Like fine wine...

Age is just a number, one that Salman Khan has always defied, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

Salman Khan.

His last film did not do as well as expected, though he claims that it made money. But after Race 3, he is now confident of Bharat, a home production, officially co-produced by sister Alvira and her husband Atul Agnihotri.

Salman Khan is still up there — the only superstar whose few underperforming films (Tubelight, Race 3 and, relatively, Jai Ho!) earn in multiples of hit films of lesser stars. His fundas are clearer than crystal, and the results are there for all to see. How far does he think his stardom will continue? “I think that Aamir (Khan), Akki (Akshay Kumar), Ajay (Ajay Devgn), Shah Rukh (Khan) and I are very lucky that we have been around so long. While other heroes may now see collections of eight to 10%, that stage will come to us also, and I am prepared. But I think it will not come to us so soon!”

Akshay recently said that he would do action until he touched 56 years. What about him? His face straight, he replies, “Oh, it will take a few more years. Maybe 30 or 35!”
He insists that his superstardom is because of blessings from up above. “Ooparwala ne nawazaa hai (God has gifted me all this). I don’t know what fans see in me. I can only guess that the type of films I keep doing, which are like the films I have watched all through, are the reason. In those films, I too would react that way to the herogiri I saw. So now it is like I am watching similar movies with the audiences and they are seeing in me what I then loved to see in those heroes.”

Shrug off negativity

What is his opinion on how critics rip him and his films apart every time? He replies, “They are negative people, what do you expect? Look, it doesn’t matter to me — seriously! — but it does make a difference to others. These so-called critics do not know anything about cinema, and whichever of them has made films has always faced total rejection! Their films sank and their investors suffered, while they made money!”

He goes on, ardently, “Look, they should not be irresponsible! Films are not something made with a small amount of money. Maine Pyar Kiya, 30 years ago, was made at a then-record cost of Rs 1.11 crore. Today, even a modest film costs Rs 25 to Rs 30 crore, and that money has to come back.” Bharat, says the actor, has all the elements needed for a mainstream film, and yet the main reason why he chose to do the film was its plot. “A 9-year-old boy is given the responsibility by his father to look after his mother and three siblings. His father tells him he will come back, and the boy takes his responsibility very seriously and sees that his siblings are educated, married off and settled. The story thus travels six decades.”

Buzz is that the remake of the Korean film Ode To My Father only takes the original’s core but is modelled more on Salman’s own relationship with dad Salim Khan. “Really?” he asks mischievously. He goes on, “Actually, I narrated the story to Sooraj (Barjatya), and he gave a wonderful suggestion for the love story. But Ali (writer-director Ali Abbas Zafar) felt that it would deviate needlessly from the main story.”

Old is gold

Salman enjoyed playing the oldest role most. “At 70, the man is awesome. He is angry, emotional, even khadoos (rude),” he smiles. But he has been waxing eloquent that co-star Katrina Kaif will get a National Award. “Yes, I told her that she truly deserves it. But she thinks I am joking and says that the way I say it everyone thinks it is a joke, so what if she does not get it? But I am serious!” he insists.

Does it not have special significance as Priyanka Chopra was the original choice? Many versions have come in since she walked out of the film. What is the truth?

“The truth is that Priyanka was very keen to do the role, and Ali had promised it to her,” he replies. “Ali felt that Katrina and I had just done his Tiger Zinda Hai. He also had doubts whether she could pull off the Hindustani colour. I told him, ‘She’s been your friend. How come you have no confidence when she has done roles in Raajneeti? And she’s been around for almost 20 years.’ Also, Arpita, my sister, and Priyanka are great friends. But Priyanka walked out of the film because she got what she wanted, and so Katrina got what she wanted!”

Shocked at the very thought of being upset with Priyanka, Salman feels that,on the contrary, it was the bravest, boldest and most amazing thing she could have
done. “She thought of everything and came to meet me. Initially, I told her we could work schedules up and down after she told me she was getting married. But I
saw Arpita frantically signalling to me and it dawned on me that she would not be able to do my film.”

He reiterates that the actor took a very gutsy step, because most actors would postpone marriage for an important film. He says, “Priyanka has worked so hard to keep such a career going both here and over there. And she may not get such a role for another 10 to 15 years. But she made a clear choice.” 

Versatile

His films, all along, have shown his versatility. “Could you repeat that, please?” he asks. When we do, he says, “Yes, that’s true!” and grins broadly. So we want to know why he is not considered a good and versatile actor. Does he feel it is because of his casual approach where he does not beat his own trumpet and claim things like sleepless nights for a role?

“Actually, I have not slept many nights, after so much hard work,” he chuckles. “I sleep only for about three hours anyways. I read, write or watch television. And I watch a lot of web series, though I have not yet come to Indian ones! I sometimes watch seasons at one go! That’s the most dangerous!”

What about his own entry into the web? “SK (Salman Khan) TV is already producing The Kapil Sharma Show, and some other show including Nach Baliye. Look, we are not making these shows to make money so much as to provide work for actors, writers, producers and directors who we cannot help out with work in cinemas,” he says.

At the book launch of Asha Parekh’s biography, Salman had joked that Dharmendra and he would never have an autobiography for “obvious reasons”. “Dharam-ji also says that I am like his son. I don’t know, it is so strange, that, besides him, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Shammi Kapoor and even Feroz Khan and Prem Chopra all saw something in me. They all feel or felt that I was someone from their generation!”

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