There is one unavoidable truth about Salman Khan. He possesses the kind of godly fame that only a few on the planet can enjoy. It is the kind of fame that pervades everything he attempts. Yet despite this incomprehensible degree of celebrity, he’s as unpretentious as they come. The actor somewhere personifies his charitable organisation, Being Human. Perhaps the key to Khan’s breezy navigation through the pitfalls of superstardom is some strong compartmentalisation and the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
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Sprawled on a chair in his mini tent at Mehboob Studio, he’s smiling from ear to ear as he says, “Best to chill out and take things as they come in life. I live by that.” That affable charm and casual demeanour sets the tone for our interview, as Salman insouciantly gives us a glimpse into his movie choices.
At this stage of your career, has your criteria of choosing a film changed?
No, it’s still the first narration. It all depends on that. If I hear it and my reaction is, ‘Man, I need to do this. It’s awesome.’ I’ll do it. Anything less than that won’t do. If I have to go back to a script and think of it, it’s a no-no.
What was the first thing about Kick that made you say yes?
The whole feel of the film yaar. The plot, the screenplay, the production value of it. The correctness of this plot and the humour in it. Just the whole package. When I was hearing the film, I was having a blast. I do the kind of films I’d go to the theatre to watch.
For many actors, their love for acting comes from being able to vicariously live different characters. Since you don’t do those kinds of movies, what is the biggest joy for you then?
(Laughs) I find it difficult to live in my own body. When I do a film, I automatically transform. But it’s still me. Albeit a different shade of me. So there’s no character as such. It’s a different side of me. If you ask me about Kick, I have no character in the film. Plus, I don’t do the kind of films where I need to switch on and switch off. I am switched on all the time.
Do you ever feel the need to experiment with those films at all?
(Laughs) All the films I do are experimental.
But you’re doing Shuddhi, which is an intense film. Something people wouldn’t usually associate with you…
No, it’s not an intense movie. It’s a love story.
You’ve shared a warm camaraderie with the producer Sajid Nadiadwala for many years now. How different was it to work with Sajid, the director?
Sajid and I go back a long time. So there’s no new role. Sajid has been a hands-on producer. And a hands-on producer is almost like a director. The fact that he signs different directors and approves scripts for most of his films and most of those films do well, means he has a good script sense. So I knew he won’t make a bad film.
How do you deal with the Friday pressure after so many years? Does it get easier with each release?
Nahin yaar. That thoda thoda is always there. Simply because we work so hard on each film and naturally want our films to be accepted by the audience every single time. So that you know you are thinking in the right direction. But there’s that pressure to reconfirm your belief every time. So far it has gone pretty okay.
Yes, your films have usually set box-office benchmarks…
Not all. Yes, it’s a nice feeling to make and break records but one shouldn’t get too used to it because it’s not going to happen every time. So no point competing with previous records. I believe we should work hard, try our best and then let people decide if they like the film or not.
When was the last time you were affected because a film of yours didn’t do well – something you strongly believed in?
Affected, pata nahin. But there are some films you don’t expect anything out of and they do so well. Like Saajan did back in the day. It became a blockbuster. And there are times when you expect so much out of a film but it fails, like Andaaz Apna Apna.
But Andaaz Apna Apna enjoys a cult status today…
Yes but what use is a cult classic if the producer doesn’t get anything out of it? We are in a money making business at the end of the day. The producer must make money.
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After 26 years, is there something you don’t like about the movie business?
Yes, the promotions. Earlier we used to finish our dubbing and be done with the film. Then, the producer would go out and promote the movie. Now the game has changed. The actor has to promote the film. It’s a big traas (pain). And promotions are just getting cheaper. People are going to any limits to promote their film. It’s ridiculous. I feel the audience should see the promos and songs of the film and then decide if they want to watch the movie or not. We should do a few interviews here and there but that’s it. It gets repetitive and boring after a while.
You’ve always had a set of Salman Khan loyalists, who watch your films come what may. And their numbers have only increased over the years. Must make you proud, no?
Not really. It’s a myth. If people don’t like the promo of my film, they won’t go watch it in the theatre. They may see it some other time on TV or something because they like me but they won’t pay money for it. Otherwise all my films would have been super-duper bumper hits.
You’ve constantly maintained that you’re not a very good judge of people. Have you improved over the years?
I don’t think so. But it actually doesn’t matter to me. Everybody puts their best foot forward usually. Plus, everyone has their set of negative qualities. It’s best to focus on the positives. It’s not like I have to marry the person. I have many negative qualities too. So if you like a few good qualities about someone, stick to those. Let the negatives be.
Have you learnt to deal with negativity around you better?
Positivity gives me a boost to do better. Negativity gives me a boost to try and prove people wrong. So I use both of them positively. Yes, if I see somebody reacting to me in a negative manner, it would bother me at that point of time. Initially, I may defend myself but after sitting back and thinking about it, if I’m wrong, I’ll change it. I’ll make amends. But if I am not, I will maintain my stance.
What do you do to unwind?
My life is unwound. Now from this holiday of Kick, I am going to the holiday of Sooraj Barjatya’s, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo. I am working right now. My life is one big holiday.
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This is probably your first interview where you haven’t smoked. Have you given up smoking for good?
I don’t smoke. I have never smoked. Who told you that?
You are B-town’s eternal eligible bachelor. Don’t you maybe want to change that tag?
Yes, I want to have kids. But I want to have kids without a wife. Then again, I also want my kids to have a mother.
That sounds complicated. But people who know you say you’re far from complicated…
(Grins) That’s why I am not doing anything about it. -filmfare