Yet Another Discussion Post: What Question Would You Ask Shahrukh if You Were At the Letterman Taping? And What Question Do You Hope Letterman Asks Him?

This is a suggestion from Procrastinatrix, and I think it is a fun one! Especially if we get really really specific about the situation, not just a general “what would you ask Shahrukh?” topic.

Shahrukh is being interviewed today by Letterman as part of his “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” Netflix series. It’s a long form interview, no stupid jokes or games, and it is in front of a live audience. It’s in English, and will be released on Netflix. So it will be accessible to pretty much everybody in America, and only the urban English speaking elites in India.

Now, let’s pretend you are an audience member. You can ask a question from the audience, but it has to be short and clear. And you want it to be something that will present Shahrukh in a good light to America, while also drawing out new information for the Indian audience to hear. What is your question????

Here is my simple question: What is the film you most regret doing and why?

It’s a question that the Indian audience would really want to know, and it gives him a chance to be charming and self-deprecating and also insightful for the American audience, without needing them to understand a lot about India and the film industry to appreciate it.

On the flipside, let’s pretend you are Letterman. You are a smart savvy experience interview, one of the best there ever was. You have chosen to come out of retirement because you want to do in depth interesting interviews with a random array of people who you think the Netflix audience should no more about. You don’t want to ask stupid “what is your most embarrassing moment?” kind of questions, you want to bring up something real about these people, something that would lead to a longer deeper discussion of big interesting thoughts. What is your Shahrukh question(s)?

I will just give one of my MANY questions: Do you see yourself as an artist first, a public figure, or a businessman?

I don’t even care if he gives a straight answer, I want him to debate it and let us jump off to talk about his role in each of those identities. I am sure he will give deep interesting answers that will help the American audience understand who he is and how India/Indian film works, and which will help the Indian audience see him as more than a simple entertainer.

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36 thoughts on “Yet Another Discussion Post: What Question Would You Ask Shahrukh if You Were At the Letterman Taping? And What Question Do You Hope Letterman Asks Him?

  1. Letterman is a long-time New Yorker who still has his roots in Indiana; he’s this interesting blend of coastal urbanite and midwesterner (though not rural — Indianapolis). So If I were Letterman, I could ask Shahrukh how much of Delhi he retains after living half of his adult life in Mumbai.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh I love that question! That is really interesting and unique and I don’t think he has been asked that directly before.

      And it could lead to an interesting expansion of how much does he feel like a citizen of the world, versus India, versus Bombay, versus Delhi. What identity means, how he can and cannot relate to his fans who are part of the diaspora, even that really sad story about his father being a man with no country. And it would resonate with any audience that has experienced that feeling of being from two places at once (so, a lot of people in America) plus bring in a new topic for the Indian audience, something they may not have heard from Shahrukh before.

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 10:35 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I wouldn’t ask the regrets question because I think it sets up a pretty standard answer from SRK. He would just say he regrets nothing and every movie, even the bad ones, taught him something.

    I’m okay with whatever David asks as long as he’s done some research and doesn’t ask really ignorant questions. It would be such a turn-off if it’s obvious that he knows nothing. On the other hand, he’s going to need a good balance with some generic talk so that people who aren’t aware of SRK don’t feel like this interview is going over their head and they don’t know understand what’s happening.

    With that said, I have a feeling SRK will be asked about his religion and being so popular in a country where it’s the minority. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s asked about the racial profiling and airport issues he’s had in the US multiple times, leading to diplomatic spats between the countries. Everyone knows David is a liberal and which direction his thoughts would be in all this. The American audience can also relate.

    And obviously he’s going to get asked if he wants to work in Hollywood. It will be unavoidable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure you are right about all of that, and I wouldn’t mind hearing his answers on those questions. But what question do you really want to be asked? If you were a Letterman producer, what would you pick as the most original interesting new question to bring up?

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  3. Interesting topic!
    My question to ShahRukh: You sometimes mention that you leave a part of yourself in a movie you do. However I think that there are movies you get something in return. For example in MNIK you had to slip into the shoes of a man with Aspergers. What did this role give to you? (I would be tempted to add “apart from pain in the neck”, but I leave to him to tell that 😉

    Letterman questions, I would like to hear: How much are you involved in all the departements of RedChillies? – Which kind of movies do you get mostly offered to star in and what is the thought process for your choices? – Since about twenty years you also produce movies where you have a leading role. How does that affect your work as an actor?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I really like your last question! I would even expand it, based on where Letterman is in his career and where his guests are on this show, “Now that you have reached the top, what’s next? What’s the last act of your career?”

