movie, he's confident it will do well. 'In a way, I'm undoing what [Diwale] did. That movie created this urban, yuppie character Raj, the cool dude,' he says.

'This movie [Rab Ne], is demystifying the character of Raj. You have to take my word for it. I'm shy, an introvert, who essays characters that are cool. I was never cool. I act cool, but that's not me. I rarely socialise, I rarely party, I was never trendy. When wardrobe stylists send me clothes, I wear them.

'When my character is supposed to be the popular jock, I walk the walk, but deep down I've always been shy.'

So, as he portrays the bespectacled, white pyjama-wearing, tech-nerd Surinder Sahni (left), is that the real him?

'Yes, in many ways. It was so much easier to play that part and I had such fun doing it,' he says.

'I tell everyone, don't be fooled by [my] image. When people ask me to go and hit a party, my reaction is, and then what? I'd rather be home with my wife and two kids. To me a party is on the set. I was destined to play the role of Shahrukh Khan.'

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi screens tomorrow, Sat and Sun at Chinachem Cinema, TST East. Inquiries: 2311 3000