Stardust March 2001
Secrets That Were Never Bared&
…Not many people I have come across can bear the burden of uninterrupted
hostility and repugnance. But Salman Khan is an exception. For years now, everyone’s played the bull’s-eye on him with vitriolic joy. And the man has preferred not to swim against the tide; thereby empowering the image people have contrived of him. Sometimes, I suspect he even relishes this game. He probably believes that this is indeed the best way to keep his own distinctive selfdom intact.
Over the past few months, there has been a virtual outrage against the man. Suddenly, people are waking up from their idealistic clamshells to deride his actions - especially concerning the current love of his life, Aishwarya Rai. His overtly possessive nature is being given a hazardous tag. Does it affect Salman?
No way. So why are we out to take a stand against his image crucification?
The answer is within the question itself. Who decides what’s right and what’s wrong? Is he the only one who’s been reckless in love? And remember, we’re not talking about two juvenile minds here. One of them is a superstar while the other is a woman of the world. If they believe they are made for each other, whose problem is it anyway? Maybe in time to come, they may be proved wrong. But does that give everyone the exemplary right to sneer at their relationship at this stage?
This is not an attempt to vindicate Salman from all that he’s done. But I believe there are multifarious dimensions to every person and what we often see or hear may not really be the ultimate truth. The constant bickering over his affair with Aishwarya has just been the final straw that’s impelled us to analyze the superstar from a new perspective.
A man who doesn’t defend his reputation is not necessarily a man who has no reputation.
The man people believe Salman is today has been through a lot of trying times. There was a time when nobody thought he could ever make it, not even his own family. Much before ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’happened to him, when ‘Stardust’wanted to do a shoot with him for an Annual issue, his father Salim Khan had mentioned to one of the cats, ‘Why are you guys shooting him? He’s not a star. I am. Do a feature with me.’
There is no doubt that Salman has been a complexed child; in fact, when he was still unaffected by stardom, he was rather unreserved about his insecurities. The fact that his father had another woman in his life (Helen) was something he couldn’t come to terms with for a long time. But things have changed radically and so has Salman’s mindset. Today, he respects and loves Helen as much as his real mother. Much recently, he organised a stage-show with leading heroines performing on some of Helen’s unforgettable numbers - which was perhaps his greatest tribute to her. After the show was over, Salman was so overwhelmed with emotion that he hugged Helen and wept uncontrollably.
‘He’s a very sensitive guy,’brother Arbaaz says about him. ‘He likes to portray a tough exterior because he doesn’t want people to know the real him.’
Salman has always been very passionate in all his relationships. And to be truthful to the guy, before Aishwarya, he had only three major emotional encounters - Shaheen, Sangeeta Bijlani and Somy Ali. Sure there were a lot of touch-and-go flings. But tell me one hero who’s not indulged in them? The movie business itself is so enticing that sometimes, it becomes awfully difficult to hold back a vehement feeling of attraction. And with such close proximity that stars share, the task becomes all the more easy.
Salman faced a lot of flak when he chose Somy over Sangeeta. It was a very painful split for the actress who lambasted the actor all across the media. Salman maintained a dignified silence throughout and didn’t even feel bitter about Sangeeta’s acidic comments.
Like one of his close business associates says, ‘He knew he had wronged her. He wanted to marry Sangeeta at one time. But after a point, the relationship just began to crack. Salman saved Sangeeta by not marrying her because it would have been a disastrous marriage.’Sangeeta blamed Somy for the whole mess. But in retrospect, the equation was very simple. What Sangeeta did to Shaheen, Somy did to Sangeeta.
At that time, most people close to the Khan boy believed that the relationship with Somy would never last. But Salman was genuinely in love with the girl. He was absolutely besotted by her. During the peak of their romance, Somy’s father had warned her against seeing Khan. That was one reason why he had got her shifted into an apartment from the Sea-Rock Hotel, where she was residing earlier. But Salman remained undeterred. He wasn’t allowed to enter the house because of the father’s strict instructions. So in the middle of the night, he would climb up to the first floor apartment with the help of the water pipe. The local residents often saw him doing this but that didn’t make any difference to him. And remember, he was a major superstar even then.
