It has been 31 years and counting. Salman Khan remains on top of the Bollywood game and at the peak of his stardom. As the critics and opinion makers try to unravel the mystery of his ever increasing popularity, the actor wears it light and appears baffled himself. Excerpts from his interview:
How difficult it is for a superstar like you to maintain his stardom?
It will fade away. It’s a huge task to keep it going for such a long time. After a point, every superstar’s film does not perform as well and their collection comes down to 8-10 per cent. That will toh happen with me as well but I don’t think it has started yet (smiles).
But you still give the younger brigade of actors a run for their money whenever you appear on the silver screen.
I still don’t know what fans see in me. The kind of films I do are like those I have grown up watching. I used to react to those films the same way my fans react to my films. When my film plays on screens and fans enjoy, I feel I am watching with them and that I am watching what I would want to see myself.
Recently, Akshay Kumar said that he will be able to do action films maybe till he is 56-57 years of age. What about you?
Not too long I guess, another 30-35 years max (Grins).
Bharat will hit the screens in a few days. What is your feeling about the film?
The trailer and songs are good. It has a huge canvas. It’s been shot really well. Action, thrill, comedy, romance and all that stuff is there. But the main reason why this film was done is its plot. Here, a nine-year-old boy has been given the responsibility to take care of his mother and three siblings. There is a father, who promises to return. From the age of nine till 72, he has done everything to see that everyone stays together and his siblings get married and settle down. His journey shows it all.
It is being said that the character reflects your personality. You too have always supported your family and friends.
(Smiles) Actually, it is just the opposite. They always support me. I need the support.
Is Bharat your best film ever?
Every film is my best film.
Are you nervous?
If two-three films don’t do well, I may get nervous. So far, it’s been good. It was said that Race 3 did not do well, but it did Rs 170+ crores.
Heard that you narrated the story of Bharat to Sooraj Barjatya first?
Yes, I had narrated this subject to Sooraj Barjatya, and he made an amazing suggestion for the love story. I told Ali (Abbas Zafar, director) that he (Bharat) should not get married to her (Katrina Kaif’s Kumud). It just deviates everything. If he has his own family then what about his mother and siblings? Also, what about his focus on his father?
Which is your favourite Bharat look?
The character of the older one is awesome. He has humour, anger and swag.
Do you think your fans will accept it?
I have always been told that a hero has to have long hair. Whenever an actor’s hairline recedes, his career takes a backseat. In Tere Naam, I took my hair off and that look was accepted.
Ali says that you are a versatile and phenomenal actor but people do not look at you that way because you do not talk seriously or intellectualise your acting skills like others, who say, “I isolated myself..” or “I didn’t sleep for two days to prep for the role”
(Cuts in) But as it is I don’t sleep much, I sleep for just two to three hours and it is not because I work hard on my characters in the night. I paint, I write and I watch TV. I have this habit when I watch TV — if something is already going on it, I don’t change the channel. I get upset when somebody comes and changes the channel. Even if it is the Tata Sky homepage, I keep watching it. Then somebody comes and changes it. If cricket is going on, I watch it though I don’t understand much. If some South channel is on, like Raj TV, I watch it. The most dangerous thing nowadays is web shows. I finish four-four seasons in one go.
Which one are you watching these days?
I was watching Game Of Thrones but I stopped. I watched till the fourth season. Then there was a break, so I couldn’t see the whole thing. Then I watched Vikings. It’s outstanding. I finished Taboo. Then there was a show called Arrow. I like watching period stuff. I watched Peaky Blinders. Now I want to watch Money Heist. There are three-four more web shows that I would like to watch.
Do you take suggestions from your family?
Yeah, from my sisters! The day before yesterday, I heard the climax of Game Of Thrones from my sisters. They told me who killed whom and all of that.
You are producing something for the web space, right?
Yes, there is something in the pipeline. We are also producing a lot of content for television like The Kapil Sharma Show and Nach Baliye (Season 9).
Will you feature in any of the web shows you are producing?
No. But our Indian sensibilities are different, so we need to make web content keeping that in mind. I started TV because a lot of friends — with whom we cannot work in films — are big names on television. I started TV because of that, not to make money. We started to give more and more employment to directors, producers and actors.
Have you watched the Baahubali movies?
I watched Baahubali: The Beginning but could not watch Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. So I don’t know who killed Katappa (laughs). By the way, I won’t mind if you give me spoilers. Even if you tell me the whole story, I will still watch it.
How did Katrina take your comment about her winning the National Award for her performance in Bharat?
She thinks I am joking about it. She told me, “You have been saying National Award and everybody thinks it is a joke, and that I may not get it.” I told her I was serious about it. But she says the way I have been saying it, people might think I am joking. I really think she truly deserves the National Award for Bharat.
Do you think Katrina was the right choice for Bharat, and not Priyanka Chopra?
Priyanka was very keen to do this film. Initially, Ali and we thought that it was Katrina Kaif’s film. But she had just done Tiger Zinda Hai with me. Straight after Tiger Zinda Hai, doing another film with me did not make sense. Moreover, Ali said it was the role of a Hindustani girl. I said, ‘It’s strange. Katrina is your friend. You have worked with her on multiple projects.’ I asked him if Katrina herself did not have the confidence to pull off a Hindustani role. I mean, she has been living in India for the last 20 years. I told him, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. She has done so many films like Raajneeti, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. Just because she has recently done films like Bang Bang, she won’t be able to play an Indian?’ It was ridiculous!
But then Ali said Priyanka had called him up and wanted to do this role. Priyanka and my sister, Arpita, are good friends. After that, the ‘Nick story’ happened. She chose to get married, which is a very bold, brave and amazing step to take. She did what she wanted and Katrina got what she deserved.
Your films are panned by critics but loved by audiences. What do you have to say about critics and movie reviews?
These are the negative people. What to expect from them? It does not matter to me what they will say about me and my film. At times, they will give my film five stars, the other time minus five. They don’t understand anything. Even if their reviews affect 10-15 percent of the audience and people don’t go to watch it, that 10-15 percent less income makes a lot of difference to the poor producer. Films are not cheap to make. Films are not made in Rs 1 crore today. My film, Maine Pyar Kiya, was made with the budget of Rs 1.11 and it was the highest budgeted film at that point of time. The scenario is not the same anymore. Today, even the smallest film is made with Rs 25-30 crores. So you need to recover that money. Write reviews, but don’t be irresponsible. Don’t make fun of somebody’s work. Let the audience go and watch it. It may not make any difference in my life, but there are people who get affected by it.