01 September 2012
With Ek Tha Tiger collecting over Rs 200 crore at the box office, he has catapulted the Hindi film industry into the mega-crore zone, demolishing all sense of existing commercial logic and records. Rinku Ghosh tries to demystify the phenomenon called Salman Khan…
There’s almost something of a Tom and Jerryish stretch about a damsel holding on to the straps of Salman Khan’s hawaii chappals on the edge of a snow-covered cliff and he pulling her up easily with a supermannish sweep. Except he doesn’t come with supernatural powers. He is dressed like a motley fool in Bermudas, pullover and skis on flip-flops. In fact, all he does is put his best foot forward, that, too, one with pink straps, overturning all knightly associations. Appreciatively enough, he even admits to the stupidity of the comic book logic. “Yeh kuch zyadaa hi ho gaya (This is just too much),” he says, adding “but you can still rely on the durability of this brand.” Yes, he may be selling the moon but he’s grounded enough to admit that his footwear would work quite well on earth.
That in essence sums up the phenomenon that is Salman Khan, the one man who has catapulted the Hindi film industry in the last five years into the mega-crore zone, demolishing all sense of existing commercial logic and records, restoring the credibility of the masala film and allowing enough spillover for everybody to feast on. No wonder, the one-man economy commands a loyal following that has made him larger-than-life. Yes, he can sell something as discardable as a flip-flop because he values the dignity of the common man’s well-worn efforts on the streets of a rain-washed Mumbai. Yes the girls fall for him because he is their Adonis, he dares to wear pink because he is a metrosexual, he laughs at his own tomfoolery, shattering the glass wall that separates the star from the commoner. He is both Man and Superman.
Yes, he is the Khan of Bollywood, different from the other three. Aamir is the crafty thinker-activist, Shah Rukh is new India and drawing-room polished while Saif’s elitism and refinement as an actor make him almost a club member on vacation. Salman is the man for all seasons, bourgeois chic to street smart. You could say he has become Rajnikanth, except that the latter builds a stratospheric aura even in real life while the former can just melt in the crowd, walking dogs on Bandstand, staying with his parents, even buying a cup of coffee like you and me. Having battled dormant trade winds, he is all too aware that the moneybags would look at the next guy waiting in the wings sooner rather than later. He knows nobody shows up for funerals when you are dead and gone, that you are lucky if you get 140-word RIPs on Twitter.
So how and why did he endear himself to us? A big part of the answer to that question has to be he grew with us, from his days in Indore to Mumbai, from innocence to experience. He came to us as Prem, the goofy lover who monkeys around but has a heart of gold. One who could easily win hearts of indulgent Indian mothers and aunts. One who could challenge the world with the fearlessness of youth as Salman himself did. A familiar model then, he signed up with the untested Sooraj Barjatya, who had himself just come out of film school, and the most unimaginable heroine in the sugary Bhagyasree. All three had nothing to lose and gave it their all. And that sincerity touched the sky. From Maine Pyar Kiya to Baaghi, Sanam Bewafa, Love and Saajan, everybody loved Salman with his lanky frame and long hair, bought into his pranks and endorsed his quasi-comic courtships and upstart demeanour. He became the “all for love” neighbourhood boy who ironically resurrected ditties and great melodies in Hindi cinema after the confused mediocrity of the late 1980s.
Then came Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, his first mega record film as a romantic lead and one that he respects as much today. In many ways, Salman Khan is much more practical than delusional. “The hundred crore figures don’t matter much… we have far more people with buying power, more theatres and multiplexes, even in small towns. So figures will always rise,” he said when asked to compare his early hits. Post-HAHK, Madhuri Dixit touched the zenith, even earning the sobriquet of “Lady Bachchan”. But Salman, strangely, had more hits in duet acts than as the solo hero. It was easy for him to have flaunted his ego as a dependable grosser but he chose to pair up with Aamir in Andaz Apna Apna and Shah Rukh in Karan Arjun, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam. Not only that, in none of these films did he thrust himself as a competitor but played subservient to the script.
