Should Aamir Khan leave India
Shah Rukh Khan is just not just anyone, and anyone who wants to be received by him should have some perseverance. After three and a half hours, however, as a matter of course, Shah Rukh Khan sends for a request. He's sitting a little exhausted, but in a professional good mood in the semi-darkness of a huge suite, a little man with an open shirt and a girl's handshake. His Blackberry flashes non-stop on the table in front of him. He doesn't answer it, and the longer he talks, the more melancholy he looks.
SZ: Mister Khan, at the premiere of "My Name is Khan" in Berlin, the audience burst into tears. Why do women love you so?
Shah Rukh Khan: I work hard to make people cry, not just women, by the way. The fact that it works may also be due to the fact that I'm not afraid of big feelings. Incidentally, when I saw my film for the first time, I cried myself, five times.
SZ: In the film you play a Muslim who - like you in real life - has married a Hindu. In the first scene he looks like a backpack bomber at the airport, in the last he is a hero whom America applauds. Are you telling your own lifelong dream: from India to Hollywood?
Shah Rukh Khan: Oh no, that's too utopian. The film is about prejudice: about a man who behaves strangely at the airport, he walks strangely, he looks suspicious. And you think, aha, a terrorist. The people in the film think that too, they have prejudices. It later becomes clear that the man has Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. And in the end, viewers have to ask themselves whether it is right to judge a person by their appearance, skin color or religion. As for my lifelong dreams, I believe that actors can be used universally. At the same time, I don't know if I also have universal appeal. If I have one dream, it's to make an Indian film that will be seen in the world - and as well received as a Western film in India. Most of our films are seen in Asia and my dream is to get Indian cinema out of there.
SZ: Does that mean you want to be taken more seriously by the West?
Shah Rukh Khan: We got a lot from the West, especially technology, modern studios, that was extremely important. But now I feel like it's time to give something back. Not just something material, but the aspect of Indian cinema, with which I have also become internationally known.
SZ: Is Hollywood Racist?
Shah Rukh Khan: No not that. You know when I write an Indian film, it's usually not for an American actor. In the movie "Om Shanti Om" for example, the main character has to be an Indian. It has nothing to do with racism. Or Roberto Benigni, he is fantastic, but he is and will remain Italian. But what roles could they write for a 1.75 meter tall, dark-skinned Asian who speaks such strange English? And I'm 44.
SZ: Do you think that's old?
Shah Rukh Khan: I'm sure there are better actors in Hollywood who are 44. Neither is there anyone who makes a film about an Asian who is neither a kung fu fighter nor a dance like John Travolta. I just can't dance like John Travolta. And an American can't make films as romantic as I can.
SZ: Your new film is not that romantic compared to the past.
Shah Rukh Khan: It's dramatic. I've played a lot of romantic heroes: spiritual, crazy, naive and sweet. And here's a lover who can't love, or can't express it. He cannot cry or smile like others. I think a woman can still fall in love with him.
SZ: In the film you come to the rich west as a poor Indian. In reality, you are a middle class kid.
Shah Rukh Khan: I come from a lower middle class family, not very rich, but we had it all. My father was a lawyer and businessman in Delhi and my mother was a juvenile judge. She then took over my father's business when he was dead. I was 15 years old and when I was 25 my mother died too. I have an older sister, we raised each other.
SZ: Sounds like hard times.
Shah Rukh Khan: Yes, I've had a lot of hard times, but also doubly good times. When my parents died, I prayed that they would get better. When they were dead I was lonely and didn't know what to do with me. So I prayed again. When I was fine, I mostly forgot God. And now I'm very rich, but material things, fancy cars, expensive watches and so on, none of them mean anything to me. My director gives me all my clothes. I would never go to the store and buy them. I like money - everyone should be able to live well, but there are more important things.
SZ: What does religion mean to you?
Shah Rukh Khan: We are liberal molems, we have been taught that Islam is tolerant. I read the Quran in Arabic and my father explained it to me in Hindi. That's how I got to know religion: friendly, tolerant, very relaxed.
SZ: Wasn't there any trouble when you wanted to marry a Hindu?
Shah Rukh Khan: For a couple of days, but then I went to see the relatives. They agreed, albeit hesitantly.
SZ: You have spoken out in favor of admitting Pakistani players to the Indian cricket league. Radical Hindus called for boycotts and tore up your movie posters.
Shah Rukh Kan: It's not just about cricket. I advocated that India should cultivate contacts with all nations, especially in the fields of art, culture and sport. It's still difficult sometimes, but I think we shouldn't give up.
SZ: A fatwa has been issued against you. Is that threatening?
Shah Rukh Khan: Yes, of course that was not good news. But it was a misunderstanding, a word that I was using had been misinterpreted. I take such arguments seriously. But you don't have to be scared.
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