SHAHRUKH KHAN’s speech at Yale: Honest and fake – that’s what I feel as a creative person all the time


George Burns said that acting is all about honesty; if you can fake that, you’ve got it made. He couldn’t have defined it better. Honest and fake – yes, that’s what I feel as a creative person all the time.

Let me tell you my schizophrenia. Creative expression comes from the deepest experience of the artist himself. A good artist cannot be separate from his creation. Good art is honest art. A man may be an artist, a writer, a sculptor, an actor or a totem pole carver… Whatever he is, if what he creates is true to himself, it becomes a vivid testimonial to human creativity. If it lacks honesty, its entire premise is a waste. At the same time, and quite paradoxically, a man becomes distinct from his creation from the moment it is placed in the public domain. It no longer even belongs to him. So it comes from your gut, and it is put out there for others to accept it or throw it in the gutter.

Many a nights I have gone back home after receiving an award, pumped up and all happy, just to read that what I really deserved was the Golden Banana for Worst Actor of the Year. I become heartbroken, angry, and completely convinced that bananas and critics, both should have their skins peeled and fed to the monkeys.

I momentarily lose my ability to give and close up. And here’s where the trick is – when you are in this place of despair, where the world is staring you down into yourself, there’s only one thing you can do to survive: hang on to who you are inside. The world will be unkind to you; it will not be able to see you. You must learn at such times to be able to see yourself. Life as a creative person is like being on a tightrope. I begin to lose myself in my own melodrama. It’s frustrating that I find myself living up to other people’s interpretation of what I ought to be. And when faced with dissent or unappreciation, I start losing my love affair with my audience. It becomes a tight balance act to keep doing what I do best and not be bothered by the reactions of people I do it for, in the first place.

I dance harder and cartwheel longer and pirouette on my rope. Stretched taut, beneath my feet. And I try not to slip. I can slide but never fall off. All this while I have a smile on my face and am signing autographs.

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