Some felt my looks were not adequate to make it as a romantic hero. One producer of mine still insists that my, -hair is like a bear’s. I never felt bad about what they said. Because I believed. I believed that I would finally look my part in my films. I knew that I am no Greek God in the looks department, but I thought I would project an inner beauty on the screen which people would be able to see and understand. Even now I am not a vain person, because I firmly believe that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. My mother thought I was very good looking. I wish that producer could meet up with her and she’d show him who looked like a bear just before she hung him on the clothes line to dry.
I believe that when you are in love, your partner is the most beautiful person in the world. I believe I can have a love story with my audience. I can love them and love them a lot. Even then, I was sure that they would realize this love and love me back. And once they were in love they would find me nice, whether I was Adonis or not.
I believed that when my audience would come to see me I was not going to present to them a well-sculpted, well-groomed piece of wax. I would not and I could not. Instead I would hold up a mirror to them and show them how they would look doing what I was doing. I wasn’t here to show off my talents and whatever I had in the looks department and ask for admiration and appreciation. I was here to ask for love. I was here to woo them not impress them. I was here to make them realize that I am just one of them, like them, except that my job puts me in different situations and stories. And if I was able to hold up this mirror to everyone I was sure my audience would appreciate me because they would reciprocate their love to one of their own, hair not withstanding.
I love advertising
If I were given a choice between watching a film or watching a collection of good ads, I would prefer to watch ads. I remember when I was in Delhi I used to go to an ad agency called Anthem, where my friend used to work as a copywriter. I would enjoy sitting in for the brainstorming sessions which involved watching the world’s best ads. I would devotedly read Ogilvy & Mather. During my free time in college, I did production for a lot of ads. Like the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines campaign which introduced their Jumbo Carrier with the image of an elephant carrying cargo on his back. As a matter of fact, in college I took up Mass Communication just to make ad films. I did not want to make feature films. I think 30-second films are an art form, and an art form which is very difficult to master. Just like brevity is the soul of writing, I believe advertising is the soul of filmmaking. Even today, I really get excited when I see a well-made ad. Unfortunately, now that I have become a star, there’s only so much that can be done with me as a model. You have to use the ‘Shah Rukh Khan’ element.
Most people don’t know this, but I have done a television ad for Liberty shoes while I was shooting Fauji. I looked really ugly in it. All I did was to wear my Puma t-shirt and football shorts and jump. They are the first sports shoes made in India and I was their first model. The second ad I did a Pan Parag kind of product, but it never really took off in the market.
Then there were a lot of public service ads which I had done in Delhi during Fauji and Dil Darya. For one of these ads, I did my first stunt, and that too without an action choreographer. I collided into a car with my two-wheeler, and somersault onto the bonnet and went over the roof. The first ad I did after I came to Bombay, the Tata Tea ad, helped me to buy a house. I did three films in three days with Prahlad Kakkar. They were produced by Pravin Nischol (who later produced English Babu Desi Mem).
They wanted me for the Pepsi ad at the time, but they did a survey and decided to take Aamir, who was already a star. Mukul had suggested my name because he felt that I would be the Next Big Thing. But after the survey, they didn’t take me.
A brand named Shah Rukh Khan
As a star I believe I opened the gates for other actors to do ads. I brought respectability to stars doing ads by endorsing so many products: Pepsi, Mayur Suitings, Hyundai Santro, Snoodles, Cinthol soap, Bagpiper club soda, Clinic All Clear. And then of course I’m an Omega brand ambassador. I think I can be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the hero who has sold the maximum number of products: cars, soap, shampoo, noodles, watches, clothes – I have done it all.
People talk to me about overexposure but I don’t agree. Many of the products I did were just being launched, so the ads would be taken off after a while. And more importantly, according to me, overexposure is not a dirty way to die. In the world of entertainment, not getting the recognition you deserve is worse than dying of overexposure. It is better to burn out than to rust out. It is better to be overexposed than be underrecognised. They say a star is someone who spends half his life struggling for recognition and the other half wearing dark glasses to avoid being recognised. I think that’s highly stupid. I think there is nothing like overexposure, just as I think there’s nothing like overacting.
I’m not at all ashamed of doing so many ads. The money I made from advertising gave me the scope to do the kind of cinema I wanted to. Though I have never done an ad only for money. For products like Pepsi or Omega, I just tell them to pay me as much as they can afford. Maybe they pay me less than the other film star models. I don’t want to know what x,y,z is getting paid. I enjoy the product because my name is attached to it. I take great pride in the fact that I have done the maximum number of Pepsi films perhaps in the world. One model doing four different series of Pepsi commercials is quite a big achievement. And India is the country where Pepsi sells the most. I am very proud of the fact that I am attached to this product. It is my product.
I do try to test a product before I decide to endorse it. But of course, I test a product only up to the level that an average person can do it. Like, I know Omega is a great product. Pepsi is a great drink – I drink it all the time. In the Indian market, Clinic All-Clear is better than the others. I may not travel in a Hyundai Santro because of security reasons but if somebody were to ask me about the car I would say it’s a good car because I have driven it. I don’t do alcohol ads because parents call me up and request me not to do it, though I personally don?t think there’s anything wrong in advertising alcohol. I don’t do cigarettes because my wife and my close friends tell me not to do it.
Ads have allowed me to do the kind of cinema I wanted to do. I am proud of all the ads and products that I have done. And I always wish from the bottom of my heart that the product I touch gets a fillip. Though I tell all of the advertisers that finally the product has to sell on its own strength. But I have good wishes for the product that signs me on. And I have done it with a good heartedness. It’s never been only for the money. And I am loyal to the product mainly because I feel that if they believe in me then I should believe in them.
It actually makes no difference not to have Coke or not to drive a Maruti car. But I make sure that in my films, if a car has to be shown it should be a Hyundai and if a watch has to be shown then it should be an Omega. I do these things without them asking me to. Pepsi wrote me a letter of thanks because in one I said Pepsi was my favourite drink. I do it because I feel attached to the product. And if they can gain even one more customer then it would be really nice. And besides, they pay me a lot of money.
(Some Brands Endorse by SRK )
I have done a total of around 25 ad campaigns out of which five-six were quite good. The Pepsi ‘dog’ film was very good, the Pepsi film with Sachin was also tremendous. The Hyundai concept was very good when it was started, but it was a five-film concept, which was later reduced to two films. Omega is nice because it is very simple. It’s an international style ad. I’m told the sales have increased a lot after I did the ad. And hearing that makes me feel really proud.