It’s no secret that Salman Khan has a rather whimsical equation with the press. Whenever I have seen him at events and press conferences, the actor either appears distracted and zoned out or the opposite: funny, attentive, and in the mood to have a baller time.
On Wednesday evening at Bandra’s Taj Lands End, Salman is busy gorging on keema pao, straight from the containers of the buffet spread. At the same time, he’s also talking to a journalist, calling Pritam, the music composer, ‘lethargic and lazy.’
While I worry he’ll be his usual inattentive self, Salman, dressed in a black tee and a black denim, takes a smoke break. His film, Tubelight, is days away from release and the pressure is palpable. Khan’s eyes look droopy, his gait, tired. He is not only acting in the film but also producing and distributing it.
After waiting for over two hours (that’d come at the cost of standing up a date), Khan sits with me for a chat. Excerpts:
Kabir Khan’s Tubelight once again portrays you as a sincere, innocuous, do-gooder who’s just too nice to do any wrong — a trend that started with Bajrangi Bhaijaan and was seen in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo too. What draws you to these characters?
Like you said, the niceness of it. But with Tubelight, my agenda is different — after the film, I want brothers, who may not have spoken to one another in months and years, to call each other up and forget the differences, if they had any. I want them to be so emotionally overcome that they just let past differences aside and say, “Hey man, let’s party.” Many times, in our families, we end up cutting ourselves away from our siblings. Sometimes the issues are trivial, sometimes serious. But why let it affect you? I hope Tubelight can achieve that. It touches on those emotions. This film is beautifully shot. It’s also styled very well by Lepakshi Ellawadi, who did Sultan and is doing Tiger Zinda Hai.
But Salman, do you actually believe films can end family feuds and change people’s lives?
Absolutely. I’ve seen films that have changed my life. And trust me, if a film can change me, out of all people, a film can change anyone. It is the only medium that has such a huge influence on your psyche. When you sit in that dark room and see a character, you are also internally absorbing its ideas and traits.
When you see nobility being projected by a hero, you are inspired to emulate it. This is one of the reasons why I haven’t ever played a negative character. Negativity in a character doesn’t impress me. Say if you have a character who earns a living through corrupt means, man, that puts me off. I will never play a dark character. Underdogs impress me. Those who make it against all odds impress me. I want to tell their stories.
But doesn’t that limit you as an actor? A lot of great performances in cinema have come from actors who’ve played dark, twisted, villainous roles.
Well, I don’t know. From the stuff I do, a Dabangg is a character that is sort of, somewhere-in-between. His intentions are good, actions aren’t all that good. So you try and balance that off. My next, Tiger Zinda Hai, also veers in the grey area. I am also doing a crazy dance film. So while I do wanna portray characters which are inherently nice, I don’t want them to be one-dimensional. It has to have style and swag and some depth.
While your popularity in the country is undeniably huge, I believe there is a certain section in the audience who aren’t your fans and perhaps, they’ll never be. While some don’t want to be seen endorsing your brand of cinema, some will find hard to appreciate even a good film only because you are in it. A lot, I think, has to do with the notoriety of your past.
Well, I don’t know. I move around and meet all sorts of people but funnily, I have never been told that. Neither have I noticed that. But if you say so, all I can say is that I will probably have to work that much harder to win them over. I know it won’t happen overnight but I can only hope that some day they’ll warm up to me as an artist.
Do you feel you are unfairly judged by your critics?
I genuinely, honestly don’t care. I believe that they’ve no right to take anybody’s hard work down. The fans will decide that, in any case. The box-office will prove it one way or the other. What have you done to earn the right to rip a film apart? On Day 1 of the release, you write some rubbish crap. It destroys films and a lot of hard work that went behind making it. With me, of course, it doesn’t make any difference. And I think they know it all too well. My films are critic-proof. I am telling them now: go give my film minus 100 stars, why just zero. Let’s see how that pans out. My fans will anyway watch my film and that’s my reward. It only makes them look like a bunch of idiots.
My films are critic-proof. I am telling them now: go give my film minus 100 stars, why just zero. Let’s see how that pans out. My fans will anyway watch my film and that’s my reward. It only makes them look like a bunch of idiots.
I am pretty sure that our critics aren’t under the delusion that they can influence the market of a Salman Khan film. What I want to know is — what is your analysis? Why do you think they are so insanely crazy about Salman? I cannot even send a negative tweet about you without getting massively trolled by this insane sub-culture of bhai fans.
I don’t know. Maybe they think I’m one of them. Maybe they think I am just a regular dude who’s chill and approachable and has no airs of being a superstar. And I have remained like that right from the start. I lived in Indore in a boarding school until the age of 16. That really grounded me. I hung around on the streets, went to the farms. There’s nothing fancy about my life. I like cycling around the city, I hop into an auto-rickshaw now and then. I don’t drive a big car — I hate big cars. Maybe that, along with the kind of films I do, make them think I’m, I don’t know, accessible in a way?
I don’t drive a big car — I hate big cars.
Perhaps. It’s hard to decode stardom.
It is. I just think I am a guy who lucked out. Mostly because of the family I was born in. I am immensely fortunate to have the kind of family and friends and the fans I have. Some people come to me and tell me that their children are yet to talk but if they see a Salman Khan song, they jump, react, laugh. They can recall me by my name. Earlier it used to be Prem and Chulbul but now it’s Salman.
I don’t get it. There are children and youngsters who idolize you and have deified you. They look up to you, want to emulate you, carry your style. But I believe you’re obviously a very flawed person to idolize. You’ve had some very serious court cases against you. Why should anybody just forget and forgive and move on to your next blockbuster?
Everybody has a past. Does that make you a bad person for life? In my case, there is deliberate malice. When people go after you for something you have not done, it’s bad. Next thing you know you are running around courts and people are judging you.