Thursday, December 27, 2012

Salman Khan

“I don’t want to be a larger-than-life superstar”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the December 22 issue of Super Cinema) 

Salman, is well, Salman. What do you say about an actor who can possibly be called the ‘King of the masses’? He’s given back-to-back hits and the experience of watching a Salman Khan film at a single screen theatre, with all the ‘seetis’ and ‘taalis’, is just something else. While we may all love the change in Hindi cinema, with films going all contemporary, let’s not deny that all of us do enjoy these out-an-out ‘masala’, quintessential Salman Khan films as well. He has his distinctive style when it comes to his films, or dance or whatsoever. His kind of fan-following, leaves you amused. Having started off, with boy-next-door roles like Prem to now having this larger-than-life heroic, on-screen image, Salman’s journey has truly been commendable. He puts in so much of his personal touch to every character he portrays, that people end up calling him by his character, be it Chulbul or Tiger. But he says, he’s not really like any one character. Salman could also be credited for starting this whole, ‘great body’ phenomena, and even the fittest actors may not be able to carry off a ‘shirtless’ look like him. After all, it’s all about the attitude right? While his on-screen image leaves you intimidated, he believes, it’s not the same off-screen. Undoubtedly, the masses welcome him with open arms when his film releases. And now, he’s back, with one of his most iconic characters – Chulbul Pandey. The opening of the film on Friday has been humungous. When we met Salman few days before the film’s release, he seemed confident, and hoped the audience would like ‘Dabangg 2’ just as ‘Dabangg’. He looked pretty exhausted with all the promotions, yet, was in high spirits as he continued to put his humour to display. All calm, composed, and happy, he settled down for a chat, as he spoke about ‘Dabangg 2’, films making 100 crores, his journey, his characters and so much more! Read on…

There’s this whole rage about the ‘100-crore’ club. Do you think now it’s become extremely normal for a film to do that kind of business? It’s been slated that ‘Dabangg 2’ might cross 300 crores?
Let’s first comfortably reach 200 crores at least. Even 100 crore is not possible for some people, so 300 is quite far. But see the theatres are increasing, theatre prices are increasing, fan following is increasing, and people are going to watch a film second and third time, so that has to happen right? I think 100 crore is quite an achievable target now. Atleast for some of us. Only if it’s a really bad film for a big star, it may not cross that. But today, 100 crore is not a big deal as it used to be 2-3 years ago. 300 crore is far, but one thing is for sure, in our lifetime only films may start crossing 300, 400 and 500 crores.

Arbaaz makes his directorial debut. How was it being directed by him?
Arbaaz is a film industry boy. He’s also been an assistant director and he’s been on the sets. He knows the ropes of direction. So, it wasn’t like it’s a new guy directing. Also, the comfort zone between me and Arbaaz is very good, we’re very close and so we used to help each other. Moreover, I think he’s a sensible guy and he’s a fantastic story teller. It’s difficult to manage acting, producing, and directing together, but he’s managed to balance it well. I think he’s a better director, than an actor or producer.

This seems like a ‘family’ film. Does that make the film easier?
Yes, it does get easy. There is a very nice atmosphere. And we got a good script, plus the confidence of the previous film helped. Since it is a home-production, it gets easy. If it was someone else’s production house, it would have been a big task. But since it’s a family thing, it was okay. Like if we didn’t like a scene, we could do it again. Though, that never really happened. But it was a pretty easy way to go about it.

Do hit films bring along responsibility? As in, more expectations from your upcoming films…
The only responsibility is that things should go smoothly from the time I sign a film, to when it releases. Finishing shooting for the film, and then making people aware as to when is it releasing, what’s the genre of the film, and who are the actors in the film, that’s my only responsibility. But after the film releases, there’s no responsibility because nobody knows what shall happen. Sometimes the audience likes a film, sometimes it doesn’t. And nobody makes a film for a loss. Everyone works equally hard, everyone puts in money. Nobody puts in the efforts for a flop. It all depends on the audience.

Sonakshi was a debutante in ‘Dabangg’, and now she’s quite a few films old. Do you see any difference in her?
No difference as such. She’s always been a very talented girl. All she had to do was lose weight before she joined films. So no difference that I see in her. Lately, the media has been bashing her for her weight. But she’d put on some extra weight for ‘Dabangg 2’ since she’s pregnant in the film. The kind of attachment she has towards ‘Dabangg’, she didn’t mind doing that because she had to look like she’s 4-5 months pregnant. She can’t look like a model right? And that’s why she looked like that in her other films too and people then have been criticising her. But now that ‘Dabangg’ is over, she’s lost some weight again.