The Salman-Somy relationship was rather strange. She had her brief entanglements with stars like Saif Ali Khan and Gulshan Grover and Salman accepted her despite that. In fact, their liaison was so above-board that Salman would even confess to her if he had ever strayed. Once, when he was shooting at Mehboob Studios (very close to where Somy lived), a well-known actress had propositioned him outright. Salman told Somy about it but she didn’t believe him. So he telephoned the actress and made Somy listen to their conversation on the parallel line. ‘What are you doing? I’m waiting for you. Please come fast,’the actress told him.
I believe that his intentions were very honourable with Somy. He wanted to marry her. But he did feel that she was too childish and immature. Salman thought that Somy needed to grow a little more before she could take on the responsibility of being a star-wife. If Salman didn’t respect her (as most people perceive), he would have never let her live in his house. After Somy’s father gave her the ultimatum, she had to move out. She didn’t even have any work to support herself financially. Salman could have easily got her another apartment. But he preferred that she stayed with his family. And all this was done with the complete cooperation and approval of his family members.
It wasn’t Aishwarya Rai who killed that relationship, as hearsay goes. It was the never-ending wait that eventually got to Somy. She wanted marriage desperately because she demanded a respectful acknowledgement to of her love affair. And Salman kept postponing that. For him, she was still a child. It was Somy who ended it when she dashed off to Florida to be with her mother, leaving a desolate Salman behind. If Salman didn’t care enough, he would never have followed her there. He pleaded with her to return but Somy was adamant. A couple of months later, when he was performing at stage-shows all across the States, he specially flew to Florida to meet her again.
Salman Khan has maintained that he has never emotionally cheated on any of the four women he loved. He may not have been tenacious enough to resist the temptation of the forbidden fling. He may even possess that unforgiving quality of physically assaulting his women. But I believe that the pain and trauma that some of our greatest stars have thrust upon their respective women has been far more, in comparison. Which of our stars can claim that they haven’t emotionally hurt their loved ones? Dilip Kumar? Amitabh Bachchan? Aamir Khan? If these three, who exemplify morality and righteousness in the movie industry, cannot vouch for the same, what right does anyone have to implicate Salman?
Salman’s greatest flaw (as I see it) is that he prefers not to be media-savvy. Which is why most of the stories concerning him never die a natural death. They keep floating on until they reach a point of saturation. Earlier, the actor would get very affected by what was written about him. I recall him once sending message to me through Somy to call him. When I did, he was fuming over the phone, ‘You don’t know me. You don’t know what I can do. If you have the guts, meet me right now. I’ll show you,’he threatened, excitedly. I told him he was speaking like a child. But if it was just the question of meeting him, I was ready. I asked him when and where. And there was silence. Holding back his breath, he said calmly, ‘Forget it, man. Just leave me alone. I don’t want any of this. Just let me be.’That’s the day I realised that Salman simmers with fury until he overflows with emotion. He needs an outburst and then he is fine. Which is what makes him the man he is - sensitive, straightforward and unadulterated. If one takes the trouble of sifting beneath the facade, there’s a man who’s great company.
But because Salman refuses have his say, the stories about his misdemeanors keep mounting. Even when he had the problem with Subhash Ghai (when he physically beat up the director), the media only heard one side of the story. And the controversy died a natural death because the very next day, Khan and Ghai patched up, ending the issue forever. But as Salman told someone later, ‘He (Ghai) kept instigating me. And I kept reminding myself that I was at Kailash and Aarti’s place and I should not create a scene. When I went to the loo, he followed me there. And there, he said something to me that was very disgusting. But I still kept my cool. I just walked out in the main hall where everyone was present. I picked up a plate and was eating when he came near me and started annoying me again. That’s when I just lost it and then, I couldn’t stop myself.’