Aamir and Shah Rukh strode away like a colossus, sweeping up the awards. Salman remained at that stage a graceful bystander, reconciled to pyrrhic victories but making valiant efforts to find a perch he could call his own. So he did a Khamoshi, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s poignant take on the classic deaf-and-dumb couple in Koshish, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and even Tere Naam, where his acting abilities were not lost on his audience. Many would say Salman Khan was a better actor those days. Watch him play the AIDS patient in Phir Milenge to believe he can deliver more than shrieks. But call it fate, his genuine performances have never gone beyond a footnote.
True. Few would know the mind that would remain unfazed by a rollercoaster called fortune and the politics of an industry that feeds off starry ego fights, sometimes even setting the stage for it through rude rumour-mongering. He did try to break out of the mould only to realise that the romantic lead was not his to seize anymore. He even posited himself as the torn man between powerful actresses like Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta. But as the shirtless loverboy in the hugely successful Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya, he displayed the first signs of dIbanggiri that would rescue him in later years. The audience knew he could do it.
The multiplex revolution brought in the new wave, the niche audience and indie films and needless to say Salman didn’t quite find himself in the nick. He wasn’t keen to prove that he had come of age either. He had to cock a snook. So he did the next best thing, lodge himself in the hearts of the masses for whom a Friday visit to the single cinema hall defined the weekend’s quota of entertainment. In films like Biwi No 1, Judwaa, No Entry and ultimately partnering with Govinda, Salman wore garish clothes, copyrighted the so-called sadak chaap dances, used street lingo and rebelled with a reverse snobbery. Nobody wanted that space ever since Govinda had abandoned it. And Salman not only made good with his part comic-part action hero abilities, he also did what Govinda couldn’t. He polished it up with his very public school grooming, almost embodying the idea of an India in change, where the small town newbie could become a big boss of the city, warts and all.
He had become everybody’s bhai because he had “made a commitment” to aspirant Indians to be their icon and show how all barriers could be crossed, even if it meant rippling muscles and tearing shirts with a steroidish push and going a bit over-the-top. A bad countryside joke would be of exotic value to a city slicker while giving confidence to the cycle parts owner in a bazaar town that his way of speaking had gotten a pan-India passport. Symbolically, the genteel Salman was peeling himself layer by layer, deconstructing and baring himself and assuming a messianic role as one who wasn’t scared of his frailties. In fact, you could go gung-ho about it, be it admitting to a hair graft, a painful disease, making politically incorrect statements or even allowing himself to be seen as an obsessive, possessive boyfriend who drove away women.
It is because of this attribute that you wouldn’t have any fan find fault with his rash driving, his black buck hunting or his temperamental fits. More often than not, they would find their Bhai as a victim of circumstance and conspiracy. And Salman uses this constituency well to cover his transgressions. “Bhai’s film a flop? Director ne theek role nahin diyaa hoga.” This was actually heard by a film-goer. And though he has denied he had a hand in making the careers of the women in his life, fans still insist that “the women used an innocent man to climb up the ladder and then badmouthed him.” As for the legal cases, the standard explanation is, “Bhai is one of us, simple. They have trapped him because he is a star.” So intense is his hold that even if he has to ad lib, he sounds convincing.
THE BUSINESS STRATEGIST
Questions arise whether he is as much of a smart strategist in the sense an Aamir or a Shah Rukh is, in his case making a virtue out of his common follies. He has certainly made the right moves. The brands he endorses are well thought out. He’s lent his name to yatra.com, the portal mostly used by budget travellers. He’s declared himself as its key shareholder, promised the best deal and no hidden costs. With Bhai keeping a hawk’s-eye, nothing could go wrong here. The most expensive endorsement has been of Sangini Jewellery. But that’s because Bhai can move mountains for his lady love.
