Movies, said Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood’s highest-paid actor,
are like lipstick - they are immune to economic turmoil.
“When you’re depressed with inflation you want to watch a
movie,” said the 45-year-old star of 70 Bollywood productions. “When you’re
happy with elation you want to watch movies.”
In the current round of market volatility, Khan said his
ambition is to make the first Hindi movie that becomes a global blockbuster.
With Hollywood producing features that cost as much as $250m, compared with an
average $6m in India, Khan has taken a step toward his goal by making India’s
most expensive film yet.
Popularly known as SRK, Khan is the lead actor and co-
producer of Ra.One, a science-fiction superhero movie that cost more than 850
million rupees ($17.4m) and premieres in Dubai tonight.
“I want to be the first guy to make a Hindi film which the whole
world watches,” Khan said in an interview in Mumbai on Oct 14, wearing faded
blue jeans, a black T-shirt and gold- colored trainers, with his hair in a
Khan said his model for international success is “Life is
Beautiful,” an Italian movie directed by Roberto Benigni that won the US
Academy Award for Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film and the prize for the
original score in 1999.
India has submitted 43 movies for the Academy Awards’
foreign language category since 1957, of which three were nominated. None won
the Oscar. The nation churned out 1,274 movies in 2010, with Bollywood - the
Hindi-language part of India’s film industry - and Tamil movies leading the
pack. At the Cannes film festival, the last Indian feature-length movie to win
an award was when “Neecha Nagar” shared a prize in 1946.
Still, Ra.One, a special-effects heavy father-son film set
in cyberworld, is a long way from “Life is Beautiful,” a father-son feature set
in a Nazi concentration camp. The movie, directed by Anubhav Sinha, has 3,500
visual effects, according to Ujesh Desai, vice president at Nvidia Corp., which
provided graphic chips.
Khan’s production company Red Chillies Entertainment and
co-producer Eros International Media. (EROS) are spending 850 million rupees on
making and marketing the film, while other partners could push the final total
higher, said Khan.
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The total cost for the movie may be 1.5 billion rupees,
according to Komal Nahta, editor of Film Information, an Indian movie trade
“We have partners who might have spent a lot more in
marketing and that budget doesn’t come on us,” Khan said. “Our partners said
that ‘we have put the money on your dream.’”
New Delhi-born Khan plays the superhero G.One, who fights
the evil Ra.One, or Random Access Version One, of the title, a name taken from
Raavan, the villain in the Hindu epic Ramayana. Details of the plot have been
kept secret until the release.
The use of 3-D and special effects in Ra.One extends a move
by Bollywood to make films closer to the Hollywood style. Last year’s “Kites,”
an adventure film directed by Anurag Basu from Mumbai-based Reliance Big
Pictures Ltd. was the first Bollywood film to open in the top 10 in North
America, while actor Amitabh Bachchan will feature in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great
Gatsby” along with Leonardo DiCaprio.
“We have got a lot of partners who believe in this kind of
technological advancement or who believe in this desire to bring in some new
kind of look,” said Khan, who gave the interview during a media event hosted by
Nvidia, where he was signing G.One gaming cards for computers.
Khan, an economics graduate from Delhi University who has a
dog called Chewbacca, named after a Star Wars character, said Ra.One will be
one of the first Hindi films to be released in Russia, Germany and China,
adding to more traditional overseas markets such as the U.S. and Canada.
Eros and Red Chillies have “already recovered a major
portion of their investments through in-film branding, cable and satellite and
music rights,” Eros said in a statement Oct 14.
Khan’s last movie “My Name is Khan,” which tells the story
of a Muslim in San Francisco at the time of the Sept 11 attacks, grossed 900
million rupees overseas, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. The London-based
professional services firm forecasts international revenue for Indian movies
may increase 62 percent to $255m in four years.
Khan, who owns the Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team, began
his career in television soaps “Fauji” (Soldier) and “Dil Dariya” in 1988. His
first movie was in 1991. He now collects BMWs and endorses brands including
Nokia Oyj and TAG Heuer, the Swiss watchmaker owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis
Vuitton SA. He said endorsement deals won’t prevent him from sticking to his
“I work with my hands, my eyes and nose,” he said. “That’s
what I’d like to continue doing till the end.”
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