The Los Angeles Times called him “the world’s biggest movie star” and he was named one of the 50 most powerful people on the planet by Newsweek back in 2008. He’s acted in more than 75 films during a 22-year career – and it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of him.
His name is Shah Rukh Khan, he is Bollywood’s leading star and his profile in the UK could be about to get a boost.
Khan’s latest movie Chennai Express is to make history by staging the biggest release of any Indian film in the UK, taking in 170 screens in 125 cinemas.
“London is my favourite city in all ways,” said Khan, at the launch last week. “My films belong here, so I’m glad to share it with the London and UK audience.”
A culture clash romcom, Chennai Express marks something of a departure from Khan’s usual dramatic roles.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “It is a funny and challenging film, a film which is full of everything I think a film should be. This is very different for me, too. I’ve never done a film that was a complete comedy.”
The film is directed by Rohit Shetty and combines car explosions and an unlikely romance with the colourful song and dance numbers that are the essence of Bollywood.
“We have a holiday genre film that attracts the family from seven to 70, and I think this film aims to cater to them,” said Khan. “To say a film is a thriller or an action or a comedy… Rohit is a director who has a genre of his own, which really is a mass family appeal with clean and honest, straightforward stories. It’s plenty of laughs and great songs.”
But don’t let the light-hearted tone and romantic themes fool you – there are plenty of explosive stunts in store.
“This time I’m singing in the train, which is as big of a stunt as anyone with my capability of singing can do,” Khan joked. “I fly along in a motorcycle. We go through a wall with a car. I think the biggest stunt of the film was picking up [co-star] Deepika [Padukone] and walking her up 800 steps. That was really super heroic.”
On his career, Khan said, “It’s difficult to wake up every morning for 22 years and go to work with the same role I did on the first day. It can only happen if I really want to be doing that.
“I try to think that if I’m doing a film that I want to do as an actor because I believe in it, I think I’ll be able to convince a lot more people about the storytelling value of the film. But if I just do it to have a job, it will fall short. Spending 120 days with wonderful people, friends mostly, you really have to want it.”
Chennai Express opens in UK cinemas on 9 August.