An interesting — and telling — Shah Rukh Khan interview; more interesting were the reactions of numerous fans, who read it as testimony to the man’s humility. My random responses:
There was nothing humble in this interview...and I like that, as I'm one of those who prefers his big stars cocky.
In the pre-'90s, the method of releasing films was very different from now. Then you began with eight prints of a film, which incidentally, you released only in the few very big cities. If the film did well there, like Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, you got the money and the guts to go deeper into the country.
This is a shockingly dishonest statement. Because the "eight prints" bit was true of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, but significantly , was not true of any other big film in the period. By the late 1980s, virtually all big films were being released on a lot more than eight prints around the country. To select the exception -- Hum Aapke Hain Kaun -- and treat it as the rule, is disingenuous.
But note the other point: Khan pretends to believe that the charge of making films that focus on a particular demographic to the exclusion of others doesn't stick, because even formerly they were essentially doing the same thing, with releasing "eight prints" here and there and then expanding as and if the film became more successful. This begs the question: i.e. Khan doesn't answer why the contemporary metro-film just does not run outside its demographic, whereas by his own admission formerly prints would find their way into the boondocks and be consumed there (i.e. what does the fact of simultaneous release have to do with the fact that those films are not being watched in large swathes of the country? What does that have to do with the fact that millions of Bollywood viewers seem to have simply seceded into the Bhojpuri industry?).
India resides in the villages, but not in their pockets. They don't have what it takes to buy the product at the price we are willing to sell.
Maybe, but over the last fifteen years many in Bollywood seem to believe that she has stopped residing in her smaller towns either. What Khan ignores is: those directors who have not forgotten this make a lot of money (Rakesh Roshan habitually, Anil Sharma with Gadar, Dharmesh Dharshan with Raja Hindustani). The point is not everyone should make those films. The point is one should be honest about what one is doing. i.e. Ram Gopal Verma honestly says that he doesn't give a damn about anything outside multiplexes in major metros, and that’s fine, in the sense that it's a free country; whereas Khan here pretends that nothing has "really" changed, that it has "always" been this way, and so on and so forth.
I do agree that this is a fantastic interview. My ideological reservations about it, and about Khan’s distortions here do not obscure the fact that it is a bravura performance by a star, and as such it is finely calculated to produce an effect. I might be in the minority here, but I don't equate great performances with sincerity. And as a great performance, this is vintage SRK-the-star: but not a trace of humility here (plenty of mock-humility though), and plenty of disingenuous statements. Like I said, I prefer my stars cocky.
It was Vijay, an urban anti-establishment character, who took the machine gun, ran into Parliament and shot them all.
Yet again, Khan takes an exception and identifies it with the rule. This description only fits one Bachchan film -- Inquilaab (where he was called Amarnath or Amar, not Vijay). In fact when one considers the entire history of Amitabh's Vijays -- Zanjeer, Roti Kapda aur Makaan, Deewar (and its contemporary revision, Agneepath), Hera Pheri, Trishul, Don, Dostana, Shaan, The Great Gambler, Shakti, Shahenshah, Aakhree Raasta — not one of these characters was the sort to kill MPs and liquidate the cabinet. In fact that was the very point in a film like Inquilaab: i.e. precisely because the "Vijay" personae would never do for this sort of thing, the filmmakers of Inquilaab gave him a name he had never had before: Bachchan's Amarnath was a different animal from what we had seen before (though we would see his descendants again and again, and in surprising places, from the Tamil action hero/vigilante of films like Saamurai — and many others — to the likes of Rang De Basanti).
From the list we see that Yash Chopra and Ramesh Sippy films/scripts seemed to have an especial fondness for "Vijay". Interestingly, Manmohan Desai, perhaps because he had a different Bachchan in mind than either of those two, never used "Vijay": Amit (Parvarish); Anthony (Amar Akbar Anthony); Amit (Suhaag); John/Jaani/Janardhan (Naseeb); Master Dinanath & Raju (Desh Premee); Iqbal (Coolie); Raju (Mard); Ganga (Ganga Jamuna Saraswati). It would be interesting to speculate why these are mostly: (i) nicknames ("Raju"); (2) variations of Amitabh's own name; or (3) the names of religious minorities. [The one exception is when Bachchan was called the mythologically significant Ganga; interestingly Ganga Jamuna Saraswati was a disaster.]
Prakash Mehra went in for more grandiose names for the sorts of Bachchan personae he had in mind, and seemed to have better luck with outsized Bachchan personae that were just too "much": For his "normal" characters, he did use Vijay: I mentioned Hera Pheri above, wherein Bachchan played a "normal" metro-centered conman/thief, and Zanjeer, where he is an urban police officer (Khan is wrong to call him anti-establishment; Inspector Vijay is the sort of guy who wants to save the system from its rot and corruption, not tear it down: i.e. he is a quintessential "militant reformer", not the radical and disturbing nihilist of Inquilaab’s end). But in the majority of Prakash Mehra films he went in for stranger or more grandiose/mythic names when he had a different persona in mind: Heera (Lawaaris); Shiva or Tiger (Khoon Pasina); Arjun (Namak Halal); Sikandar (Muqaddar ka Sikandar); Gogeshwar (Jaadugar); the rich wastrel Vicky (Sharaabi) doesn't easily fit in with either characterization, and is probably best understood as a decadent nawab clothed in contemporary urban form. None of these characters was even remotely likely to be the MP-slaughtering sort either. In fact, Sikandar, Gogeshwar, Vicky can hardly be considered anti-establishment, even in the sense of Trishul’s Vijay. Not to mention that the Vijay of Kaala Pathar (wherein Bachchan is racked by guilt because he — mistakenly — abandoned a ship that was under his charge) and The Great Gambler (where he is a straight arrow cop, albeit with a twin non-Vijay brother who's a thief) were actually rather establishment figures.
Khan doubtless possesses more than a passing familiarity with the Bachchan oeuvre. I think we see here what the great literary critic Harold Bloom refers to as the Anxiety of Influence: in Khan’s case, he tries to "SRK-ise" Bachchan by attempting to reduce the latter’s oeuvre to one role, one pose, and one (homicidal) gesture. This is a misreading of Bachchan’s career, although it signals the extent of Khan’s ambition. Perhaps why I consider this a great interview, worthy of a top star.