Shahrukh Khan wants to be a superhero. Not just in reel life where he plays one in his upcoming Diwali release Ra.One, but also in real life. Indian cinema needs a saviour. And he believes he could be the one.
"Local cinema is dying the world over. If we do not evolve, in ten years we will lose Indian audience for Indian cinema," he declares grandly, his MacBook Pro perched on his lap in his library at Mannat, his Bandra residence. "Movies are no longer an occasion, they are becoming part of a day, their importance is becoming less. We must try and stem this."
Enter the saviour. Ra.One - produced with a Rs 150 crore budget and still counting and India's most expensive film -- is SRK's attempt at creating a movie which he claims will be an occasion to watch.
He is making a passionate pitch-...and it is difficult to tell how much of it is for his film and how much for the industry. Many see Ra.One as a high-risk, high-reward venture. And Khan claims he is taking the risk on behalf of the entire industry. "(So far) only I have benefited from my films. I can now afford to make this film after 20 years in the trade," he says. "I think I have done something for the industry...created a new genre."
Kids and adults here are ready for an Indian superhero, he says. Krrish and Drona have paved the way. "Why should Indians be wearing only Batman T-Shirts or our kids collect toy merchandise from Hollywood movies," he quips. "But we need to give them quality. I think there are enough people who will pay for quality."
There is a lot riding on this film--not just theatrical collections, but new revenue streams like merchandise are being explored on a scale never done before. SRK is retaining the IPR, has designed the toys inhouse, and has them manufactured in China. A range of 50 products will be sold in more than 3,500 stores and e-commerce sites. There is also gaming, graphic novels, mobile games for smart phones and iPads. SRK has written the story to the graphic novel.
The special effects for the film were done in-house by his entertainment company Red Chillies. He is hoping the flick will be the calling card for the company to attract work from the best of Bollywood and maybe even Hollywood's films. "Why should our boys and girls only be working on small jobs for big films," he says, assuming the saviour role again.
"Every third generation Indian living abroad will be proud of this film and when their friends ask, they can say, almost all the big work for this 'small' film (by Hollywood standards) has been done out of a small studio in Andheri," he adds giving credit to his Red Chillies team headed by Haresh Hingorani and Keitan Yadav.
He is not too perturbed by criticism that Ra.One is urban centric. "If Spiderman can work in Bhojpuri why not Ra.One," he asks. "The story is very simple, it's first about a family, there is romance and there is action. It is eventually, the triumph of good over evil, a modern avatar of our very own Ramayan." So the target audience is anyone aged 11-50. Even the grand mom will say 'yeh toh Ramanyan hai,' claims SRK.
Apart from 3,000 plus prints for the domestic market, if plans go htrough, 700 prints will be released in China too. Khan's last movie, My Name Is Khan is the only one which has released in China with seven prints.
SRK shuts his MacBook and rubs his hands in glee as he turns the conversation to the sequel to Don, due for release this Christmas. "My role in it is so evil that it's difficult to imagine," he says.