‘Dabangg 2’ tackles the post marriage romance that we hardly see in films lately...
Not just in films, but even in real life, there’s hardly any romance left between couples. Once you get married, the romance is over. That’s what we’re trying to get in the film. Very few married couples have that kind of romance left.

So, the script of ‘Dabangg 3’ is already ready?
Yes, we have a script, but let’s see if ‘Dabangg 2’ does well. ‘Dabangg 2’ is a continuation to ‘Dabangg’, and we’ve started from where we left. We’ve moved into a bigger city. Chulbul has gone from Lalganj to Kanpur. It’s a continuation because we felt, Chulbul Pandey is nothing without Rajjo, Prajapati Pandey, Makkhanchand Pandey, Tiwari ji, Chaubey ji. So, it’s a bigger city, bigger villain. But, ‘Dabangg 3’ won’t move to the bigger city. We’ll go back and show how Chulbul Pandey became Chulbul Pandey. So the third ‘Dabangg’ is actually the first one. We won’t be moving to a bigger place or something. Sonakshi will also be a part of the third installment, but Chulbul and Rajjo don’t meet in that one.

You add your personal touch to each character, so much so, that people assume that Chulbul Pandey or Tiger is synonymous to Salman Khan. But, it’s not, right?
Yes, very true. I’m not like Chulbul or Tiger. There are lots of shades to everybody’s character. Like say, Chulbul. We hear stories, we meet different people. So sometimes, when we feel that we can add personal elements to a character, we do that. So, you see that little personal touch sometimes. There would be a huge amount of Salman’s contribution in Chulbul. Because Salman cannot do such things in real life, so he makes Chulbul do it. And even if Salman dares to do what Chulbul does, he’ll get into trouble. (Laughs). But I’m not Chulbul or Tiger. It depends. Like at home, I could be a little like Prem, but if there’s something I don’t feel is right, then I could become like Chulbul or Tiger. For the classes, I could be Tiger and for the masses, Chulbul.

From the simple, loving Prem to the larger-than-life characters that you’re playing now. That’s quite a shift!
Every person is greedy. Even you as an actor, and even the audience, your fans, and everyone expects more from you. Work is tiring, especially the kind of work I’m doing right now demands a lot. So, after being appreciated in ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, there’s a lot expected from you. Now at 47-48, I’m expected to do, ten times better work than I’d done when I was 21-22. The older you grow, the younger and better you’re expected to look, the higher you’re expected to kick, the harder you have to work and now, you’re not forgiven. And, unless and until, you don’t do all these things, you can’t romance. But you know, the reason why I also started doing action was to remain fit. I thought I was slipping. I wanted to be fit, and not be all lazy. Otherwise, then, people would start calling me ‘Salman uncle’. But, the kids these days, I totally love them. Because, they don’t call me uncle or ‘bhai’. They straight away call me Salman (smiles). And, I’ll be getting into the ‘Prem’ avatar very soon for Sooraj Barjatya’s film.

Is doing a sequel tougher or easier?
It’s tough. Even in ‘Dabangg’, the second one has been very tough because in the second one, you tend to get carried away. For instance, I had this laugh in ‘Dabangg’ at one or two instances which became Chulbul’s signature laughter. But while shooting for the sequel, I realised that I was laughing like that in every third scene. That’s not right. See, Chulbul Pandey is a very serious guy. People found his antics funny, but he wasn’t a funny man. What he did, looked natural and not a deliberate attempt to make people laugh. But, in the sequel, while doing some scenes, I felt we were making a deliberate attempt. So, second one you tend to get carried away. It needs to look human, and you shouldn’t be making the character larger-than-life or a caricature. I think the only person who makes his sequels in an outstanding manner is Sylvester Stallone. Be it ‘Rocky’ or ‘Rambo’. They’ve kept it at a human level only. Not larger-than-life or a superhero or any caricature.