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 12:54 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I have three questions I’d like to ask Shah Rukh. David would be more likely to ask the first one than the other two, I think. And the third one is one of those infamous comment/question combos.

    1. How would you describe your style of leadership? How do you support those who work for you to develop as leaders? (The thinking behind this is similar to yours for your second question, Margaret. he is indeed a leader in a couple of fields, and I wish he would own that more publically. I’m sure he has an interesting perspective on leadership as a concept and as a skill set.)

    2. You have an unique physicality as an actor. How much of that is informed by your athletic training, your stage training, your film experience, or something else? How big a part does inherent ability play, which has helped you succeed in sports, stage, and movies?

    3. I’d really like to see you play Inspector Rebus from Ian Rankin’s novels, and Commander Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s novels. What fictional characters would you like to play and why?

    I’d be thrilled if someone who reads DCIB and gets to meet him would ask any of these, as long as you report back here, pretty please!

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    • Oh, I love your questions! I want to hear about Shahrukh as leader too. He doesn’t seem to be as much a mentor as Adi and Karan, that is not a one to one mentor. But he does seem to be far better about delegating and setting things in process without close supervision.

      and the athlete question is great too! He doesn’t really talk about his high school/college athletic career that much and I want to know how it informs the rest of his life, what brought him to athletic world and what he lost when he left it.

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I’d just ask something simple. What practical measures do you have to stay grounded after so much fame/fortune? How do you make sure your children can grow up like normal people? Or does it even matter?

    Btw, a promo has now been released of the other guests. SRK is obviously not in it since they have no footage of him yet. The other guests are Kanye West, Ellen DeGeneres, Melinda Gates, Tiffany Hadish and Lewis Hamilton. No white men – interesting choice from Letterman!

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      • Lewis Hamilton is British. I had to wiki him because I didn’t really know who he was. I feel like I’d heard the name but still wouldn’t have been able to answer who he was if someone asked. Just learned that he’s the no.1 Formula One racer in the world.

        Same for Tiffany Hadish. I’ve heard the name but wouldn’t really be able to come up with anything more. Apparently she’s a recent “breakout” star. Not gonna lie that she seems like an odd fit with the rest of the names. Or maybe I’m just not up on my pop culture.

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        • I’d heard of Tiffany Hadish vaguely, and (more importantly) I think she just got a thing on Netflix. So there is a wee bit of cross-promotion there. Along with her just being an interesting person to interview.

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          • Just looked it up. She’s producing stand-up specials for Netflix ands she’s a comedian herself. Well, that makes sense. Some cross-promotion and David himself would obviously be interested in a fellow comic. Ellen also has the same roots.

            It’s a good and eclectic group. Kanye- a musician, Ellen – comic and talk show host, Melinda Gates takes care of the social aspect like Malala did, Tiffany Hadish – a black female comic who probably has an interesting story, and a movie star in SRK.

            I do like that it seems like these are people that Letterman probably is genuinely interested in talking to. They cover a large range.

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          • I keep comparing this to Koffee. You know how the best episodes are the ones where Karan is genuinely interested in the guests and the guests are genuinely eager to be there? I hope it’s like that. And the 8 episodes only makes me think it will be, that even if Netflix influenced his choices, he still got to pick the one she really wanted from the stack. And they had the option of saying “no” if they didn’t really want to do the show.

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          • Yeah I think Dave picked them himself. I saw his episode with Jay-Z last year and David asked him if he thought Kanye would ever agree to come on his show. Jay said Kanye would definitely come if asked.

            Same for Ellen. Dave had gone on her show to promote the first season of My Next Guest and told her she had to return the favor and come on his show. So here she is in the 2nd season.

            Maybe Netflix makes some gentle suggestions but there are only 6 episodes in total. I doubt Dave would be willing to waste any on people he doesn’t want to bother with.

