It’s 4.30pm on Thursday and, an hour and a half into the press conference for their forthcoming film Chennai Express, Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone have still not arrived. With no clear indication why or for how long, one turns to Twitter. Luckily, Khan is an addict. Right about when he should have been wrapping up, he is philosophising on Twitter – and only just starting to get dressed for it!
“Rumi … I am filled with u, skin blood brain & soul. There’s no room for lack of trust or trust. Nothing in this existence but that existence,” tweets Khan at around 4.30pm. Seconds later, he adds: “love u all and leave u with Rumi. have to go get ready to do the thing in dubai … Now! chennai Express rolls on … and on …”
Sure enough, a few minutes later, he walks into the room, showing a smile not even remotely rivalled in its dazzle by the dozens of flashes that go off simultaneously. Eager to disarm his waiting audience, he jokingly tells the photographers to hold off shooting for a little while because the pictures would look much better with his co-star Padukone in them as well. As if on cue, she walks in and the two are ready to talk about their latest film together.
Khan has had a stressful few weeks. The 47-year-old actor and his wife of 21 years welcomed their third child into the world in May. The premature baby’s health has been a cause of great concern for the parents over the weeks. Despite this cloud still looming over him, Khan is all smiles in Dubai.
He explains how Chennai Express – a light entertainment film – was a much-needed respite after the string of more serious films he has done over the past couple of years. Jab Tak Hai Jaan in 2012, Don 2 and Ra.One in 2011 and My Name is Khan in 2010 were all serious films, and his last film with a comedic element was Billu in 2009. He also welcomed the chance to work with Padukone again. The two last appeared on screen together in 2007 in Padukone’s debut film Om Shanti Om.
Chennai Express is named after a train and the train plays as big a part in the film as it did in his 1995 film Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge. In 1998, Khan danced atop a train in the film Dil Se for the song Chaiya Chaiya. Is he fond of trains in real life as well? “I’m thinking of buying a private train and parking it outside my house,” he jokes. “I would go everywhere in it. I would love to use it to go from Mumbai to London!”
His own favourite train journey was to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Padukone is also fond of trains and her favourite journey was to Nepal to participate in a badminton tournament.
“It’s always nice to be in Dubai,” says Khan towards the end of the press conference. “It feels like home, with everyone from all over the subcontinent. I thank you for your love.
“Chennai Express is a family film. It’s a nice, clean, comedic experience. We made it with so much love and it has everything a Hindi holiday film should have. I hope it will be a great Eid for everyone and if we can add a few hours of good entertainment to that, then what can be better?”