When other actors fight shy of cheap brands, Salman endorses them wholeheartedly. Asked why he signed up a campaign for the detergent Wheel, the actor had smartly replied that he was merely thinking of childhood memories, of women washing clothes by the water tank or tap as children took a bath. The campaign where he is a concerned husband trying to reduce the chores of his young wife has a resonance across chawls in Mumbai. He even promotes a vest, the ultimate blue collar symbol, with panache for a brand called Dixcy Scott, teaching martial arts to Shaolin monks. Post-Ek Tha Tiger, he has shot for Cuba tourism, exotic and very India-like in equal measure, instead of Switzerland or Dubai that his peers have represented.
Of course, he has done his bit for young India, pulling off the wingsuit jump for Mountain Dew’s “Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai”, which jells well with his image of the invincible human spirit. He will be seen promoting bike brand Suzuki soon and as the face of History Channel, is emphasising the importance of pursuing knowledge in an entertaining format. True, he has been bratty that brands did not want to touch before but post-Wanted, everybody wants him for being able to crash the age, gender and class barrier.
Salman has cleaned himself up in the brand game, not simply by becoming everybody’s hero, but doing so effortlessly and laughingly. A cook in an upper middle-class Kolkata household reportedly sold her silver toe rings to buy tickets for watching Ready thrice, a privilege her autorickshaw driver husband had refused her after the first show. “I have never seen a funnier film in my life and this guy can beat the shit out of everybody,” she said.
The star almost always shows up in simple tees and jeans, never flaunts his brands and insists on wearing very regular clothes as protagonists of his films. He has always been a great dresser but plays down fancy tags. Instead, he has the courage to notch up even the most common shirt into a style statement. His onscreen characters have very “nobody” names — be it a Lovely Singh or a Chulbul Pandey. His “Being Human” T-shirts, though promoted by all his heroines on the ramp and sold to raise funds for charity, is the most pirated line of fakes in small towns and gullies. But Salman, the entrepreneur, doesn’t seem to mind it, so long as it franchises the idea of a megastar in their minds. He needs them on Eid and extended festival weekends that coincide with most of his releases. It’s simple, an extra holiday would raise the first weekend collections.
Salman’s greatest tool in his brand makeover has been as a television presenter, beaming live into every home and chatting up everyday participants in his game shows as if he was their next door neighbour. Although Amitabh Bachchan had done a Kaun Banega Crorepati, the everyman’s Khan shored up TRPs in such a manner with Dus Ka Dum that even the Big B had to take the “fraternise with the unknown Indian” route for subsequent editions of his quiz show. Salman’s clowning antics on television dropped the ultimate guard; he had no qualms showing his funny side to rank outsiders. So we watched him chatting up television bahus and vamps on Bigg Boss, even giving credibility to wannabes and forging friendships with those he found genuine. As another edition of Bigg Boss draws near, Salman has benchmarked himself a cut above. “This season will be a family show, there won’t be expletives or raunchy content,” he told the channel. The tiger has roared. Accessibility and camaraderie shouldn’t mean he will let anything pass. If he has overlooked the self-indulgent crudeness of the reality show so far, Rs 200 crore later he is in a position to change the rules of the game.
Salman takes his familyman image very seriously offscreen. Unconsciously, his pater familias persona is his biggest asset. He still lives in a one-bedroom apartment, a floor beneath that of his parents. According to press reports in the early part of his career, he had even designed his bachelor pad. His paintings, which are now sold through his “Being Human” foundation, have for long been his alternative form of expression.
Being born to a multi-cultural family, Salman has an extremely secular outlook, celebrating all festivals with equal gusto and bringing the whole family under one roof. And despite his star status, he has been the big brother, the favourite uncle, the responsible son, and more importantly been around when everybody needed him. Yes, he’s looked up to but maybe, just maybe, that pressure has also made him a bit of an isolationist, a protectionist who doesn’t show what he is really made of.
Over the years, he has developed an extended family. Be it in helping streetkids or his bodyguard Shera, he enjoys their unconditional support. He got Shera on stage to launch the trailer of Bodyguard and in the film sported his security company’s logo. Everyday, there’s a crowd outside his Galaxy apartments, not only of fans waiting for a glimpse from the balcony but of the underprivileged whose appeals he processes personally and helps through his foundation. He donates liberally to other organisations without the media’s knowledge because he feels it is highly uncharitable to remind beneficiaries that they are indebted to somebody.
