Time and again you have given us memorable characters with your films and shows. How has your creative process evolved over the years?
In my career as an actor, I’ve made really good choices. Some really good films were a no-brainer and I didn’t need too much thinking when I had to select them. But there were times when I had to pick something out of the lot that I was getting, because as an actor, who constantly needs to hone his skills, I can’t be sitting and waiting, flapping my wings and saying, ‘You know what, I’ll just wait for the next big thing to come’.
I believe in the process. I don’t believe in just waiting for some magical thing to happen. I think magical things happen when you do it. They just don’t happen when you wait for it. Right?
So for me, I have a constant process about doing. I’ve always been very mindful of what offers I’ve got. And I used to do my best. So whatever you see, trust me, that’s probably one of the best at that point in time, given to me. So it was not a very easy journey. It was quite a chequered career at times when I had my highs and my lows, but I think I enjoyed the process.
Today, I am also learning to mature as an actor, looking for good roles, and good directors, so that I can keep getting better at what I do.
For someone who’s been in the industry for almost three decades now, how are you reinventing yourself? Is there the pressure of staying relevant in your game?
No, not really. There actually isn’t. It’s just a process. And one, it happens by default. It’s like aging. There’s nothing you can do about it. If you’re just aware, and if you’re just conscious about what you’re doing, you will make changes. And the changes will be for the betterment. You just have to trust the process.
After my stint as an actor, eventually, I turned producer, too. God gave me luck that my movies did well. Eventually, I turned director and then I also have my own talk shows with stars. So I’ve done quite a few things in the last couple of years. And I’ve enjoyed each process and enjoyed donning each hat.
After donning so many hats, which one was most satisfying?
I think I like doing all of it. And I’ll just choose the time at which I would want to do it. But yes, acting is something I’ll never want to give up unless people throw me out and say, ‘No! We’re not giving you work’. That is something I want to continue doing. I believe that is why I have a foothold in the industry. It was also my foot in the door getting into the industry as an actor.
Do you feel social media plays a significant role in enhancing one’s stardom? As someone who’s not very active and out there, has it affected you?
I don’t think social media is going to enhance somebody’s stardom. I don’t think it has enhanced Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir, Akshay or Ajay Devgn’s stardom because they’ve never been that active on social media either. In fact, they’ve been around the pre-social media era too. If that was the case, these actors would have been far more active. Aamir is not even on social media.
Half the time, Salman does the tweets and Instagram which are work-related. I am myself not that active, so if that was the magic that really takes your career forward, I think nobody’s foolish enough not to use it. The reason why they’re not using it is that they realise and understand the bigger game. You use it to your advantage. But that is not the reason.
For a fact, there are so many people who have millions of followers and one would think that they probably got more followers than the stars. That doesn’t mean that we make a movie with them and people will throng to the theatres to go see them. That’s not about to happen.
People can have 20 million followers and try making a movie with them and putting it in the theatre versus people with 2 million followers. The latter could have bigger respectability or audience hold. Hence, that’s not the right meter to judge whether you’re a star or not. That’s a part of some form of popularity. Internet celebrities are people appreciated by other people. But that does not really translate into the fact that they’re stars, movie stars or film stars.
Your personal life often piques interest, especially for your family lineage. Did it ever get overwhelming being part of the Khan family?
Yes, it used to. But I think, with time I’ve learnt to hold myself well. It doesn’t overwhelm me anymore.
Has your relationship with your brothers been affected due to the media and public glare?
Never. I think people would assume that from the outside that bad situations and adversities or any kind of problems that happened would probably tear us apart, but the truth is, they bring you closer.
Whenever there has been a situation, which seems like a problem, it brings the family or people who care, close to each other. We’ve actually become very close-knit as a family. And even with the media glare, we’ve only come out stronger.
