The Tiger is roaring and how! By the end of two days, Bollywood’s most recent spy thriller had netted in over R60 crore in three days in India, making it a hat-trick of Eid blockbusters for Salman Khan after Dabangg (2010) and Bodyguard (2011). And now, it’s party time.
This time, last year, Bodyguard had been busting the box-office, outscoring top-grossers like Ready, 3 Idiots and Dabangg with an opening of R 21.50 crore. But the festivities had been muted because Salman had flown off to the US to undergone surgery for a nerve disorder, trigeminal neuralgia, with brothers, Arbaaz and Sohail, and sister Alvira. Only his younger sister Arpita stayed back with his parents to bring in Eid and Ganpati. It was the first time Salman wasn’t home for the festivals and he’d been unusually subdued as he left. Surprised by the huge media turnout at the airport, he’d worriedly asked Alvira, “Baby, is there something I don’t know?.”
Cut to September 4, 2011: Salman’s surgery had gone off well, but that Saturday hadn’t gone well for me. While shopping, I’d lost my cell phone and had to buy a new one. The first call was from Salman’s publicist asking me if I’d be interested in an interview with the star who was recuperating in a hospital in New Jersey.
It was almost 1.30 am when I was patched through. Salman sounded weak but upbeat. “I went in smiling and came out smiling,” he told me. “It was expected to be a half-hour operation but stretched to almost eight hours. The
doctors are saying it went off well but the pain is still there. I was supposed to undergo two surgeries but they want to see how I respond to this one before they decide on the next. I'll have to come back after four months before I leave for Cuba for the shoot of Ek Tha Tiger.”
There hasn’t been another surgery. This April, when I met him, he’d finished his shoot in Cuba and waxed eloquent about the beautiful country with its woeful lack of infrastructure. Since no Bollywood film had been shot in the cigar land before, he’d been able to walk the streets freely. Sixty local dancers had joined him for a salsa section in Laapata’, with Cuban musicians playing the bass section, trumpets, piano and the saxophone. By the time he left, Salman was a national hero and had even featured in a Cuban tourism ad.
The sunny Cubans made him smile but the memories also made him shiver. “Brrrrr, but it was cold after sudden showers and my pain escalated. May be some day, with advances in medical science, they’ll find a cure for my illness but till then I have to live with it,” he’d shrugged nonchalantly.
Switching gears, he’d then wondered why my phone rang more than his. “Who’s calling you?” he demanded. Tongue-in-cheek I quipped, “Shah Rukh Khan, he has a press conference too today.” For a minute there was pin-drop silence, then, Salman guffawed and everyone around, breathed a sigh of relief.
Laugh out loud
“It went off well, you actually made him laugh,” his publicist commented while ushering me out. She’d been standing in attention with the others when I’d walked in because Salman hadn’t taken a seat. “Shall we start?” he’d asked me. “Sure,” I responded. “Baith ke baat karen (Can we sit and speak).” He smiled and waved me to a chair, sinking into one himself.
And in slow motion, so did everyone else. I’ve often wondered why most people are so intimidated by him. Maybe it’s the dark frowns, his reputed dislike for the media or reports of his infamous temper. Whatever be the case, he’s often perceived as a real tiger. But for me, he’s always been more of a pussycat than a wild one! Grrrr, the roar’s only for the box-office.
This will be a happy Eid for Salman because he’s home again!