Sultan swings

Sultan swings

Bollywood buzz

Sultan swings

He is in a whacky mood, and initially we wonder whether a decent interview will emerge from our chat at Mehboob Studios a fortnight or so before the release of Sultan. When in such moods, Salman Khan usually charts the course of the interview, either with the twists in his replies or his funny takes. Hoping for the best, we proceed.

This is his first sports-based film, unlike the other Khans. With a serious face, he says loftily, “Yes! I thought it was high time I did a sports film.” He breaks into a giggling fit before going on, “Arey baba, it’s the first time a good sports movie came to me.”

But wasn’t he offered Chak De! India? “Yes, I was, but I thought that Shah Rukh Khan needed good friends like me.” A chuckling exercise follows, after which he says, “In those days, I was doing films like Partner. This was a more serious kind of film. It did not fit my image and profile then. I was into commercial cinema then, which I am still doing.”

Such a sport

Coming to Sultan, we heard he was shy when he had to don a langot (an Indian wrestler’s underwear) for the screen. “Oh, that’s just one section of the film,” he says. “It had to be done correctly, and I had to be sure about the way it looked on me, and without seeming vulgar or obscene. I know that since time immemorial wrestlers have been wearing langots, but this was Salman Khan, the actor. Crowds would gather during the shoot, and I was scared of being irritated by comments that would have been meant as a compliment, but could come across differently. I wore a robe till the last moment, and then I thought they would comment, take photographs, and a fracas would ensue as my bodyguards tried to stop them.” He adds, “But everything went off well. Now they tell me that the film is likely to draw huge crowds. Well, I hope so. That would be delightful!”

What else was needed as prep for this role? “I had to train as a wrestler,” he replies. “I had to learn all the techniques, like the movements and the falls — you can’t look like a wrestler until you learn wrestling. Of course, I cannot actually fight in the ring, but everything else had to be correct. In wrestling, there were different types of actions. And that was difficult!”

Was this his toughest role then? “No, no!” he says. “The most difficult would be Maine Pyar Kiya. I remember I was stammering even when I just had to say, ‘Ji, babuji!’ to Alok Nath.” A mischievous smile follows.

Aamir Khan has stated that after watching the trailer of Sultan he is scared for his film Dangal, which is also about wrestling. “If he is scared, why did he do it?” he grins naughtily. “He must have been joking. Our films are totally different, and let me tell you that he has a fantastic script. It’s absurd to think that one film will affect the other. It’s like my turning down a love story because Shah Rukh is also doing one. And if Aamir was scared, I could have done both Sultan and Dangal.”

Has his criteria for signing new films changed after Bajrangi Bhaijaan did so well? “I don’t think so,” he replies. “With me, if I like the first narration, I do the film. If I don’t feel, ‘Let’s do it now!’ and call my manager to shuffle the dates, I do not take it up. I have Bigg Boss and other things in the meanwhile.”

Film dynamics

With his track-record in the last seven years, is there any pressure on him that his films should earn certain numbers? “Why on me?” he wants to know. “The pressure should be on those who make and market the film. Yes, if something has not worked, we have to take care of it. We cannot know for sure what works and does not, and in both cases, dimaag kharaab ho jaata hai (one gets flustered). So the best way is to be intuitive rather than calculative. People design projects with certain stars, thinking of the money those stars will reel in. It does not work that way, the film has to work. People go ga-ga over the initial collections — that’s stupid. We should see what happens till the last day of the film’s run. The end result actually matters.”

Salman has a definite view on the business of cinema. “The high ticket rates will destroy us. Regional films are making 50 crores despite being shown in limited places with lesser rates. In that case, we should be making 400 crores and more. That’s not happening. Ticket rates are going up, as also the prices of food and beverages at multiplexes. This is harming the industry.”

He goes on, “We also need more screens. The total number of screens in the country, including for the regional movies, are around 5,000. If any big film has to make huge revenues, even 25,000 screens would fall short.”

Now, coming to singer Arijit Singh’s claim that Salman removed his voice from the song ‘Jag ghoomeya’ because he was still upset over something that happened during an award show in 2014 — “Gone are the days when one singer recorded a song,” he says. “Now several singers record the same track, and the producer and director take a call on the voice to be kept. Actors don’t have any say in the matter.”

Salman has also recorded one song from the film, ‘Baby ko bass pasand hai’. Isn’t he also doing his version for every song in the film? Nodding his head, he says, “It’s a different way of thinking, and I want to see how difficult it will be. And it’s not as if anyone’s spending on a recording studio. I recorded the songs in my drawing room. I recorded one song at a hotel in Ludhiana. I may take three hours to do a song, but some really good technicians work on it for three days to make it sound good. I may sing worse than someone, but someone else can also sing worse than me.”

And, what are his upcoming projects? “I have Kabir Khan’s Tubelight, a film with Sohail Khan, and a film with Rajkumar Santoshi. There’s one more commitment.”
And is the sequel to No Entry happening? “No,” he says briefly.

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