Chronicles of a starmaker

In a freewheeling chat with Rajiv Vijayakar, Salman Khan lives up to his child-like image

BUOYANT Salman Khan

He enjoys producing films as much as acting in them. Occasionally into writing film storylines and lyrics, Salman Khan also now likes to sing in
movies.

Mentoring new talent on the big screen and behind the screen is a special quality that he has, and his major discoveries over the years include composers Himesh Reshammiya, Sajid-Wajid and Amaal Mallik, star-kids Sonakshi Sinha, Sooraj Pancholi, Athiya Shetty and now Pranutan Bahl as well as Aayush Sharma (his brother-in-law), Warina Hussain and Zaheer Iqbal.

We catch up with the dynamic superstar and he is his usual mix of the quirkily serious and the mischievous. As he puts it, “I enjoy both acting and producing films, but the latter is more hard work. I have to be hands-on for the scripting, the music, the rushes, the edits — you require a lot more energy.”

Doesn’t he ever feel like directing a film? “I actually wanted to start my career by directing a film, but that did not happen. Thank God!’ he answers cryptically. Deferring his answers on his reunion after 12 years with Sanjay Leela Bhansali with Inshallah (“I am glad I am working with him again. Why don’t we talk about that film later?”), he also will not be pulled in right now into the controversy that it will clash with Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi on Eid 2020.

We come to his newest project, the just-released Notebook, which features Pranutan Bahl and Zaheer Iqbal. Isn’t it an official adaptation of the Thai film Teacher’s Diary? Drawing in a deep breath, he says, “Arey baba, we can’t make a Thai film here. We have put in so much of work, it’s better than that, I think! We have woven a great script and the backdrop of the love story too has been changed. We have shot in Kashmir, and I wish I could shoot every film there!”

He adds, “When this story first came to me, long back, I thought it was a lovely one, but it came to me as a hero,” he recalls. “My image had changed, so I
could not do it. And we also thought that a new pair was needed.” Salman has known both Pranutan and Zaheer as kids, yet they went through proper auditions. “Mohnish Bahl’s daughter and actor Nutan’s granddaughter Pranutan Bahl, and my friend’s son Zaheer Iqbal were signed, not because of who they are, but because of their
auditions and the hard work they put in. They got the roles because they deserved them. After coming on board, they slogged for eight hours daily on whatever was
needed from them.”

With Pranutan, Salman had even seen an external audition, and when he came to know who she was, he had called Mohnish up. “And he told me that his daughter has completed Law. So if I need a lawyer and she turns actor, what happens, I asked. And Mohnish told me, ‘Find another!’” Again that naughty glint follows. “So I too should have learnt what she has! I could have handled my own cases!”

This is the third pair he has introduced in his productions after Sooraj and Athiya in Hero and Aayush and Warina in LoveYatri. Which does he think is the best? “You are asking a father to choose his favourite child!” he says succinctly.Does he now know the pulse of the audience even as a star? Shaking his head with a laugh, he replies. “As soon as you feel you know the formula, along comes a blow! Like Jai Ho! and Tubelight.”

Notebook actually refers to a diary. Does Salman keep one? Getting into his naughty zone again, he quips, “I used to keep one at one time. When I started writing the diary, I came to know that my truth could hurt a lot of other people — these people will land in trouble! So I decided to rewrite it, then I realised that now I could land in trouble! So I stopped writing!”

What about his autobiography some day? His long glance in reply makes us burst into laughter, for it is almost as if he is saying, “Ahaa! Now that would be
something!”

Coming to his teachers, who were closest to him? “All those who beat me frequently!” he says. “My greatest teacher is also my father,” he adds.
How much of a role does his father, legendary writer Salim Khan, have in his films? “I go to him with the plot of every film I do. We make him watch all the
end rushes as well, and he suggests what must be added or removed,” he answers.

Is he game for a web debut? “There have been offers, yes. I love some of what is up there, which is clean, not that rubbish we often see!” he replies
candidly. “But then even that dirty stuff must be clean, woh log nahaa dhoke to aate honge (they must be coming to work after taking a bath)!”

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