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  6. They’ve finished the shoot according to people on twitter. Some people mentioned that he talked about the C-gang (his old childhood friends) which is so unexpected that I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just giving some updates. The interview lasted 2 hours. It would suck so much if they edit it down to only 1 hour. I hope they keep it all but I doubt it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just gathering up whatever I saw on twitter for those who are interested – SRK talked about his childhood, family, and how he became an actor. Some serious stuff, some funny. There is apparently an NDA so no details.
      When he came on stage, the audience jumped out of their seats and shouted for 5-10 minutes and Letterman was shocked. He mentioned a few times that he had met a lot of celebrities but never seen anything like this before ever. He mentioned that SRK is one of the rare people in the world who is loved so much.
      They talked for 2 hours. No idea how much of it will be shown on Netflix. I’m hoping they break their format and just air the whole thing. Cutting it up into pieces doesn’t sound fun! Last season, the interviews were only 40-45 minutes with the rest of the hour having a field portion. Imagine cutting out so much! That sucks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Also let me finish off with a mean comment – At least now Letterman has learned that other Indian actors are not like annoying, haughty Aishwarya.

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        • I am sooo looking forward to the episode! I am pretty sure they are going to edit down to 50-52 minutes.

          Hahahha–about people getting excited! I am always slightly amused by the surprise that some people experience when they face such situations involving SRK.

          Also, I am reluctant because I do not like being negative/ critiquing anyone that I don’t actually know–but the interview with Oprah was also seriously bad. Abhishek and Aishwarya just came off looking entitled and rather ignorant themselves.

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          • One of my favorite parts of the Inner-Outer documentary is when they interview one of his American security team for the tour. He just can’t get over how people reacted to Shahrukh.

            On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 11:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I want to know if he’d ever consider doing *actual Hindi film* just in English. (Not the songs, though. They’d mess up the rhyming.) But, instead.of mostly Hindi with lots of English, how about lots of English with a smattering of Hindi? So many people who won’t see movies with subtitles might now be willing to go see those movies! As an added bonus, you could release them in wider circulation in the US theaters make a ton more money. Was it Kal Hi Naa Ho that gave us the 1 out of every 5 people in the US is of Indian descent? Plus, i imagine a lot of second generations Desi’s don’t speak Hindi.
    So many possibilities!

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    • Interesting idea! There are a fair number of English language Indian movies, but they aren’t actual mainstream Hindi films just in English, they are movies designed to be in English, a whole different feel.

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 9:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! Going by how good he was on Ted Talks or even in Davos, I am exited to see him outside the Indian media lens.

    Assuming that I can get over my extreme shyness (even in my head) and internal racing heartbeat if I was to actually speak (again, even in my head) in front of SRK–I would love to ask him two questions:

    (1) As an artist with such an expansive and amazing body of work, does he now identify more as a filmmaker or would he still primarily describe himself as an actor?

    (2) Does he like being accessed by so many people? People (like me) love him and naturally want to talk to him…want him in their life.. does he like being accessed all the time? Is the loss of privacy a weight that he sometimes misses?

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    • Oh those are great questions! I want to know his answer to the second one in particular.

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 10:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  9. I don’t think I would ask this, as it seems too intrusive, but what I really wonder about is his family. I know his parents died and he lives with his sister, but what grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins? In the Indian context, it seems so strange that he portrays himself as all alone in the world apart from his wife and children and these are not mentioned. Indians typically have huge extended families.

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    • That’s interesting, I thought of the answer to this as common knowledge. But maybe Shahrukh himself thinks of it as common knowledge and thus has stopped talking about it? Or maybe he has gotten more cautious in old age?

      He truly literally has no other family, he lost them in Partition. His father was a freedom fighter in Lahore who was sent to Delhi for his own safety after the police started going after him. He was in Delhi in law school during Partition, and after Partition (because he was a follower of Bacha Khan, not Jinnah) he was not given permission to return. Or rather, he could have gone back but he chose India, and by the time he might have changed his mind, it was too late. His father was the youngest of something like 7 brothers, a very established family in Lahore, knew Dilip Kumar’s family. Shahrukh’s mother is from somewhere in the south, I think Hyderabad originally but her parents lived in Bangalore. She met and fell in love with his father while visiting in Delhi. Her family stayed in the south, I think she had maybe a couple of sisters, Shahrukh visited them a lot as a small child but after his grandparents died they lost contact.

