Shahrukh Khan is revered by billions of fans around the world as the “King of Bollywood.” Apart from acting in over 70 Hindi films, producing several others and taking home fourteen out of the thirty Filmfare Award nominations he has received for his contributions to Hindi cinema, Khan is also recognized as an active humanitarian. He has supported projects like the addition of a children’s ward at the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, the nationwide Pulse Polio immunization campaign in India and countless others. Khan graced Yale’s campus on Thursday, April 12th after being named one of Timothy Dwight College’s Chubb Fellows, a program designed to foster interest in public affairs. WEEKEND caught up with Khan at the Shubert Theater where he spoke about his perception of Yale, his humanitarian efforts, and the secret to his success.
Q. How do you feel about being named a Chubb Fellow, and what do you hope Yale students take away from your visit here?
A. I think [that being a Chubb Fellow is] an awesome thing to do. And I always have wanted to study in an institution like this. I did shoot a movie here — it was snowing, but it was so beautiful. I remember I used to keep going out to the small cafes and with the little bookshelves … and it’s just absolutely marvelous. And for me it’s one, very humbling to be in the company of all the people who have been given this fellowship, and apart from that, it’s a great opportunity. I wish my parents were alive so that I could tell them that I have the Chubb Fellowship and have gone to Yale. And I hope one day that my kids can come and study here.
Q. Something about which you have kept a low profile in the past is all of your humanitarian work. What do you do, and why do you choose to do it?
A. You know, the reason I keep it low-key is because I only do it when I feel like doing it. When I go over the newspaper in the morning, sometimes I hear the news, and I feel that, for people somewhere who are perhaps less fortunate than I am, I should just go and help them. Unfortunately it just ends up being material help because I can’t spend time. I am extremely busy with the work that I do … I do things that make me happy. And this [humanitarian work] really makes me happy … And I don’t like to talk about it, I feel very embarrassed, but whatever I do, I like to keep it done in [secret]. Because it just gives me genuine happiness and it gives me happiness that nobody who receives that kind of assistance from me should know how it came about … It’s simple and straightforward and it comes from the heart.
Q. One final thing we would all love to know: To what do you attribute your success?
A. My dimples, I think (Laughs). I don’t know, it’s quite outstanding. When I came [into the Hindi film industry], the first producer who met me … looked at me and said, “You’re too brown, you’re too thin and your hair is like a bear.” So I was like, “Yeah, but I can still act!” The way I work is very simple. I’m a very shy person personally, but I don’t come across like that onscreen — and I think I have this desire to be someone else all the time because I can’t do a lot of things personally because I’m too shy. I mean, I can’t go to a party alone, I can’t walk into a crowd of 1,600 people unless I’m enacting something. So for me, I think it’s just being able to live another role every moment of my life. And I work very hard at it. I don’t think I have an immense amount of talent, and when I see younger actors or actresses now in Hindi films, they can dance better, they can act better … but I still keep getting opportunities year after year. I think the belief I have is that whenever I’m going out to work, it’s the last shot I have at it. And I’m as excited as if it were the first time, and that’s it.