Shahrukh Khan is a superhit. On screen and in life. No matter which scene he is enacting, he determinedly gives his best shot. His smile touches your heart not because it is of a man who has it all, but because it is of a man who smiles despite all. It is no wonder that Indians have crowned him king of happiness in the Complete Wellbeing-Synovate Survey on Health and Happiness…
In an all-India survey conducted on behalf of Complete Wellbeing, people have chosen you their role model of happiness from the media and entertainment industry. How does it feel?
It is a compliment. Many people are rated for their good health or their bodies. Being rated the highest for being the happiest person feels much better. I must have done something right.
Why do you think people have chosen you?
Maybe because I have not forgotten how to enjoy the small and silly things in life. When you forget to do that, you start taking yourself too seriously. I am cocky, I am confident, but I enjoy the real small things. I’d wear a red Superman costume and do something silly even at the age of 42 and it’s perfectly okay. And that probably shows on my face.
Who is a genuinely happy person? Are you one?
Someone who lives life on his or her own terms and takes responsibility for it; someone who knows how to get up and start all over again, even if he or she fails the first time around. I am ready to fail. I know I am not invincible.
How will you rate your happiness quotient on a scale of 100?
I don’t think happiness can be measured. It’s perhaps the most important thing in life. If you aren’t happy, you won’t even be able to enjoy your success.
Considering you are in a high-pressure industry, how do you manage to remain so contented?
I believe that while being a success is important, it cannot be at the cost of honesty or hard work. I tell my kids to never be corrupt or cheat anyone. And be ready to make sacrifices, because sometimes it’s required. The values are very basic and middle class. It’s nice to wear dark glasses, fly in chartered planes and live in a beautiful home, but only if all this is achieved with honesty.
What was your biggest source of happiness 10 years ago and what is it now?
It has always been my family and friends, back then and even today.
What are the simple things in life that make you happy?
A lot of things—doing a good movie, giving a good performance, spending time with my kids, playing on my Play Station…there are so many reasons to be happy.
Is one blessed with a happy temperament and disposition, or can one cultivate happiness in life?
You can cultivate happiness by being positive, thinking positive and by being adventurous and curious. I am instinctive and I love taking risks, but that’s possible because I always think possible. [Cricketer] Shoaib Akhtar often tells me, “Shahrukh saab aap bahut acche businessman hain.” Frankly, I don’t know much about business. But I do like to give everything that interests me a shot. When Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, the first movie my company [Dreamz Unlimited] produced, flopped, Juhi [Chawla], Aziz [Mirza] and I, who were partners, cried for 10 days straight.
We made other films, Chalte Chalte and Asoka, which also flopped. Everyone mocked us, said stuff like dreams shattered, undone, finished. I could have closed down the company but chose not to. When you are in a position of choice, you have to take risks. Very few people in this world are given a position of choice by Allah.
Health’s been a weak area for me. I had a bad back for a very long time. But now, because I attempt to keep fit, to exercise, I am much better. I think health is as important in upping your happiness quotient as love and family.
What according to you has been your most trying time? How do you tackle phases of depression and unhappiness?
There have been a lot of times when I have gone through a low phase. Today, what you see outside is the public image of my successes. If I had to weigh the good times in my life against the bad ones, the latter would clearly outweigh the former. I have had a million bad experiences; I have done a million wrong things. But the memories of all the troubles I went through are now vague. The goodness in my life has completely wiped out those memories. It’s my failures that kept me going, not my successes.
Which is more important to you: your own happiness or the happiness of others?
Aren’t they interconnected? I am happy if my family and friends are happy. The same goes for them.
Who can make you laugh very easily? When was the last time you enjoyed a hearty laugh—the kind that makes your stomach hurt?
My kids, undoubtedly. With them, I forget everything. I have shared several hearty laughs with them.
What advice would you like to give readers of Complete Wellbeing for lasting happiness?
Someone sent me a lovely line recently, “When you decide to lead the orchestra, you have to learn to turn your back to the crowds.” I totally believe in that.
If you can face criticism and yet continue doing what you believe in and what you want, success will be yours for the taking.
Also, I would like to tell them that it is easy to lay the blame on someone else’s door for things gone wrong. But until you accept responsibility for your failures, you are never going to succeed. Play the game only if you can be graceful in your victory and gracious in your defeat.
Constant change is a part of life and you have to accept it. Whatever happens is for the best. My parents’ premature death had left me shattered, but this is life, such things teach you how to survive. Besides, I don’t think you can change everything you want to. I had a back injury, I had to quit sports and become an actor. I didn’t like it, I cried for two years. I wanted to be a soccer player or a cricketer, but I became a movie star. And that’s fine too. I am 42 and romancing a girl who is 18 in my next film.
This was first published in the January 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing