Following the launch of the Ra.One social game in Mumbai, India, MediaNama met film star and producer Shah Rukh Khan to get his views on the digital medium and its growth. In Part 1 of this two part series, he speaks with us about how the movie lends itself to the digital space, whether the films digital initiatives will continue beyond the film, what it would take for digital IP to become significant contributor to revenues, and more:

MediaNama: I wanted to understand how you defined the target audience for the movie and the game.
Shah Rukh Khan: The youth audience has changed a lot. We did some focus screenings of the film, and (the film) is being liked by those who are 18-24, and actually being liked by families – the younger families, which are in the 24-32 age group. When I did the focus studies, it turned out that it is a family action comedy. I thought it would start from 8-9, but taking over from 14 to…I really want to find out what happens to the 18 and 12 (year olds). I think the reason they will like it is a sense of pride, that this is cool that it happened in India. The story is not a young film like Delhi Belly, which is edgy.

MediaNama: Do you think that someone – a young boy in Jodhpur – will identify with the characterization of the film?
Shah Rukh Khan: He would identify with the fact that it is such a huge looking event. There are two ways that you can sell a game or a movie. In games, it is the graphics and the coolness, and the sound or the identification with the characters. I’m a footballer, so I like to play football games. In movies, there are two ways you make a film – either you feel that this is my story, or you feel that I want to be a part of this story. Some of the people who may not identify with the film or the story, will find it aspirational in terms of the bigness.

You know how you get turned on when you a Jurassic park. I’m not a dinosaur, I’ve never seen a dinosaur, but I’m like Oh god, this is outstanding. It’s an event, and that bigness is in the film. The crux of the film is about a family, a kid and his father and his desire. This father, in his desire to do everything for the kid, ends up creating the worlds most dangerous monster, and the monster comes out of the digital age, and not from the jungle, the smugglers den, Dubai or some underworld place. To save him, you need to get a hero from the same world. How a father goes wrong, and then there’s a message that kids should be careful what they wish for, and stay away from drugs, smoking, beating, killing and shooting.

MediaNama: Were you looking at your digital partnerships from a promotional angle or a long term revenue source?
Shah Rukh Khan: Long term, very long term. For me, initially it does work wonders because of the reach that Indiagames has of over 500 million users, through DTH, social gaming, android, it’s an amazing reach and they have the base. For them the attachment is that Bollywood is popular and there is a star attached to it. It has it’s own publicity for them, but no one wants to lose out on business.

In the long term, what will happen is that we need to use all these mediums. They will not start paying off right now, but they will create user bases which will finally, finally, start generating revenue as they do in the western world already. It’s for the longevity of my films, not only just Ra.One, but for the next film that I do as a producer, or if I can convince my other producers to come on board. This digital world is here to stay: I see in my house, you see it, we’re sitting in the car, everything is at our fingertips.

Somewhere, instead of only trying to create content only for a (digital) medium, I think we have the content already in films on a big scale. What we need to do is somehow channelize it – so you channelize Ra.One through a social game. People will get, getting used to having a little different entertainment, while the base can be the same. It’s very symbiotic. It cannot be ki kal se hi iska paisa ayega. It is a little long term.

MediaNama: What do you think it will take for the digital IP to become significant contributor to revenues?
Shah Rukh Khan: I think for there to be more regular content like this by other films, other film stars, other film producers. I would always do it. I’ve been wanting to do it for years. In this movie it’s also very specific because the movie lends itself. It’s science fiction, digital, it’s got a superhero, so you have lots of pegs which are common with social gaming and video games. It would take content like this, and eventful films to create a buzz on this kind of medium, and when people get used to it, they’ll want more, so we make more, and when we make more, we will sell it.

MediaNama: Are you looking at initiatives after the release of the film, or is that where it ends?
Shah Rukh Khan: I would like to continue. But again, somehow, the crux has to be right, the story has to be right. If people like it, then half our battle is won. Then I would like to keep Ra.One the sequel alive for a year, just on the digital medium so I can make the next one. I would love to do it. I have this concept that if the inshallah film does well – I think it will – then how to keep it alive through merchandising, the digital world, the gaming world, that this is coming or that is coming, and keep it alive and come out with a second part. It will have a gestation period of a year and a half, so then how do I not have to recreate that world again when the film releases.

MediaNama: So do you have plans in place for something beyond the release of the film?
Shah Rukh Khan: Release toh ho jaye, logon ko acchi toh lage. Malum pade joote woote maren toh we’ll have to take away the game from the digital medium. (laughs)

Note: In Part 2, out tomorrow, Shah Rukh Khan speaks with us about premiering movies online, and the impact digital cinema has on film distribution.

(Update: the first few sentences of the first paragraph have been paraphrased to indicate what Shah Rukh Khan was trying to say)