People say that ‘Salman Khan has got the pulse of the audience’. You think it’s true?
No, it’s not. I don’t think I have got the pulse of the audience. I think I’ve just got my own pulse. If I go by my own pulse, and if I believe that my own pulse is the audience’s pulse, then I’ve got it. Though, sometimes I also get confused. But, if a script makes me laugh, or it intrigues me, if I feel that this is something I want to do, and would enjoy doing, despite being in the industry for so long, then, I’m happy doing it, and I feel the audience will like it too. If I’ve enjoyed doing something, I believe the audience shall enjoy it too, unless as Salman Khan I’ve lost the plot. If Salman Khan feels that Chulbul Pandey can pull this off, that’s all right. But, if Salman thinks that Salman can pull this off, then he has lost the plot. Thankfully, that’s in control so far. I also have my family to keep that in control, since they would laugh at me, if I think or say something like that.

Post ‘Veer’, you’re being extra careful about your films. That’s a conscious decision?
I had cut down that film to 1hour, 55minutes and that was the perfect length for that film. But, they released the film at 2hours, 38minutes. The 1hour, 55minutes film that I saw was a rocking film. But the makers made it long, and thought they could get away with that but they didn’t. I was extremely upset, because I’d written the film, and I knew that the film looked very stretched with a duration of 2hours, 38minutes. I knew that if it is that long, I would need extra 18 days to shoot the film, so it looks intriguing and action packed, because I needed those high points. Thank God, it didn’t happen but that film was going to be four hours long, I cut it down. But they just stretched it, and that’s a headache. I told that to our director Anil Sharma, but he said long films only worked. So, post ‘Veer’, I’ve made sure that the final cut will go with my approval, because see, at the end of the day, people will come to the theatre to watch a film seeing me in the poster. And if it turns out bad, I am the one who’ll bear the most of it. Earlier I used to get emotional and let go off things. Now I’ve learnt. Aamir does that very correctly you know. He’s particular about what he wants, right from the beginning and that’s very correct. Though, when I put my foot down, sometimes I feel that I hope I’m not taking advantage of my stardom, because that’s a big guilt. But sometimes, you have to be firm. People might say that, ‘he thinks too much of himself’ and all, but I can’t let a film get affected just for being polite to people. So, now I’ve started making it clear right at the beginning that the final cut will go after my approval. And then later there’s always a discussion as to what should go in the film and what not.

But you do seem to love playing such ‘larger-than-life’ characters…
I like to do that. I won’t leave my house, spend my money and go and watch a film if a character is not larger-than-life. Only then, there’s fun. Like Chulbul Pandey as a character has no limitation, he can do anything. Tiger as a character can be taken to a nice romantic level, and then to an action level. That’s more than enough for a character. But that’s only limited to characters, I don’t want to be a larger-than-life superstar.

Interestingly, even though you’ve done action films, your characters have always got that comedy element. What’s the thought process behind that?
Action alone would be boring, unless it’s Jackie Chan type of action. But I don’t want to take my action to the Jackie Chan level because that’s very difficult. So we keep it serious, but we also have gags and punches in between. The actor is not really aware of those gags, or doesn’t make it look like a deliberate effort but the audience laughs at it. It appeals to the audience. So, that’s the thought process. You can see the way Jet Li fights. He has that heroism, but there are gags too. Also, you know, just random action, can’t work. Action comes in with a baggage of emotion. When the emotion is correct, the action looks right. Any fight must have a screenplay. And when an action is backed by an emotion, only then, you can hear the audience saying, ‘Maar Saleko’.

Would we see you write soon?
May be. After I complete this current lot of films and then if I don’t get the kind of films I want, I could write.

And is direction on the cards, anytime?
At the moment, I’m letting it go the way it’s going, with the kind of acting offers I have. And little bit here and there, I do try my hand at direction. Direction in a full-fledged manner will happen, but later, not now.

Have you been planning to shift to a new house?
I want to, but I’ve not been able to move out of that house. It’s difficult because I’ve been there since childhood, and I’m so used to that house. But now, it’s getting very uncomfortable. There’s no place for my clothes, shoes and all that. So, I will have to move. I stayed for as much as I could stay in this house. I’ve also bought a property, and I’m getting the house done, but it’ll be at least a year before I move out.

Tell us about your line-up of films for the next year.
Right now, I’m working on Sohail’s film. Then there’ll be ‘Kick’. There’s a sequel to ‘No Entry’. And then of course, we have Sooraj’s film. When Sooraj’s film will come, that’ll just shake everyone. 

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