With Salman Khan, you never know what mood you’ll get. But on Sunday afternoon at Mehboob Studio, he’s jovial. His next film, Ek Tha Tiger, releasing on August 15, is already the subject of much speculation, with trade pundits wondering if it will create a Rs. 200 crore club. Whether it does or does not, his fans are eager to watch their superhero on the big screen again. Between shots of Dabangg 2, the star answers HT Café’s questions.
Today, you’re more successful than ever. Are you working twice as hard, or has this happened by chance?
In the past, I had a knee-jerk approach to work and it showed on screen. I was doing movies for the wrong reasons — trying to juggle dates, do too many guest appearances, take up projects under pressure or for emotional reasons. But now there’s a method to my madness. I have heard people say, “Salman has changed, he’s lost it,” and stuff like that. But it doesn’t affect me. Today, I am doing movies only for my fans and I am enjoying every bit of it. They are happy and so am I.
Isn’t it showing on screen? There seems to be a Salman Khan mania in the country. Are you proud?
It feels nice to be loved, but let me tell you there are 10 times more better looking, stylish and talented guys than me. So there’s no solid reason for me to be proud! I don’t think I have done anything extraordinary to change people’s lives. Yeh sab showbaazi hai aur isme credit lene ki baat kya hai? Mein chaand pe thodi pahunch gaya, ya koi cancer ka dawa invent kiya? (This is show business; there is nothing to take credit for. Have I gone to the moon or invented a cure for cancer?). Like most of you, I also have a job. If at all I am proud of anything, it’s my charitable trust, Being Human, which helps the needy.
You are now the new tiger in Bollywood. Powerful, but also scary.
Is the tiger aware of the traits you attribute to him? He is not, so it doesn’t matter to him, right? However, has fear ever discouraged people from hunting it down in the jungle, whipping it and taming it? Log toh tiger ko bhi circus mein nachate hai (people make tigers perform in the circus). But they are beautiful creatures. See how they cuddle up when you show them love.
But people are scared of you, Salman. Why?
That’s just a myth. I think people just give me my space. In fact, those who are supposedly scared of me have taken the maximum liberties with me. Like the media, for instance, who have pitilessly attacked me without finding accurate proof or giving me a chance to clear my stand. For 20 long years I haven’t reacted, because I was wounded. And the same people come to me for interviews. So, where’s the question of fear?
Are you scared of ever losing the fan following you have now?
If the adulation has not affected me now, how will it affect me at all? There are people who take their onscreen image seriously. Luckily, I don’t. Rajesh Khanna is the classic case of a superstar forgotten until he passed away… I have never seen or heard of such unparalleled adulation as his. I was happy to witness a sea of humanity descend on his funeral. But I wish it had all happened when he was alive! He would have been very happy! Love and respect should be accorded in your lifetime. Honestly, I wouldn’t want such pandemonium when I am dead and gone! It’s no use then, because I won’t be able to see or feel the love.
Is it lonely at the top?
Whoever coined the phrase may have been a lonely soul himself. I am blessed to have people with me and around me always. Nothing is more important to me more than the three Fs in my life — family, friends and fans.
Your career has been rocketing. How satisfying has it been?
The present is good. Things are moving in the right direction. Coincidentally, my destiny, luck and chance all came at the same time. I sent out a positive energy to the universe and it all came back to me. Personally, everything is fine. There have been health problems on and off, but I can handle those. I am enjoying the phase while it lasts.
There are reports that you are single. No chance of love again?
I have love all around me, very close to me, ahead of me and by my side.
Does Bollywood’s bachelor boy intend to remain a bachelor?
No. Why should I?
You’ve been hurt on your way to this super success. Are you immune to pain now?
I feel blessed that I haven’t seen or felt real pain to be immune to it. But I am dreading the time it comes. I feel blessed to have everything going fine. My parents’ health is good, my brothers are well-settled, I have a great brother-in-law and my own career is doing fine. I hope and pray that I am fit and fine always.
Who is more important to you — the girl in your life or your family?
I will side with whoever is correct at that point.
Have you signed Sooraj Barjatya’s film?
We are in talks. He has narrated a script to me. But I am starting Sohail’s next film. It’s a great script and I am totally driven by it. Let’s see what I take up after this.
Are you aware of the high expectations from Ek Tha Tiger? Apparently no other filmmaker wants to release a movie around that time.
Great, na? Two big brands — Yash Chopra and Salman Khan — are hitting the theatres together. High expectations toh banta hai na? (there will be high expectations, right?) But we hadn’t planned anything like this. I loved the script and set out to make a good film. And the product is out there.