      When he was 14 his father died of cancer. When he was 25, his mother died of cancer. His older sister suffered a psychotic break after his father’s death and has never recovered, has severe depression. So truly, he has no family besides his wife, his children, and his sister. It’s the great tragedy of his life, in early interviews he talked about it a lot. One thing he used to say is that he wanted to be a movie star, to have his face blown up on screen 50 times its size, so that it would be big enough for his mother to see it from heaven and tell her friends “that’s my son”.

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 11:18 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think his mom died of complications from diabetes, possibly sepsis from the way it sounds like things progressed. Doubly tragic because so preventable if one can afford and access proper care.

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    • There was an interview on youtube (don’t know if it’s there anymore) in which he was asked about his other relatives. The interviewer mentioned that we always see Gauri’s family with him but not his own. She asked him about his uncles/aunts/cousins and it was one of the few times I’ve ever seen SRK uncomfortable. He pretty much admitted that he has no relations with them and that he felt they did not treat his parents well. (I think that’s the mother’s side of the family. Father’s side is in Pakistan and SRK hardly knew them.) There were some financial issues after his mother’s death with relatives trying to claim ownership of an oil business they used to have. SRK wasn’t interested in the business and later found out there was some illegal thing they were doing with the tankers and he abandoned it for good because it had gone haywire. In the 90s, he used to occasionally mention an aunt in London but I don’t think he’s seen her in years.

      He told the interviewer that Gauri’s family is his family. He doesn’t hold a grudge against them for initially being against their marriage because he understands where they were coming from. He said if Suhana brought home a guy like him (the way he was back then) and said she wanted to marry him, he would hit the roof too. He also said her parents now love him more than they love her. His mother-in-law goes literally everywhere with him. You will see her sitting there and cheering for him even at business summits and random conferences. Gauri doesn’t go but her mom does! Even at her husband’s funeral, she stood holding onto SRK, not her daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I am half-Indian and I don’t think its strange at all actually. At least urban Indians have definitely moved to considering family as only immediate family. In most cases, its usually parents and siblings and of course in-laws.

    In my experience, people often call people “family” when they are interacting with them, but don’t truly consider them family. Of course this is anecdotal and not really statistical, but then, because the Mumbai film industry is not so big and SRK being one of the very very few people with no actual family connections there–I definitely see where he would think he and his family (his sister, wife, kids) are slightly separated.

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    • Shahrukh’s parents’ deaths, and his sisters depressing, I would assume have lead to a strange kind of need to for a feeling of love and security and family, and at the same time a need to keep people at a distance and not let anyone in. Another story that I love, and think about with how he approaches the world, is after his father’s death. They rushed to the hospital with a car and driver (because his father was too sick to drive and his mother couldn’t), and then a few hours later left, after his father had died. They got back to the car to find that the driver had wandered off. Shahrukh got behind the wheel, his mother asked “when did you learn to drive?” and he said “just now”.

      On Thu, May 16, 2019 at 11:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Every time I hear that story, it just tugs at me. This is a person who literally made an empire from nothing. Truly inspiring story!

        Also.. wow.. I didn’t know about the relatives and partition story. Another interesting glimpse into the life of SRK.

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  11. Some official pics are out. Letterman, Netflix, and SRK all posted.

    SRK confirmed on the show that Suhana is indeed going to NYU Tisch in the fall. He said he’ll be in NYC every month to see her.

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  12. According to this article, Netflix put out a press release calling this a “stand-alone special.” Not sure what that means but maybe that’s why it was 2 hours and not 1. Maybe that’s why the promo released a little earlier and did not have him. They will probably cut a separate promo for him.
    https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/shah-rukh-khan-david-letterman-come-together-for-netflix-special-119051700271_1.html
    Also high praise from Letterman for SRK at the end of the taping. He really does know how to win over people.
    “The best part of this job that Netflix has been happy to provide for me is to meet people. And after each one of these sessions I think to myself, it is a very smart, very lovely person from whom I have learned things. You would maybe be at the top of that list,” Letterman said.

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  13. I read somewhere that Anil was second choice to play the quiz show moderator in Slumdog after SRK turned it down. Also read that he hated making Asoka and won’t do another historical; something about cumbersome costumes and riding horses.

    As to questions? I’m, afraid I’d ask prying, personal, gossipy ones that would reflect badly on me. So I won’t say.

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    • I think Anil was 3rd choice, I know they asked Amitabh himself first and he turned it down. Otherwise sounds right.

      On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 12:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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