Star samaritan : Salman Screen Interview

In a freewheeling chat with Screen, Salman Khan talks of the Power of One, charitable pursuits, a game show with a twist and more

I am not going to touch any film which I am not excited about. Even if it is unnis-bees. let someone else take it up and turn it into the biggest hit. It should always be a film that I want to go into theatres and watch

There is no point in action if there is no love story, emotion or loss, revenge or some wrongdoing. Otherwise action doesn’t make sense. For every kick you deliver, there are several others who can do it better with cable or technique

At Mehboob Studio, his favourite location, Dabangg Khan, despite frenetic shooting schedules — jet-setting between Ireland, Bangkok among other places for the upcoming ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ — seems completely at ease. He should be. Being the cynosure of all eyes — which under the circumstances include a lot of foreign extras, unit hands, his manager and fans — has been a way of life for bhai for a while now.

A couple of hours late for the shoot of a song for buddy “(Preity) Zinta’s film”, he instantly slips into a black pathan suit before marching to the set for a Punjabi gig. After a quick rehearsal of “signature steps”, as described by the choreographer, he is ribbing the youngster about his skinny tie, which actually is a shoelace doubling up as a tie! Nobody except Khan has noticed the detail which gets everyone marvelling at his astute observation. But even if Salman simply stood up, bystanders would gaze adoringly. Perhaps even clap. The star power he exudes is pretty evident in the reaction it elicits from those around. Everyone, even those issuing instructions to him as well as buddy and producer Preity Zinta appear awestruck.

Khan simply owns the space.

And that is just a sample of Khan’s immense star power that has been on the rise ever since Wanted turned his box-office fortune — ‘Dabangg’, ‘Ready’ and ‘Bodyguard’ have only cemented his supremacy. And a National Award for ‘Chillar Party’, which he co-produced with UTV, has only helped.

His endorsement kitty looks impressive too, what with Croma, Relaxo, Suzuki, Thums Up, Revital and having snapped him up as their brand ambassador.

And Khan’s list of masala films is ever increasing. The shooting for ‘Dabangg 2 is already underway and ‘Kick’ with buddy Sajid Nadiadwala will commence soon as will brother Sohail’s ‘Sher Khan’. ‘No Entry 2’ and a film with Ramesh Taurani have also been pencilled in.

The spy thriller ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ with Yash Raj Films, for which he is reported to have been paid astronomical amounts, will be in theatres this Eid but where he has really turned corner with his star equity is as a philanthropist.

Being Human, his charitable enterprise, is thriving because he has tapped the corporate sector to support his cause. The power of one — a rupee for charity when purchasing a product or service (endorsed by Salman)—has encouraged a good response without the consumer feeling the pinch.

Excerpts from an interview with the actor:

Congratulations are in order — your maiden production ‘Chillar Party’ just bagged a National Award.

National Award was already given to us by the janta. Even those who didn’t see the film in theatres and watched it at home said that it was a lovely film. That was our award.

Have you approved of the next film for Being Human Productions?

No. I have been busy and not yet identified any film for Being Human.

Speaking of charitable endeavours, did you get a chance to catch any episode of ‘Satyamev Jayate’?

I loved ‘Satyamev Jayate’. I thought it was very honest. Aamir wants to make a difference and spread awareness. Political agenda nahin hai koi. Bas achcha karne ki chaah hai. Koi alag swaarth nahin hai. He’s a good guy anyway. On television, a lot of people have done this show but the fact that Aamir is doing this is a very bold step.

What did you think of the blood-curdling stories of infanticide and dowry demands?

The root cause is dowry — dowry band karo, sab band ho jayega. I have no respect for those m**********s who take money to get married. Bachchon ko IAS banaya to take dowry… Kya fayda agar padh likh ke apni biwi se paise lete ho?

When will you be back on small screen either in ‘Bigg Boss’ or another season of ‘Dus Ka Dum’ or a completely new show?

I am wondering now. I don’t know about ‘Dus Ka Dum’. We had two seasons and people really loved the show but it didn’t rate that well. As for ‘Bigg Boss’, we have not decided anything yet. (Greets a passer-by with ‘What’s up dude?’)

What kind of television show would you now like to host?