There are various sides to Salman, even on the professional front, which are either deliberately ignored or sidelined. He’s probably the only actor I know who genuinely revels in the success of his contemporaries, if he believes they are deserving enough. When Sunil Shetty had just entered the industry, Somy was offered a film opposite him. At that time, she was in two minds about taking up the offer. That’s when Salman predicted that he would be an A-grade star soon. This was a time when he didn’t even know Sunil; he had just seen some rushes of the actor.
Then at one time, he was closest to Sunjay Dutt. After ‘Saajan’became a hit, he was so overjoyed because everyone was reacting positively to Sunju. ‘He’s been my hero and it’s great to see him in his best phase,’he had told a close friend.
After Sunjay, it was Hrithik’s turn.
The junior Roshan had called him out of the blue and requested him to give him some tips on bodybuilding.
Salman obliged at once. Not even for a moment did he fear that the same hero would be a future threat to him. In fact, when Hrithik had a special trial show of ‘Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai’for him, Salman went into raptures praising his performance. At the end of the film, he just hugged him and said, ‘You’re a phenomenon, man.’
Currently, Salman is grooming actor Inder Kumar on the same lines. They will be appearing together in Sohail Khan’s next film. Salman has helped Inder develop a fabulous physique. And now, he’s telling him to wait until the film’s release so that people get a shock of their lives when they see him. He’s literally monitoring Inder’s career step by step. Which other actor would have the courage to do something like this?
Which other actor can claim to have genuine concern for the distressed - like Salman has for terminally ill patients? The actor regularly visits children suffering from crucial diseases and brings some joy into their lives. He was also the only actor who dared to donate his bone-marrow for a suffering child. Unfortunately, their groups didn’t match but the significance lies in the noble deed. But nobody writes or talks about all this - simply because nobody knows.
When Mukul Anand passed away, Salman was the first to suggest that they finish his incomplete dream, ‘Dus’. He personally sat over the screenings of all that Mukul had shot of the film, trying to put the pieces together. But since there was no definite script, they had to scrap the film. Later, it was his idea to make a music video on the popular song of ‘Dus’. He got Nitin Manmohan involved in it and even negotiated with a music company for the rights of the album. He also got stars like Sunjay Dutt and Shilpa Shetty to participate in the video. After the shoot was over, he held Mukul’s wife and sobbed like a little baby. Salman was completely involved in this project, just like it were his own, but he never took credit for the same. Because that wasn’t the reason why he had done all that.
Sometime back, a weekly paper even went to the extent of accusing Salman of being communal - an insinuation that’s not just untrue but even absurd. Let’s rewind and take an overall view of the Khan family. His father Salim is married to a Hindu woman. The woman Salman is most protective about, Helen, hails from an Indo-Burmese background. Brothers Arbaaz and Sohail have Hindu wives. Sister Alvira has tied the knot with Atul Agnihotri, again a Hindu. Moreover, the family has adopted and showered their unconditional love on little Arpita, who had no family. They never knew what religion she belonged to but that never came in the way of their unrestricted affection.
Salman is just another human. And like all humans, he too has his share of blemishes. The question is, do we keep harping on his deficiencies indefinitely or do we give him a fair chance?
Right now, the industry and the media seem to be awfully concerned about Aishwarya because she’s going steady with Salman. Her parents have made their displeasure public. But when the girl is hopelessly in love with him, why are others making such a big hue and cry? And who knows, maybe he’s finally found his true love. Right now, there are even rumours that the two are secretly married (according to a website) but that seems unlikely. However, the fact is that Aishwarya has been accepted by his family already and she’s even a part of all the in-house functions and ceremonies. If they want to spend the rest of their lives together, nobody can come between them. And all the drama that Salman has indulged in with regard to this particular episode (like the midnight altercation outside her house when she didn’t let him in) is just an indication that the man thinks from his heart, not from his mind. He reacts on instincts, without being bothered about whether it is right or wrong. Without caring a damn for his image or the repercussions.
Come on guys, we have an original here. Enjoy him. He’s probably the last of the breed.
- Ashwin Varde