Superstar Shah Rukh Khan addressed the media and select fans in Mumbai on Friday evening following the box-office success of his recent release, Jawan. The action thriller film directed by Atlee has grossed close to Rs. 700 crores worldwide and has broken multiple records for Hindi cinema. The vigilante film stars Shah Rukh in the dual role of a father and son. He’s joined in the cast by Nayanthara and Vijay Sethupathi, along with Deepika Padukone in a special appearance.
SRK was accompanied at the success event by Padukone, director Atlee, Vijay Sethupathi, Sanya Malhotra, composer Anirudh Ravichander as well as the extended cast and crew of Jawan. Nayanthara, who could not be in Mumbai for the press conference owing to it coinciding with her mother’s birthday, addressed the audience through a video message.
SRK shook a leg on stage with Padukone and discussed their on-screen chemistry at length. He also thanked the writers, technicians and co-producers who worked hard to bring his vision of Jawan to life.
“Jawan has been in the making for four years because of covid and time constraints,” SRK, decked up in a dark suit and braids, said at the start of the event. “But there were so many people, especially people from the south, who came and shifted to Mumbai and have been living here for the last four years and working the hardest day and night for this film. Many didn’t go home, some had kids while stationed in Mumbai, including my director Atlee.”
SRK confessed his love for the southern cinemas which have heavily influenced the writing and design of Jawan.
He thanked Vijay Sethupathi, Atlee and other southern actors and technicians for collaborating on the film. “I have always been a fan of the cinema from the south, even when I don’t understand the language at times. Fortunately, you can now hear it in dubs and read the subtitles. But to come here, and to create this cinema for the whole of the country, for me it is one of the greatest satisfactions of having worked in the Indian film industry for 32 years.”
Deepika Padukone recalled she was shooting for Project K (Kalki 2898 AD, co-starring Prabhas) in Hyderabad when SRK and Atlee flew down to narrate her role in Jawan.
In the film, Padukone plays Aishwarya Rathore, mother to SRK’s Azad. Asked if she had qualms about playing his mother – having recently romanced SRK in Siddharth Anand’s Pathaan – Deepika responded, “I didn’t approach it like that. I invested in the vision, I invested in the story we were telling, and if that meant I play the role of a mother to enable the storytelling, then so be it.” SRK joked that Deepika thought she was doing a cameo but he and Atlee tricked her into a full-length role.
Atlee said he was ‘a little worried’ about making a film with a superstar like Khan, who is, in his words, ‘mass of mass’.
He recalled a conversation he had about the project with Thalapathy Vijay, his star on Theri, Mersal and Bigil. “At that point of time he (Vijay) asked me, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said I don’t know but I am going to give my life to this film.”
Atlee thanked SRK and his Red Chillies Entertainment for greenlighting a 300-crore budgeted film during the uncertain times of the pandemic.
“I narrated this film on a Zoom call,” Atlee shared. “During Covid times, the cinema theatrical footfalls were going down and people were not ready to greenlight even a 30-40 crore film.” He added that they didn’t finish the film within budget. “We went more,” Atlee said as SRK grinned.
Vijay Sethupathi described Shah Rukh Khan as pure ‘love’. He recalled attending the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) in Australia in 2019 with Khan and being impressed by his personal demeanor and attitude.
“I was a junior artist who became an actor,” Sethupathi said. “If somebody acts in front of me, I try to crack the mind of the person and not the behaviour. Behaviour for me is external. Thought is most important. So his thoughts, his way of handling people…. that Shah Rukh Khan is more ‘sexy’ than this Shah Rukh Khan.” Responding to this, a gladdened SRK joked that now “we have to marry.”
In an apparent reference to the political messaging of Jawan, and its motley interpretations, SRK said that the film represents all ‘Indians’.
“Jawan is a feeling which every Indian has,” the 57-year-old actor held forth poetically. “Jawan is an emotion. Jawan is an Indian soldier, an Indian mother, an Indian girl, and an Indian vigilante. You have to understand that Jawan, many times, is very weak, because it’s all of us, and, many times, he’s ready for a fight. Jawan is many times wrong but very many times he’s also right. Jawan will sometimes live in the darkness. Sometimes, Jawan will be the one who will be emanating the light.”
“Finally, every Indian is Jawan who is upright,” he added.
Towards the end, Shah Rukh Khan thanked his fans for the love they have showered on his recent films. “I take everything positively but I was rather nervous to get back to a set after a period of three years,” he admitted, adding, “God has been very kind with Pathaan and even kinder with Jawan. We started on January 26, Republic Day, it’s a good auspicious day. On Janmashtami, on Lord Krishna’s birthday, we released Jawan. Now New Year and Christmas are around the corner, we will release Dunki.”
Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, Dunki is a drama film based on an illegal backdoor route used by Indians to emigrate to the US and Canada. It also stars Taapsee Pannu.