I want to make sure that someone who has no chance of winning wins. You give them questions and the person who gives the right answers is out. The person who gives the wrong answers stays on. There can be a lie-detector test, the polygraph test to know whether he truly does not know the answer. So people should say to themselves, “Arre I hope he does not have the answers…Arrey yaar, he knows the answers! (How sad).

Undoubtedly, an interesting concept but why reward the one who loses?

Har jagah first, second, third hota hai. The last guy is always out there — the loser…He’s trying his best yaar. Agar nahin hai usmein toh what’s wrong?

Tell us a bit about your next film ‘Ek Tha Tiger’. Does it worry you that recent films in that genre particularly those set on foreign soil have not done good business?

Action movies mein it’s the emotion that is more important. Like Bodyguard — in the last 25 minutes there was no action. The climax action scene got over in the middle of the second half. You have to have the soul. There is no point in action if there is no love story, emotion or loss, revenge or some wrongdoing. Otherwise action doesn’t make sense. For every kick you deliver, there are several others who can do it better with cable or technique.

And there is Dabangg 2 that everyone is looking forward to…

With Dabangg 2, we are taking the story ahead in a bigger city with bigger villains. But it’s not just about beating up more people. That masti is there, haramipanti is there but the character turned out right in the first film itself so you don’t have to do much with the character. Anything more than this would turn him into a caricature. There is Prakash Raj as the villain. Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) is there and so is Prajapati Pandey (Vinod Khanna).

What are the new projects that you have signed up?

I have Sohail’s film, ‘No Entry 2’, then ‘Kick’, Mr India’s sequel and a film with Ramesh Taurani.

Are you choosing your films with more care than in the past?

I am not going to touch anything that I am not excited about. Even if it is unnis-bees. let someone else take it up and turn it into the biggest hit. It should always be a film that I want to go into theatres and watch. To choose a film, it has to be the script and the final edit. I will always sit in on the edit. I had a bad experience with Veer. It was my fault that I didn’t put my foot down. They increased the length without my knowledge and I was really pissed off about it.

Since you mentioned watching films in theatres, any of the talked about films that you watched recently? ‘The Dirty Picture’, ‘Kahaani’, ‘Vicky Donor’?

The last two months have been very busy so I haven’t seen too many films but my parents watched ‘Vicky Donor’ and loved it. I did watch ‘The Dirty Picture’ though.

And what did you think of it? Has it changed the equation for heroines in a male-dominated industry?

It did really well so it’s a good film but not my kind of film. They (heroine-centric films) do okay na? Small budget films — `5 crore films which make `7-8 crore become hits. If you make a `100 crore film and it makes a profit of `6-8 crore, then it’s no fun. You have to be careful about the budget.

Superheroes is another concept that is gaining ground in Hindi cinema, so though Chulbul Pandey is a superhero, are we ever going to see you sport the superhero costume?

I don’t like the superhero concept. Our Hindi film heroes are already superheroes. We don’t need costumes.

Reports suggest that you are super-involved with scripting and also direction in ‘Dabangg 2’. Would you direct a film anytime soon?

Not yet . Arbaaz is doing it. He is very good as a director.

Usually you work with friends. So how was it being directed by Kabir Khan who is not a friend?

I prefer to work with people I get along with. Kabir is good. Very chilled. I liked working with him and the atmosphere while shooting was very nice.

You have also turned Being Human around with T-shirts and other merchandise so tell us all about that.

Not at all, we have just started doing some stuff. First it was making time for the charitable trust dedicated to raising money. One rupee, I believe, is a very large number. Sau mein se ek rupiya chala gaya toh it does not make a difference par jab hazaron, karoron mein aata hai to hazaaro karor ho jata hai. That’s what we are doing — we take one rupee per transaction (for Yatra). We can do 30 -40 transactions per day. It works up to a big number. We are following the same thing for all endorsements.

A condition for signing up is to help our charitable trust. So far the administrative cost of the trust is negligible. Out here whatever you give, goes straight to the patients.

Working in the industry I can only raise that much. But if I can endorse some stuff with my name then it begins to add up. There are times when they might want somebody else to endorse the product but still be a part of the charity, which is fine by me.


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