In good times, everybody seems okay. A person is happy, taking care of themself. When does one actually come close to another person? When something goes wrong, right? I guess we all are aware of that fact in our family. We really let each other be, we don’t interfere in each other’s personal lives. And we don’t like to. Yes, we enjoy each other’s happiness also. But if there’s a problem, I think that’s where we actually show our unity.
Have you ever felt the need to stand out and create your own identity as an artist and not let other labels define you?
There was a time when I was a little conscious and worried about that. Now that I look back, it came for no reason and it didn’t make sense. And that used to bother me at times when I was called Salim Khan’s son, Salman Khan’s brother, or probably at one time, Malaika Arora’s husband for that matter.
But, you know, I guess there are things that you can’t change. There’s no point changing people’s mindset. All you have to do is just restrain yourself. I’ve realised that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I mean, the exercise of proving things to people is such a futile exercise. It’s exhausting and taxing.
How long will you do that? How much can you do that? And to what degree and extent will you do? Will you ever be satisfied after that? What do you really want? Or do you want to please a million people? Between pleasing a million people and pleasing one person…whom would you choose? That one person has to be you.
The day you learn to seek validation from yourself, you will be genuinely happy about your existence and you will learn to celebrate achievements.
Today, everything is so transient. I mean, success is so transient. You can’t even live on your success. If it was easy, then I wouldn’t need to work. I had done some really good films as an actor, I had done Dabanng. So if that is it, then I should have just retired? It doesn’t work that way. You cannot ride on your success all the time. You have to forget your success, you have to forget your failures. You just have to brush it aside. You just have to keep moving.
If tomorrow, Arhaan was to step into films, as a father and a senior actor, what advice would you give him?
Honestly, I wouldn’t really scare him, because that’s a normal tendency of parents to say, ‘You have to be careful, this is what can happen, you can be a failure’. I wouldn’t do that to him. I think people, even when it’s parents reacting to their own children, underestimate our children’s intelligence or what they want in life. We try to influence them. You’re just supposed to guide and support their dreams, you’re not supposed to influence them.
If Arhaan comes up to me with something, and at that time if I say ‘No, why are you doing this? You should do that instead’. He’ll listen but he’ll be scared for life. The point is, when you have that power, you should know how to use it. Because they are vulnerable at that point. If I say ‘No, you will not be an actor’. I’ll squash his dreams. Hearing my knee-jerk disapproval might disgust him at some stage in his life. He might end up feeling his father didn’t let him explore his life.
If something drives him, if he’s passionate about it, it could be anything – if he wants to be a chef – it will work out. Tomorrow if he comes and says, ‘I’m really passionate about wanting to start a restaurant. I want to be a chef’, I will never let him carry this supposed legacy, of being from the film industry, about his grandfather being from the film industry.
There’s no pressure. I just let him be.
What’s the difference in your approach to parenting when compared to Malaika? Who’s more strict and who’s always letting Arhaan off the hook?
I don’t think she’s strict either, but I am definitely not as strict as Malaika. Honestly, Malaika is somebody who can pull him up a lot more than I do. She is strict, but she’s friendly and firm at the same time. She is a good mother. I’m a little indulgent as a father. I pamper Arhaan and I get swayed. I just like to please him for everything. He’s the only boy we have and the only child. I just want to see him get everything he wants and be happy. Sometimes that can be a little indulgent. It’s not a very good thing, though. But he’s a good boy.
I don’t fear that Arhaan will misuse that little bit of stardom and extra attention. He’ll never take advantage of the extra things that I do for him.
The pandemic allowed us to understand ourselves a lot better. What have you learnt in the last two years?
It has been a learning experience for a lot of people. The things that we took for granted are actually the things that are most necessary. Circumstances and situations have taught us so much and they’ve made us realise that necessity is important. It’s not about extravagance or luxury. I think I was just doing so many things just for the sake of it. Now I realise that you don’t need that kind of stuff. You are just engaging in it, you’re just wasting your time and money. You’re just wasting so many emotions on it. None of that was worth it.