You to seemed to have faced a lot of problems during your Los Angeles (LA) schedule of My Name is Khan?
Tell me about it. Besides minor problems, there were unforeseen problems too. Thank God for my fabulous technical team, without them I could not have made my film the way I wanted to. Yes, there was stress.
There were reports that some Musilms, who were part of the film, had visa problems?
Yes, there were problems which were sorted out. We had certain legal issues, but made changes to accommodate the developments. I believe in following the law of every land. That’s what we did in LA when troubles arose.
Did Aamir Bashir’s replacement by Jimmy Sheirgill need much deliberation and did it cause you pain?
I wouldn’t say it was painful but yes, we had to do some serious re-thinking. I spoke to my casting director Shanu Sharma for immediate release. I was very happy to have Jimmy Sheirgill on board.
Did the LA shoot go the way you wanted it to?
In all my 11 years as a filmmaker I’ve never felt the experience to be so different. The content of My Name is Khan is diametrically opposite to whatever I’ve done in the past. On the very first day of shooting my cameraman Ravi Chandran looked at me and said, ‘I don’t think you’ve ever shot something like this.’ This is the first time I’m directing a screenplay that I haven’t written myself. It gives me a level of detachment from the proceedings and yet a lot of attachment. It has released a whole plethora of unexplored emotions in my head. This time, I’m being creative in a different way. And Shah Rukh Khan plays a completely different human being, I’ve never directed that person before.
Your film has no lip-sync songs.
None. The songs are all in the background. Even Rakeysh Mehra’s Rang De Basanti didn’t have lip-sync songs. But did we ever feel any loss? Music is an integral but seamless part of My Name is Khan, like Rang De Basanti. In this film, there’s no ‘It’s the time to disco’ and ‘Where’s the party tonight’ type of songs. But there’s guts, soul and heart in the music. I’ve a huge comfort zone with my composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. That’s the only way good work can be done.
You are directing Shah Rukh and Kajol after a long time, how has it been?
When I direct a scene with Shah Rukh and Kajol I know I’m doing my best work. I am blessed to have them in my film. I don’t know what it’s about them. It’s just magic. They build an inexplicable energy on screen. They instinctively understand each other’s acting. These two characters in My Name is Khan had to be SRK and Kajol.
Was Kajol weighed down on location towards her motherly duties?
Not at all, in fact I’ve worked with Kajol in various stages of her life. I’m working with her after eight years. When we worked the last time she didn’t have a daughter. So of course she’s a different person now. Today, I find her calmer and more focused on her work than ever before.
Tell us about Shah Rukh Khan in My Name is Khan?
Time and again I’m blown away by Shah Rukh. At times I wonder how can he bring so many variations in his character when he already has so much on his plate. He has done monumental research on his autistic character in the film. I was zapped by how much he knew about the subject. And he brought all the knowledge on the sets without any strain. He had written reams of notes on how he wanted to interpret his character. And for him it was no big deal. I think he’s ready to direct a film. He will be outstanding at it. His understanding of human nature and emotions can never be matched by me.