Shah Rukh Khan: You can’t take love for granted. I know that better than anyone else. I am the most romantic hero in the world

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He can light up romance like a bonfire and spark conversation like a firefly in the dark night. She's a girl on roller skates, fierce on screen, never burning out of boundless energy. Their charm rubs off on each other. One a superstar, the other a newborn star. When Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt come together the only thing that follows is a wildfire of words. And some wisdom and wisecracks on 'Dear Zindagi'. Read on...

Shah Rukh, both Alia and director Gauri (Shinde) said that despite having several reading sessions before the shoot, once you were on the set, they were

SRK: This film is extremely important not only for me but for them, too. I don't want to sound pro-feminist and say that these girls have made a beautiful film yaar, but they really have. I've always said that I enjoy making films with women. This is Gauri's second film and Alia's ninth. I'm aware that they have this respect towards me, but I haven't made them feel that way, they were just kind to feel that. I guess as we started spending time together, they realised that I'm as sweetly silly as they are, and also as lost in terms of trying to do a film which speaks their language.
The last teaser speaks about setting yourself free. Did you ever feel like you wanted to express yourself with abandon, but were unable to do so?
SRK: If I were any more expressive, I would be in jail now. I feel completely free, nothing binds me down, other than decency and respect for someone's space. I am very courteous and I always keep that in mind. Even in my personal space which I can handle, I am completely free. Whenever I am with my people, I express everything, whether it's cracking jokes or putting forth my point of view. I might not do it publicly, more so now than before, but it doesn't mean that I'm not
expressive. I live life with abandon and freedom.
Alia: I really connect with the words in the teaser, because of the ideologies with which I have been raised. My father (Mahesh Bhatt) thinks very differently, so I would get a little confused when I was in school. It was different from what I learnt at home. He would say that the education system always dims the diamond. I grew up thinking that it's okay to be sad, angry and express your emotions. I have also banged doors and fought, as I have seen my mom do that when she would fight with my dad. Everything that I've learnt is from them; so, I've never struggled to express myself.

Did your parents or loved ones ever sit you down and speak to you about life, love and heartbreak?
Alia: No. Apart from the sex education that I got from my mother, there's nothing else.
SRK: Same! My mother gave me sex education classes (laughs!). For me, it's the other way, do I sit my kids down and talk to them? No. I am extremely friendly with my children and if I am not being too presumptuous, I think it's because of the relationship that I shared with my father. Also, I am personally very shy so I may not be able to educate my children about sex, so I don't bring that up. Sometimes while watching films together, I feel that they are perhaps a little more educated about it than I am. Maybe, I should take a little class from them. I have a simple philosophy towards my children or the people who I love. Two aspects I never question. First, is their action, which I believe is all good. Second, is their ability to say 'I don't know'. If I ask my son why he did something and he tells me, 'I don't know', it's a good enough answer. In schools when you are asked a question and you say that you don't know, it's often humiliating. It is a child's right not to know. And even an adult's right. At 51, it's my right not to know and my self-confidence is really high even though you ask me something and I don't know it.

SRK is known for his witty repartees and sense of humour, often self-deprecating, too. Alia, did you get a glimpse of it?
Alia: Of course! I mean he is so witty that it's almost not normal. I got to see it first-hand.
SRK: When you are me, you have to laugh at yourself to be able to laugh at others, else people take it very personally. I think humour only comes from irony, so if you are able to create that irony with yourself, you can do it with others. My friends don't take my humour personally because they know that I can make fun of myself. Humour has to be two-way; it can't be about belittling anyone.

Shah Rukh, while working with younger actors, do you ever feel a generation gap? Does it take effort to relate to them?
SRK: I think actors of the younger generation feel older when they work with me. I tell them, 'C'mon guys, you can be a little younger'. I get really turned on by actors who are trying to do something new and not just coming on the set, saying their lines and leaving. When I see them, I feel I'm exactly like them, so I don't feel the generation gap. Actors don't have an age, which is not to deny my age, but I genuinely think that the maturity of your sense of acting does not define your age. I mean, you can be a very stupid actor at 51 or the other way around.

With the kind of superstardom that you have achieved, your fans will love you no matter what. Irrespective of whether your film is good, bad, great or, trash. Do you ever take that feeling for granted?
SRK: A lot of people tell me that I have passed that phase of competing. I believe there are no goals, there are only milestones that you have to cross. When you reach a milestone, you can stand there and have a cup of tea. You don't live there, you move on. Having said that, I know there are a lot of people who love me and you can't take love for granted. Love changes and I know that better than anyone else, I am the most romantic hero in the world (smiles). You have got to keep love alive whatever happens. Abhi toh pyaar ho gaya, toh khatam ho gayi baat. Aisa nahin hota. Sometimes, I come across stuff like... couples in a relationship for long need to go out more often, have sex twice a week and compliment each other. This is the kind of advice which you get in self-help books. I keep getting these links on Twitter, like five things a man should do with a woman, etc (chuckles). My advice is that you should not follow all that. Talking about my fans, if I have millions of people loving me, it means I have to work million times harder to keep that going. More than that, and I don't want to sound self-obsessed here, but I love 'me' even more. I have to do it for myself, so that I can love myself more by doing better work. I believe that every film I do is my first and it could also be my last. I have never taken anything for granted. I wouldn't take a single shot of my life for granted. I want it to be my best.

