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Salman Khan: “Ever since Dabangg clicked in a big way, every producer wants to be desi and wishes to go to Andheri today, not Amsterdam”

Birthday boy superstar Salman Khan in conversation with senior journalist Jyothi Venkatesh

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salman khan dabangg 3 first shoot place
Salman Khan

By Jyothi Venkatesh

Salman Khan is one actor who I have known for over the last 32 years ever since he was making his debut with the Farouque Sheikh-Rekha starrer Biwi Ho To Aisi opposite air hostess Renu Arya, even before he had made his debut with Maine Pyar Kiya as the leading man. The guy was a brat of the first order when I used to meet him those days when he used to hang out with his then girlfriend Sangeeta Bijlani.

While Siddique’s Hindi remake Bodyguard was smashing box office records in India, you were in the US undergoing a non-invasive operation for Trigeminal Neuralgia, the neurological disorder that had troubled you for years!

The problem started while I was working on Partner in 2007. A part of my forehead used to pain, as if somebody had applied electric shock in the area. Gradually the pain extended to my cheek and then throughout the filming of Veer my right jaw pained. Two days before the release of Bodyguard, I left for the US for the surgery but did not reveal my disorder to his fans.

Why did you keep it a secret?

I did not want people to know about the surgery as my fans get worried, but the news spread and everybody got concerned about how serious the ailment was.

Let’s talk about your new strategy to work in remakes of hit South Indian films!

It is just a sheer coincidence that three out of four films of mine have been remakes of South Indian hit films, like Wanted, Ready and Bodyguard and Tiger Zinda Hai was an adaptation of Malayalam filmmaker Mahesh’s Take Off. I did not consciously plan any strategy. It is just that when you remake a Hollywood film, the whole world has already seen that but when you set out to make a remake of a Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam hit, only the South Indians like you have been able to see them. It is now the reverse.  Several punches from Dabangg have been lifted by quite a few South Indian films of late. Dabangg has also been made in Tamil and the Tamil remake of 3 Idiots has also been made. I have also received an offer to act in the Hindi remake of the Telugu hit Dookudu starring Mahesh Babu.

What is the main reason you think that films down South click in a big way?

The reason people have liked me in films like Wanted, Dabangg and Bodyguard is that heroism has been brought back in these films with the hero emerging as a larger than life character. Down South, they have not let heroism go away and hence the masses go to South Indian flicks in large numbers in hordes even today. The truth that we have started missing ‘heroes’ big time. I agreed to act in Wanted because around that time, I really was fed up of watching the so called niche films or romcoms and wanted to go to a theatre and see a hero film.

How would you compare our films with those churned out by Hollywood?

Hindi films always used to work big time because of the music track as well as the father or the mother tracks. You still remember the track of the mother in Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony or for that matter Yash Chopra’s Deewar. Isn’t it? If you remember Wanted worked also because of the emotional father track in it. The film took a different turn when Vinod Khanna who played my father in the film was killed. I’d rather say that though you cannot compete with the kind of big budgets that they have in Hollywood, nothing can stop you when you make films which have emotion backed by action. It is a sure-fire formula to win over the audiences.

You love playing to the gallery!

Ever since Dabangg clicked in a big way, every producer wants to be desi and wishes to go to Andheri today, not Amsterdam. Though I know for a fact that if I get carried away, I may go wrong with my formula, the fact is that I love playing to the gallery as a larger than life hero, though I do not want to play the Superman or the Spiderman by wearing my chaddi above my pant. After Wanted, Dabangg, Ready , Ek  Tha Tiger and Bodyguard, in fact, I am looking at a hundred hat tricks. Who wants to have a flop? Everyone today wants to make a hit.

Can we see you acting in any film written by your father Salim (of the hit writer pair Salim and Javed fame)?

People ask me why my father is not writing for any film when any director would gladly give his right arm to have a script written by the man who had written legendary films like Deewar, Zanjeer and Sholay. I am glad that my father is enjoying his retired phase because frankly I do not think that he has the patience to deal with the directors and the kind of sensibilities that they come with today.

How do you react when your films click at the box office or flop?

