He’s been dubbed prince of darkness, bad boy… everything. But he’s outlasted the epithets, the name calling, the bad press. Salman Khan is a law unto himself. A one-man industry. The more the bad press grows, the more his popularity rises. Simply put, you can’t touch this.
Q. You faced several health problems while shooting for Ek Tha Tiger.
A I was suffering from trigeminal neuralgia (a facial nerve disorder that gives a shock-like pain to the forehead, cheek and jaw). I underwent gamma knife surgery in the US. It’s the most excruciating pain one can ever suffer from. I endured that for seven years. This illness began when I had begun shooting for Partner. It felt like someone was socking me continuously. Then after every minute, that pain would shoot up four times in intensity and last for almost 45 seconds. I couldn’t talk, walk or act then. It took me an hour and a half to eat one omelette. The only time that I could eat was after two to three drinks. Alcohol kind of numbs the senses. But after a point even that stopped working. I couldn’t talk properly. There was a time I’d take about 7500 mg of painkillers and yet the pain would persist. The doctors couldn’t believe that I had endured it for seven years because apparently this illness has triggered the maximum amount of suicides. They asked, ‘You’re still alive?’ People, who suffer from this illness usually don’t speak about it. But once I began talking about it, people have begun to seek help now. This problem can be easily tackled. But now I have developed other problems. I have a 3.5 mm aneurysm in my brain and AVM malfunction (an abnormal connection between arteries and veins).
Q. What is aneurysm?
A Aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning of an artery. It’s close to the brain. So I can’t get it operated on. If I do, there are chances I might slip into a coma.
Q. With so many complications and pain, how did you manage all those stunts in Ek Tha Tiger?
A It was a challenge. I’m not supposed to bend, do somersaults or undergo fluctuations in blood pressure. I’m not supposed to exert to the extent that I start panting. Above all, I’m not supposed to indulge in any action where my head is lower than my body. But, I am doing stuff that I’m not supposed to and that’s the story of my life.
Q. Your family must be traumatised by your illness…
A I never shared my discomfort with them. Looking at the suffering around, you feel you’re better off than most. The pain was there but I handled it. When I went in for the surgery, Arbaaz (Khan), Sohail (Khan) and Alvira (Khan) were with me while Arpita (Khan) stayed back in Mumbai with mom and dad.
Q. Were you tense before the surgery?
A Before going in for the surgery, I was like, ‘Chalo guys see you later.’ Arbaaz said, ‘We’re in the cafeteria.’ The surgery, which was scheduled for two hours went on for more than eight hours. (Laughs) Meanwhile, Arbaaz got bored and he did all his tests and made the doctors quite miserable there.
Q. What’s your equation with Arbaaz and Sohail?
A We’re friends. Sohail is five years younger to me but once you grow up it doesn’t matter. In fact, dad’s friends are our friends and our friends are dad’s friends. We have the same group of friends.
Q. Do you give them advice?
A No, no. They’re smart. In fact, I’m completely out of the loop. They are more into worldly things so I’m the one who gets advice.
Q. You’re leading amongst the Khans today with a hat-trick of hits…
A There’s nothing like that. I don’t know what makes a film do well. It could go completely wrong too. I’m doing films, which are larger than life, and it only gets larger than the previous one. All I know is that the audience shouldn’t find it ridiculous. That actor might become a caricature of himself. Also, the next film has to be better than the previous one and not be so larger than life that it’s unbelievable. So basically if your emotion and love story is working, your film works.
Q. Your father, writer Salim Khan created superstars. But you became a superstar without a single script written by him…
A Salim Khan has created superstars with his writing. But Salim Khan has produced me. I was his first production. So I’m ahead of everyone else. He not only produced me but also directed me in real life.
Q. Is there any character written by your father that you’d wished to enact when you were growing up?
A It has taken me 20 years to play larger-than-life characters. My real-life image plus my reel image has worked to create these characters. As Prem in Maine Pyar Kiya, I could never dream of doing the action films I’m doing today. I tried that earlier but it never looked convincing. I’ve played a cop; a lawyer but they didn’t have any impact. It didn’t look convincing. I couldn’t even play a mohalle ka dada taking on 10 people. But today I might be able to pull it off with conviction. It’s taken me two decades to earn the love and respect of my fans. I want to live up to that trust.
Q. Children love you and think you’re special. They swear by you.I guess it’s because I like children.
A I like the naughty ones and I like the sweet ones. It’s the extra smart ones I’m not really fond of. But it’s not their fault; it’s the fault of their parents who bring them up like that. Some parents want to fulfill their dreams through their children.
Q. You seem to be tremendously fond of your nephews (Ayaan, Nirvaan and Arhaan)…
A Yes, I am. They are good kids. Naughty but respectful and fun. They love sports. They are good in studies too.