Shah Rukh Khan, the 'Badshah of Bollywood' and the 'King of Romance' is now lending his voice to road safety, via the 'Safe Move' short video's he is making with Hyundai, whose 'Brand Ambassador' he has been ever since this Korean car maker started manufacturing and selling cars in India. Shah Rukh, also known as SRK, believes by making some small changes in our approach to driving and the way we behave on the road, can lead to substantial reduction in road fatalities in India.
OD: Are you aware that India has the highest road fatalities in the world?
SRK: Yes I am actually. There was an animation film we had done in Delhi and Mr. Gadkari was there. He had made us aware of the fact that we do have the maximum number of road fatalities in the country. One knew that accidents happen and it must be because of the way our traffic is, and a lot of stuff that happens. But one didn't know that we had the highest rate of fatalities in our country. And it was extremely shocking, as it was, it's extremely sad to hear.
OD: Interestingly we lose over 1,50,000 people every year and in all the wars we've fought, since Independence, we've not lost more than 1,00,000 people. Still no one talks about it
SRK: There are small measures that, I guess, we need to take and the numbers can be reduced.
OD: Why do you think we are so undisciplined on the road?
SRK: We all are Indians, and we all have been brought up in a certain way. We all have our civilised code, so to say. Somewhere down the line, this is part of our nature. As Indians, we do tend to get careless and assume sometimes. I've done it, till I was introduced by Hyundai, while doing these (safety message) films, I realised the importance. I have children now, and about 5-7 years ago, I used to think it's alright to not wear the seatbelt. We need to educate people to understand that these small things make a big difference, and somehow showcase that it's not a small thing (ignoring seatbelts). That attitude of, I'm just going around the block" has to change. Even if it's for a moment, for a second, if it's a small thing, One should take that moment and utilise the safety features.
OD: Out on the roads of India, whether you're rich or poor, everyone is always in a hurry and not looking at safety in any way. What is the message you have for these people
SRK: The simplest message would be, that any kind of hurry is not going to be in time. All you need to make sure is that a little bit of time what you may assume is saved, is wasted. I think we need to regard each other with a little more respect on the roads. It's very wrong of me to give a lecture about road safety, because I'm part of it. It's not that I'm away from it. All of us are part of it. Just one man following the rules is not going to change anything. You need to have each one of us doing it. I think we just need to have a little patience on the road. I think the number of cars have increased, scooters have increased, cyclists and motorcyclists have increased. And perhaps the roads, in some places are not enough to handle this huge expanse of vehicles.
OD: With Hyundai and this whole Better Move campaign, you have started speaking up about road safety. Do you think other celebrities / opinion makers should also speak up?
SRK: I think for me the directness comes from the fact that I'm the ambassador for Hyundai. I've been part of this road journey, so to say, in this car, for years now. So maybe, it naturally follows for me. Each one to their own, I truly believe that. I can implore them and request them, telling them that it is a good thing to talk about. You have social media, access to messaging that you can put out. Good, bad, sunny, sweet , nice, happy, celebratory. That itself will go a long way. Celebrities of whatever import, whichever field, so make a difference.
I think people kind of listen to that message a little more. Whether they follow it or not is upto them, but they listen. They take heed of it. If someone is in the public face, in the public eye, they can make that effort.
Having said that, I don't think I can really shift them on to do it. As far as I'm concerned, since I've become aware, I would love to continue doing so. Hope lots of people follow suit.
OD: Earlier in the conversation you spoke about wearing seatbelts. Do you now always wear a seatbelt?
SRK: Yes, I do. I have made one or two mistakes, and I've corrected them immediately. And I would like to give my example, because if I'm giving the message of safety, it has to start from me. Even it's for my own company, Hyundai, that I work with. Seatbelts, yes, I have started wearing.
OD: Do you wear a seatbelt even when you are on the back seat?
SRK: No, not yet on the back seat, to be honest. But I think I realise it's there, so might as well use it. I have friends who do it. I think a couple of times, I let my kids stand out of the sunroof, and I think it's completely wrong. You think you are safe, holding the baby, I think that' wrong. I apologise for it, to myself. And I won't do that again.
The other day, I was going two houses away, to my dentist, but I took my car. But I make it a point to wear the seatbelt, even if it feels that it's coming in the way of your style or what have you. I think you should just wear it.
OD: On a Sunday, you go down the Worli sealink, you'll find people sticking their kids out of the sunroof and speeding up, without realising how dangerous it is.
SRK: Like I said, I've made that silly mistake twice. I realise that, however well you hold the child, a small little thing like something going in the kid's eye to something more dangerous, even a sudden stop could hurt the baby.
These are very small things that we disregard. If we just stop for a moment and think about it, I think we can change. I really have become much safer. Though I do regard traffic rules extremely carefully. I don't have road rage, but I do get a little angry if people cut lanes, and don't indicate. I love to drive, but unfortunately, I take the car out at night, as traffic is less. But I get riled by people not following very traffic rules, like staying in the lane.
OD: When you act in a film, do you insist to the director, that if there is a scene that you are driving, that you need to wear a seatbelt?
SRK: I do and not only that, there is a ruling that if you have a driving scene in the film, the seatbelts have to be on. And even if we want do it in a scene, where supposedly it is an action scene, you have to put the seat belt and remove it in post-production, but you have to send a message out that seatbelts were put on for the scenes. ss
OD: Sadly, you see so many films that don't follow that. Recently, I saw your film Om Shanti Om and there are several shots of you driving and I never saw you wearing a seatbelt?
SRK: Well, yes, that taught me a lesson. I died in the film! So, if you don't wear your seatbelt, there are chances, you can die. I paid with my life for that.