A reel chemistry

Bollywood buzz

A reel chemistry

The iconic pair is back: Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, gods for the 1990s-born generation with Baazigar, and especially the staple epic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ (besides Karan-Arjun and the 2001 Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...) are back in Dilwale, the Rohit Shetty extravaganza set to release on December 18.

As is the ‘norm’ when a film of his is on release, Shah Rukh is on a 24/7 roll. This time, it’s a bit more gruelling, what with the globetrotting with the unit apart from the Indian promotional tours.

The actor-producer gives a tired grin when asked about the pre-release excitement, for he has always maintained that after it hits the screen, the film is no longer his property, but will belong to the audience. “What excitement, yaar? It’s more of fatigue before any release, especially if I am the producer. This time, it’s perhaps a bit more. We wrapped up the shoot about a month later than planned, and completed the dubbing as late as December 3 for a 18th release. There was post-production in-between.”

A creative producer

Why then lock a release date that causes this mad rush, and according to Aamir Khan, kills creativity? “This is business and that random way of making a film no longer exists. Just as you give dates to girls, you must give a date to release a film!” he replies with a chuckle. “But at Red Chillies, we lock a date only after two major shooting schedules are completed. In this case it was 25 days in Goa and 40 days in Bulgaria.”

Now that the iconic pair is back, what is the secret of Kajol’s and his evergreen appeal and youth? Says the superstar with another chuckle: “By God’s grace, I have what is known as a younger frame — I look like a boy, and that is a plus point, like my son and I in T-shirts look quite similar. My face is also boyish. I am frugal with my food and drink, don’t have the habit of eating sweets, and I even do a bit of exercise. So in my completely disorganised life, there is a strange sense of organisation.”

He contradicts himself by first saying that he cannot speak for Kajol, but immediately adds with affection, “I think Kajol is honest and upfront to the point of being labelled ill-mannered. She is open, termed eccentric, has nothing in her heart and is organised. She is not ambitious and has no complaints or grudges, and that can be seen on her face. I am working with her five years after My Name Is Khan, but for me, she has not changed in the last 23 years. She has the same innocence, and is meticulous at work, and has always been an instinctive actor.”

And Kajol reciprocates, “Shah Rukh has the same passion and enthusiasm since the time I first met him, too. He will always have ideas of doing a scene in six different ways. His energy and his involvement in each and every minute detail and in cultivating people are still the same. We picked up where we had left off when we began shooting.”

The all-hit pair on which two generations of film buffs have been brought up has been presented in a fresh light by director Rohit Shetty, who claims that he has kept their track “classic Shah Rukh-Kajol”.

Explains Shah Rukh, “When Rohit brought the story to Red Chillies, he said that he wanted Kajol for the film, and he said that he had a title that he would reveal only if she agreed to do the film. I was unsure whether Kajol would do a film at this stage, but after fleshing out the script, he approached her and she accepted it. He then told me that the title he had thought of was Dilwale, as in a way, it was a part-reminder of DDLJ, our most successful film together — coincidentally, it completes 20 years in 2015!”

Like old wine

Shah Rukh adds that her character is the main driver of the story, and that Kajol and he decided to play it a shade differently from their early films when both were younger. “We have two portions separated by 15 years, so in the young portions, we decided to be youthful but mature, and fleshed the characters out with different, soberer nuances,” says the superstar. “That part just might remind you of DDLJ, but not the latter portions.”
Agrees Kajol, “I think Rohit has styled us differently in the two sections, and Shah Rukh even has different voices.”

How did she accept this film? “I decided to accept it because I did want to work. My daughter Nysa too wanted me to do this film, and now that my son Yug is five, I thought it was the right time. Though my children have missed me, and I have missed them, I think some day they will appreciate their mother. And while Ajay looked after them well when I was away, I did come down for a break for Yug’s fifth birthday.”

She adds, “Rohit is a friend and a smart director who has done so many films with my husband. He cleverly did not want to disrupt the broad branding Shah Rukh and I as a pair have got, but the way he blended our track with his own style of filmmaking and made it seamless with the action and comedy was superb. Our characters have retained the dignity we are associated with in the nicest possible way for a Rohit Shetty entertainer!”

Both of them loved the way the youngsters in the film — Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon — approached work. Shah Rukh even goes on to say, “I learnt so much from them.” Echoes Kajol: “I got along well, especially with Varun. Both Kriti and he are so conscientious and hardworking that I automatically feel that I should be more conscientious. And this generation knows exactly what they want, and where they want to go.”

We mention to Kajol that everyone from Shah Rukh to Varun and Kriti rave about her switch-on-switch-off brilliance as an actress, where she does crazy antics before and even during a serious shot, but is incredibly in sync with the scene the moment the camera rolls. Cackles the actress, “Yes, did they mention that I have a bipolar disorder?” And she goes on, “But, seriously, I think that’s the only way for an actor to be!”

And Shah Rukh reveals that he has always been a shy person, and actually finds mouthing filmi lines and doing things like removing his shirt and quirky comedy and intense romance uncomfortable. He admits that for him, the most unrealistic scenes are often the most difficult to do. “I know the technique, the focus, the craft and I understand lighting — I am an educated, professional actor — but my friends and co-stars will tell you that I literally shake doing such scenes that are known as quintessential Shah Rukh Khan!”

And it is this unique combination that spells out their brilliant chemistry as they are set to win over another new generation in their sixth outing together in 22 years.

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