His industry colleagues vouch for his philanthropy. He worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali when nobody did, he helped launch Hrithik Roshan, was a friend to Preity Zinta and Sushmita Sen, worked with Govinda when the latter was at his lowest and now continues to mentor younger stars. Ask Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha, who openly admit that had it not been for his prodding, they wouldn’t have believed it was possible to become a swan despite being chubby teens. Many in the industry, be it producers, musicians, dialogue writers, continue to be touched by his noblesse.
Yet Salman won’t do the talking. In fact, any attempt at prying him open and he hits back with a “don’t give a damn” attitude, like a shield. It isn’t that he hates interviews as such, it’s just that people tend to circumscribe him in controversies and seek explanations that irritate him. So he irritates them back. Yet, his indiscretions are far too many to ignore and only raise more questions. But that’s the enigma that works for Salman Khan the best. As he put it in his own words recently, “I don’t understand me, my father doesn’t understand me, nobody understands me.” But everybody loves him.
Beautiful article!! May He always keep rocking and stay Happy, Healthy and Successful (Amen)<3!!
19 August 2012
Julius Packiam, Mumbai-based music director and member of band Joshilay, talks to R Arora about creating music for Salman Khan’s latest release
He is the one who set the tone right for the tiger. Julius Packiam created the background score, Tiger Theme, for Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger. The success of 35 crore grosser and its music has benefited Julius in several ways. His remixed versions of Banjaara, Laapta and Mashallah, songs from the film, have received a million hits on Facebook. The remixed version of Mashallah has some Arabic renditions and the Tiger theme is bold and intense.
“People from Yash Raj Films approached me. I listened to the songs and agreed,” said Julius while he was at the Rhino club in Gurgaon to promote the music of Ek Tha Tiger.
Julius worked in films like New York, Dil Bole Hadippa, Paan Singh Tomar and Badmaash Company. He is also a part of two-member band Joshilay formed in 1997. “I and Jolly (vocalist, Joshilay) work with contemporary notes. We make simple and straightforward music,” shared Julius.
Rest at Daily Pioneer
Friday, 25 May 2012
Bollywood superstar Salman Khan will reportedly add to the glamour at the upcoming 13th International Indian Film Academy awards.
Contrary to reports that none of the Khans are going to attend the IIFA this year, the “Bodyguard” star will be in Singapore for the Bollywood extravaganza, sources close to the award ceremony said.
Salman will be returning to IIFA after two years as he did not attend last year’s awards. Parties thrown by the actor at the IIFA are very popular.
It is not clear yet whether Salman will be performing on the awards gala night where “Wanted” director Prabhu Deva will be choreographing the performances by various actors.
The IIFA weekend is being held from June 7-9 in Lion City Singapore.
★ “Salman Khan is stylish, and has amazing screen presence. His body does justice to stunts.” -M Rajanand
A day in the life of a stuntman
Monday, 14 May 2012
M Rajanand chats with Ektaa Malik about how things are like when one is organising action sequences for Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt. And the impact of technology on his work.
For Rajanand, who worked in Daud, Wanted and RGV Ki Aag, the show is a way to demystify screen action. “Stunts require chemistry between the team. Only then can we not get hit, and avoid accidents on the sets”.
Stunts for him are systematic. “They are all choreographed. It’s a physical orchestrated routine,” he shared.
What is his most dangerous stunt till date? “I jumped off a helicopter. The movie is yet to be released, so can’t reveal the name. Things were dangerous earlier. Now stunts have become tame,” he told us.
He has been on the job from 1984.
Rajanand is a huge fan of Sanjay Dutt, with whom he worked in Daud. “Sanjay is quiet. He zones out completely when he has to perform a stunt. Very dedicate. Salman Khan is stylish, and has amazing screen presence. His body does justice to stunts. Ajay Devgn is cool. Very controlled, in action sequences. Maybe its genes. His father is a veteran action director,” said Rajanand.