Salman Khan turns 50 on Sunday (December 27). His 50th year, 2015, was an exceptional one for the Dabangg star - not only did he set box office records on fire with hits like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, he was also acquitted of all charges in the 2002 hit-and-run case. Since his debut in the early 1980s, the flamboyant Bollywood star has been an all-inclusive package of an entertainer, a trend-setter and a mass hero. But this was the year when his transformation from an erstwhile bad boy to, well, being human was complete. One of the most-bankable stars in the Hindi film industry, Salman now craves for more.
During an appearance on chat show Koffee with Karan, Salman said in April 2014 that he was making his choices of films as well as humanitarian endeavours based on one principle: He does not want to be a movie star who has a great fan following in his life and is forgotten in death. Salman added he wanted to help others and do something that will not let him fade from people’s memories.
A former Bollywood brat who refurbished his image and now wants to leave a legacy, that’s Salman Khan for you circa 2015. His film choices and humanitarian causes have both been in the same direction. With Bajrangi Bhaijaan, he played a do-gooder who leaves no stone unturned to reunite a Pakistani girl lost in India with her family. The film brought to fore many such cases from both sides of the border.
In Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, he again reprised his Prem persona – a man who stands for moral and familial values. This was also the year that he was cleared of all charges in the 2002 hit-and-run case. The Bombay High Court acquitted Salman Khan of all charges in the 2002 hit-and-run case on December 10 because the “prosecution has failed to prove the charges against Khan on all counts”. The verdict came as a huge relief to Salman as well as several producers who are banking on him with big-budget projects like Sultan and Bigg Boss.
This Salman is a far cry from the Bollywood brat of a decade ago who had a history of troubled relationships, allegations that he physically assaulted his girlfriends and had a string of court cases against him. Aishwarya Rai’s parents filed a police complaint against Salman in 2002, alleging that he threatened and harassed the ex-Miss World. His famous fight with Shah Rukh Khan at Katrina Kaif’s birthday party in 2008 started a cold war that went on for almost six years. A case was registered against the star after allegedly hunting black bucks in Rajasthan while shooting Hum Saath Saath Hain in 2006. However, the case which was to define him was the hit-and-run in Mumbai almost 13 years ago in which one man was killed and many injured. While he has been acquitted of all charges in the hit-and-run case, the black buck case is yet to be decided.
Setting up the Being Human Foundation in 2007 was Salman’s first major step towards re-branding himself. He started investing time and money in philanthropic causes. His foundation runs a lifestyle brand whose proceeds help provide medical care and education to needy children. Salman has also set up a production house for this cause called Salman Khan Being Human Productions, which produced the National Award-winning Chillar Party.
Professionally also, Salman started a new innings in the industry around the same time. With Wanted (2009), he started the trend of remaking Tamil and Telugu films -- high on action and with his trademark brand of humour. The trend continued with Ready and Dabangg. Stars like Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn have now made forays into the genre with films like Rowdy Rathore and Singham.
His critics call him brat, insensitive, a murderer even, but his loyal fanbase has refused to desert him over the years. He has successfully managed to grow his audience base with time and now whether it is Dabangg, Devil or Prem onscreen, they simply flock to theatres and ensure smashing box office records. Here’s hoping he grows wiser with age, and keeps entertaining the masses.