Shah Rukh, do you think women directors add a different sensibility to their cinema?
SRK: Yes, they do. I think the sensibility is little effeminate. I use this word because I see men around who are also like that, perhaps including myself. You don't need to be effeminate physically; it's just the sensitivity that's there. I've been brought up that way and I believe that the harshest and toughest of women have the gentlest of hearts. 'Dear Zindagi' is not a film about women, it could be about anyone. In our lives we deal with relationships every day - between friends, parents, boyfriends. I think when we are dealing with such issues, a woman feels it more, maybe because she doesn't get enough opportunities to express it as much in a man's world.
Alia: I agree that this story is not about a woman's or man's issue.Like, both my best friends are men, and when I am going through something they can connect with me on the same level, as we are all talking about emotions here.

Gauri was telling me how the story of the film could have been told from anyone's point of view?
Alia: I agree, because the story is not about a woman's or man's issue. Both my best friends are men, and when I am going through something they can connect with me on the same level, as we are all talking about emotions here.

Alia, do you feel the pressure that every film you do could make or break you?
Alia: I believe when things are going well there's pressure and when things going bad there's pressure. The pressure is more on the outside than inside. In reality, I'm very restless and I get bored very easily. It's the same with my career; I need to outperform myself with every film.
SRK: Through the years, I have learnt that if you are good at your work, honest and you genuinely want to do it right, you will always get it right. I have done around 60 films, and however big a star I am, I guess I have a success rate of less than 50 per cent. But I know that I work very hard at my job and I believe that I am very good at it. I try to be better myself every day. Even I have insecurities, even I get worried. Everybody goes through that phase, even the biggest of superstars.

Shah Rukh, sometime back, Alia was telling me that her biggest fear is failure. In your 20s, did you feel the same way?
SRK: Yes. I read something interesting recently. It said, 'When I am playing a game against a team, it is not just the team, I am playing against losing.' I might sound pompous and arrogant which people think I am, but the truth is that nobody likes to lose. You don't even like to lose while playing Ludo with a child. Okay, losing to a child maybe, but even while playing a game of cards with your friends, you don't want to lose.
Alia: It's funny how you mentioned Ludo, because when I would play Snakes & Ladder with my father, he would be so competitive. He wouldn't be happy about losing at all.
SRK: Losing has nothing to do with greed or madness; it's just that nobody likes to lose. You don't want to lose even your loved ones. Loss is scary and fearsome. And as much as you might dislike it, the fact is that you will still lose. I always say that the only way to succeed is to have a fear of failure in everything. It's not about earning big money and being a big star. People put me in that bracket and say... 'Oh, he is talking about ambition'. No, I am talking about life.

Alia disagrees with the most commonly used term to describe a film like this, 'slice of life', so she came up with something else - Jug of life! Your thoughts?
SRK: Alia, if your sense of humour is carrying forth like this, then I really need to have a talk with you. But ya, slice of life, jug of life, part of life it doesn't matter. I think the film is actually about life. Even I don't understand this term, it's odd. This film deals with every kind of relationship that you might have in life, so it's far more than a slice.

Romance but you say that you don't understand romance. Interesting...
SRK: That's why I am the King (laughs). I am completely a babe in the woods when it comes to romance. I don't need any trappings of romance to love. I don't know if I can give you a rose, I don't know if I can take you for a walk on the beach, but I know that I will make you feel very loved. I just know how to love. I don't understand the romantic dialogues in our movies. If I say those lines to you in reality, chances are that you are going to slap me and say, 'What the f**k are you saying?' You will be like, 'Tu samjha kya rahan hain?' In our films, aise hi pyaar ho jaata hai. I say such strange things to women and they lap it up. You don't need to say these lines to a girl, all you need to do is hug her, listen to her, don't explain and give a solution but treat her with dignity. And be as honest as a guy can be, which is not very much (laughs!) and she will love you back. You don't need to do this kind of nonsense. There is no point in giving her flowers, writing poetry and then being an ass. I think people build up all these things because they can't find actual love with each other, so they think... 'Aur kuch nahin toh yehi kar lete hain'.

Alia: I don't find these technical things like flowers and chocolates romantic at all. I think Valentine's Day makes no sense.

Alia, has any man said such lines to you?
SRK: I am sure some cheap guy at a party has said, 'Aur paas, aur paas, aur paas'.

Alia: No! One of those lines, not all. I think if a girl wants to hear those lines, she should watch Shah Rukh Khan's movies.

SRK: I can tell a girl the theory of mechanised motors and make her fall in love with me, if she looks into my eyes. You can say anything to a girl if you have love in your eyes. You can't just say the lines and get away with it. If they could, most men would be called the King of Romance.

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