As a person, I do not change whether my film clicks at the box office in a big way or turns out to be a disaster at the ticket windows. Today luckily people call me a lucky mascot just because my films are clicking one after the other but there was a time when my films were bombing big time left right and centre but I did not panic at all and took them I my stride waiting for the tide to change for the better. I would say that you actually go two steps forward when you get a kick on your back. I have always been of the opinion that success se insaan ka dimaag kharab nahi hona chahiye aur failure se depression nahi aana chahiye.

To what extent do you feel it is right to interfere with the director?

I feel that it is entirely my responsibility to the guy in the audience who pays from Rs 200 to Rs 500 per ticket to see to it that I come up as an actor with a film that entertains him. If I do not interfere, the film flops, like Tere Naam did. I had heard as many as 30 different tunes but loved the song when Pritam came up with the tune, though I hated the lyrics. Finally, I asked him to make two songs into one for Ready and come up with the song ‘Character Dheela’. If I like the script, I think I have every right to put my foot down and see to it that the film is properly edited on the editing table

Have you thought in terms of taking up direction?

Yes. Though it is true that I take interest in every department of the film in which I am acting, whether it is the subject or the music or the action sequences, I still feel that I am not ready to be the captain of the ship. I do not want to dabble in direction, though I know for a fact that my colleagues like Sunny Deol, Ajay Devgn and Aamir Khan have already dabbled in direction.

Aamir has declared that he will tie your hands and feet to make you get married!

Yes. I have read somewhere that Aamir had stated that to make me get married, he is ready to tie my hands and feet. I can only retort that I have also decided to tie his hands and feet to see to it that he does not get married once more in his life. (Grins).

You seem more inclined of late to promote your films in a big way!

Nowadays you have to spend more time to promote films. The new funda is that you need to devote at least 15 days to promote your films. I am game to tie up with corporate for the promotion of any film of mine in future provided they are ready to pay to my NGO Being Human or for needy and poor kids directly without deducting their administrative costs. Let’s face facts, today I do not actually need money.

You have several films which have crossed the coveted 300 cr. How do you feel now?

My filmi funda is very simple. Every film will not necessarily cross even the 100 cr league just because I am in it. If a film is bad, it will definitely not cross the 100 cr plus mark. It is not easy but it is achievable now, if a film is good. It was difficult to believe that a film can gross 100 cr plus two years back but now it is quite possible.

What is your take on success?

I have my own pulse. I will succeed only if I believe that my own pulse is that of the audiences. As Salman Khan, I have become a megalomaniac. If I can deliver as Chulbul Pandey, it is fine but it is bad if I do my role as Salman Khan.

After having acted with established directors like Subhash Ghai, David Dhawan, how easy was it for you to work with new directors like Arbaaz Khan in Dabangg 2 and Remo Fernandes in Race 3?

In my career, with the exception of Subhashji and David Dhawan, I have worked most of the times with only new directors, whether it was Karan Johar in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Khamoshi, Siddique  in Bodyguard, Abhinav Kashyap in Dabangg, Kabeer Khan in Ek Tha Tiger, Prabhudheva in Wanted, Anees Bazmee in Ready.

You seem to like action a lot!

To keep myself fit, I want to do action. I would love to do a film of action comes in it with a baggage of emotion. Whether it is an action film or an emotional film, the introductory fight has to be interesting enough to hold you as a viewer. The older you grow, the better you grow as an actor. If action is over, romance is over. I am glad that kids today call me Salman or Salman Khan and not Salman Uncle. The younger lot of actors today is a superb lot because they come prepared on the sets.

People insist that you interfere with your directors. Is it true?

After Veer, in the interest of my films, I decided that the final cut of my films will go only with my approval. I feel that what Aamir does is correct. I only hope that I do not take advantage of my stardom when I put my foot down.

You had started your career by joining director Shashilal Nair as his assistant?

Yes. My dad had asked me to assist director Shashilal Nair when he was making the Jackie Shroff starrer Falak, because he felt that I would not be able to click in Hindi films as an actor and didn’t want me to experience the heart breaks which he had experienced as a struggling actor. However, luckily for me, his fears proved to be unfounded and today I am busy as a star.

Can we hail you as the Rajnikant of Bollywood?

Though I love Rajnikanth, I would not at all hesitate to state that if I reach anywhere close to him I will be really happy, considering the kind of a humble person that he has always been.

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