Washington, Shah Rukh Khan says his new film portrays Barack Obama simply as a metaphor for “change”, but he isn’t knowledgeable enough in political matters to comment on how the US president has fared.
The actor does, however, believe that Obama seems “like a gentleman” and “speaks very well”.
“What we wanted to do is not really show Barack Obama,” he said talking about his new film “My Name Is Khan” (MNIK) in an interview with IANS over the phone from New York.
“We just wanted to use that as a metaphor for the change that is happening around everywhere, including America. I guess historically it’s the first time that you have an Afro-American president,” said Shah Rukh who was in the US to promote the film.
The film is set for release in the US Feb 12.
In it, Shah Rukh plays a Muslim Indian with Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism) living in the US, who marries a Hindu single mother, played by Kajol, but their marriage crumbles post-9/11 and he sets out to meet the US president for help in getting her back.
“Things which had not happened historically before are happening and one of the changes that can come along is peace and humanity in the world too,” he said. “There was a choice: should we have the president, have a look-alike, there was a choice, should we use it metaphorically?”
“We chose the latter and didn’t go for someone who looked like Mr.Barack Obama. We don’t even mention it as Mr.Barack Obama in the film, actually,” Shah Rukh said.
But when asked what he thought of Obama, the Bollywood star played a little coy. “I really have not that much knowledge about the politics of the world, to be really honest. (laughs) I’m a little untouched by it.
“But on the face of it, when I came to America last year for ‘…Khan’, I think that’s the time he was elected … and one kind of was present during the time when everyone was talking wonderfully [about] how new things will happen…”
“…country’s politics I’m not too sure of,” Shah Rukh said. “He looks like a gentleman, amazingly presentable, speaks very well, so I can just talk about him as a viewer, not as a knowledgeable person about the intricacies of his policies and politics.”
“I don’t think the US has a perception in majority which is negative,” he said when asked how he thought the US’ perceptions of Islam would be affected by the fact that Obama’s father himself was a Muslim.
“But when somebody is thwarted, the first reaction always is a little more, I won’t say aggressive, but a little more volatile against X, Y, Z person or a group of people who’ve thwarted them,” Shah Rukh said.
“May be what would really change the perception of the world about each other is having knowledge about each other.
“So may be the people here and the people in the Muslim world need to understand each other’s religion and faith and the bottomline would be that each faith has a similar kind of discipline and goodness attached to it which normally says everybody should live life in a good way…and that’s basically also the message of ‘…Khan’.”
Shah Rukh was fulsome in his praise of Christopher B. Duncan, who plays Obama in the film. “As an actor I think he’s tremendous…very powerful actor,” he said of the artiste known for his performance as Obama on the “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
“I was very impressed, I shot with him one day. Without wanting to sound patronising, Kajol and me thought he was an amazingly powerful actor.”