Dilip Chhabria would spend 17 hours a day in his studio while working on the vanity van for Shah Rukh Khan. "I wanted to put in more hours, but I was scared of my wife," jokes Chhabria.
His hard work has paid off. The vanity van worth Rs 4 crore is now the talk of the town. Chhabria considers the van his best personal effort so far. "It is nothing less than Airforce One, which the US president uses. It has got all the safety equipment. Even Will Smith’s or any Hollywood star’s vehicle won’t come half as close to what we have done. It is the most advanced vehicle of its kind," he says.
In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, he talks about the making of the vanity van and how exciting it was to work with a demanding customer like SRK.
What was Shah Rukh’s brief like?
The brief was very simple. He wanted something out of this world.
Shah Rukh is very futuristic and technologically-oriented. One of the things on his wish list was an interior reflecting all the attributes of connectivity, entertainment, audio, computing power and gaming. He also wanted to use the coach as his second home, where he could extend his work from office. Obviously, it had to have the convenience of a home and an office.
What we have built is a futuristic spaceship. It is now Shah Rukh’s favourite place to discuss movies and scripts.
The spaceship seems to be the last word in luxury and comfort.
It is loaded with unique features. It has got all the telecommunication gear, a well-designed entertainment console, a 17’’x19’’ TV, gaming gear and ambience lighting. The lighting is programmable.
What is it that you like the most about it?
It is not easy to marry functionality to aesthetics. But somehow, we have done a great job of combining both and coming out on top.
Another factor is that we have used less of craftsmanship and more of industrial manufacturing techniques in this coach. Almost everything was machine-made. Yet it came out so well.
Shah Rukh, apparently, has a fine design sensibility. How did you win over him?
Shah Rukh has an exceedingly good taste, which is very futuristic, restrained and European. He takes note of even minute details. I would say he is a perfectionist. He is very fastidious in what he wants.
But we love such challenges which invariably force us to go higher up, relearn and imbibe new skills. We have evolved well over the years to deal with such demanding customers.
How long did you take to finish this project?
We took two and a half months (around 30,000 man hours) to build it. At some point, 50 people were working on it. Our team had a mix of technicians, designers, artisans, electronics and electrical guys.
Have you patched up with your wife, after those long night shifts?
Which wife doesn’t scold her husband either for coming late or for not going to office? My wife knows how much I love my work and has forgiven me.
For me, holiday is a torture and work is holiday.