Interview – Shah Rukh Khan: I don’t think I’m an expert in marketing

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He’s as successful an entrepreneur as an actor. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan considers himself a “pioneer” in innovative movie marketing that has set trends aplenty in the over Rs.12,640 crore (approximately $2 billion) Indian film industry and steered his projects to hit status. But he does not agree that marketing skills are an “intrinsic” part of an actor’s life.

“As far as marketing of films is concerned, I will 100 percent claim that I started doing it in this country, especially of the level that’s prevalent today. Whether it was ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’, ‘Yes Boss’, ‘Ra.One’ or ‘Happy New Year’.

“I’m genuinely a pioneer as far as marketing films is concerned. (But) Marketing myself, no. I don’t think actors need to market themselves,” Shah Rukh, who has his own film production company Red Chillies Entertainment banner with his wife Gauri, said.

Citing the example of Hollywood’s “Batman” star Christian Bale, he added: “I don’t think it’s an intrinsic part of being an actor. You take a Christian Bale…he doesn’t market himself. He is Christian Bale, and he’s fantastic. And as a matter of fact, he’s a very reclusive person. I don’t think that’s a prerequisite for an actor.”

Mumbai: Actors Kriti Sanon, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan during the song launch of film Dilwale in Mumbai on Nov 18, 2015. (Photo: IANS)
Mumbai: Actors Kriti Sanon, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan during the song launch of film Dilwale in Mumbai on Nov 18, 2015. (Photo: IANS)

But when Shah Rukh – who has an experience of over two decades in filmdom and was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh earlier this year – talks of his hold on film marketing, he doesn’t say it for nothing.

His clutter-breaking strategies have been at the core of marketing films like “My Name Is Khan” — for which actress Kajol and he rang the opening bell of the US Nasdaq stock market; “Ra.One” — for which the ‘Badshah’ had a 10-month campaign with tie-ups worth Rs.52 crore with over 30 brands; “Chennai Express” — for which a game and a karaoke app were launched; and “Happy New Year” — to promote which the film’s cast went on ‘Slam! The Tour’ and performed across cities in Britain and the US.

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SRK’s first pitch for his film “Fan”, slated to release on April 15 next year, emerged in July this year. The walls of the actor’s Mumbai bungalow were painted with messages, and it was only later revealed that the graffiti was indeed a unique promotional stunt for the Maneesh Sharma directorial.

And for his just-released “Dilwale”, directed by Rohit Shetty, the 50-year-old Padmi Shri awardee planned a straight 20-day campaign — an “experiment” that he feels has turned out to be “good”.

Mumbai: Actors Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol during the trailer launch of film Dilwale in Mumbai on Nov 9, 2015. (Photo: IANS)
Mumbai: Actors Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol during the trailer launch of film Dilwale in Mumbai on Nov 9, 2015. (Photo: IANS)

Still, the actor — who’s known for his romantic roles on screen — doesn’t take full credit for the marketing of his films.

“I don’t think I’m an expert in marketing… It’s unfortunate that a lot of the credit for my films comes to me. They say, ‘It’s a Shah Rukh Khan hit’. It’s not! It’s a hit of 200 people who have worked on the film. I get the benefits because I’m the poster boy.

“For years, I’ve sat down with some very smart and intelligent young people who come up with out-of-the-box ideas. I’m in a position — and I’m not trying to be modest here — to use those ideas and have the resources to build up on them. But I’m not the birth-giver to those ideas,” Shah Rukh said.

Mumbai: Actor Shah Rukh Khan during the song launch of film Dilwale in Mumbai on Nov 18, 2015. (Photo: IANS)
Mumbai: Actor Shah Rukh Khan during the song launch of film Dilwale in Mumbai on Nov 18, 2015. (Photo: IANS)

One of the highest paid actors of Hindi filmdom, Shah Rukh also does not feel “complimented” when people call him a “businessman or marketing genius”.

“It’s not a compliment to me, it’s a compliment to the people I work with. And since I’m just the face of it, it’s awkward for me to accept that.”

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