‘I hope Chak De! India becomes a sporting anthem’- Shah Rukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan’s first release of 2007, Chak De! India is on its way to hit the theatres on 10th August. Based on our national sport – hockey, this Yash Raj Films’ production showcases SRK in a radically new avatar, that of a go-getter coach and ex-hockey player Kabir Khan.


Also, this time around, for the first time you won’t see this star clean-shaven, romancing his co-star… in fact he is simply flanked by many a new faces, mostly girls who have been his ardent fans since their childhood.


As expectations soar high from this SRK starrer, we get the man himself talking about this not-an-offbeat film (as he claims) and his challenging role, which to our surprise he reveals not to have understood yet!


What made you decide on taking up Chak De! India?
There were a lot of reasons. First, of course, is the director (Shamit Amin) who I have known for years. He’s very simple, hardworking and talented and has worked with me in Asoka too. I have chosen a sport based film, which normally is a neglected territory. Say perhaps apart from Lagaan, Hip Hip Hurray and Iqbal, we haven’t really made a film in that genre. This was something that I wanted to attempt since my younger days, but I didn’t get a chance then. So now when I’m old, grey and over the hill, I am glad someone like Shimit thought that I could sort of fit the bill.


Field hockey has been a personal favourite sport of mine and I want my kids to learn it. I do feel I am no one to really comment that the state of Indian hockey is not good. But I have always felt that if there is anything that I can do via the medium that I work for, about my things that I love, like field hockey, I couldn’t have got a better chance to make my dream come true. My father used to play this sport, my friends used to indulge in it and I love it too. So when all the factors came together, and of course Yash Raj backing it, I had to be a part of it.


Can you thrown light on your character Kabir Khan?

Kabir Khan is a coach, an ex-Indian hockey player. He is living with some demons, has got some problems, has not seen success and wants to overcome it, but without being cynical or disturbed. He made up his mind and heart to deal with it positively.


So it’s a film about achievement in the face of failure, a film that looks at defeat in a positive way, the idea being – if you haven’t done well, fairly or unfairly, not to give up or become cynical. It’s about taking up a challenge and trying to overcome obstacles which had barred you earlier. I would say the character is quite aggressive when he chooses to be.


If you really ask me, though I have essayed the role, I really don’t know what the character is! I have played it from my heart. It’s a amalgamation of Jaideep’s writing, Shimit’s outlook on the whole film, a bit of Adi’s belief and a some of my mannerisms and style, its all rolled into one. I would like to believe the character is like that of an elderly brother, who you feel confident in but who himself is shattered from within. So it’s very complex, its not just a simple explanation and I haven’t been able to gauge it myself yet.< Page Break >


How was it working with a bunch of newcomers?

Fantastic! Earlier I thought that working with fresh faces would be a bit of a hassle as they would not know their lines. You know one becomes a little patronizing, a little kind, a bit agitated and irritated at times because things are not going the way they should. But I think the whole production team has worked very hard with them and not taken any credit away from these girls. I think they are very diligent and wonderful; they have put their heart and soul in the film. They have learnt and practiced hockey, they knew the lines, the scenes, they knew everything.


At the end of it, after having worked as an actor for 18 years, it was a learning ground for me. There is a bit of rawness when newcomers come in. After facing the camera and working for so many years, you tend to become a little mechanized. I saw a scene with a young girl, who’s never acted before, where said her few lines, which seemed liked I would not do it that way. But when you see the final output, it sounds very right. It was a great re-discovering process to work with newcomers. I have gone through a similar experience in Swades where I worked with honed theater actors and not film stars. But this time around the girls were novices so it was a nice and different situation.


You were working with a hardcore girls’ team; most of them must have definitely been your fans.

The girls are very sweet and they were working really hard. We had a lot of readings and meetings before the film rolled, which made us easy with each other. Talking about some of them liking me, it is a little embarrassing because most of them were just five-six years old when they saw my films. So it’s a bit abashing to be working with these girls where you suddenly realize, God you are old and you’ve been working a lot.
It was also important for me to be comfortable with them and not treat them like kids because the whole purpose of the character Kabir in the film is not to treat them in a similar fashion but like grown-ups and tough people. So the whole fan and stalwart thing got over soon during the reading sessions. After that we were all co-actors working together and having a great time. They were really nice, very well mannered, very well brought up.< Page Break >


Can we tag Chak De! India as your third off-beat film post Swades and Paheli?
I don’t think these are off-beat films. Sometimes I like such stories because they are different. I don’t think Shimit and Adi are the kind of people who would make an off-beat film, it’s very on the beat I think. But the subject is such that you cannot churn out every year. I don’t like boring films myself so I don’t attempt them.


I don’t know what an off-beat film is. I think Chak De! India is a film with a different kind of a soul and a different story line, that’s what makes its unusual.


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Chak De India? 
Chak De strangely to me is a line from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge. I remember we use to say Chak De Phate in DDLJ. I don’t know why but it reminds me of that. But I hope Chak De! India becomes a sporting anthem. Whenever Sachin bats or Dhanraj Pillai runs after the ball or when Sania Mirza competes in
Wimbledon, the cry should be Chak De India, which means score a goal or hit a sixer.