It is hard to argue with the kind of fame Salman Khan found with his second coming, which started in 2009 with Wanted. He’s had a bit of a Midas touch since, with a slew of hits. As a result, he is, at present, the best example of what Bollywood likes to call a ‘bankable’ star.
But with a crucial new development in his 2002 hit-and-run case (a chemical analysis expert recently testified that the alcohol content in his blood on the day of the incident was higher than normal), many in Bollywood and the ad world are nervous about the eventual outcome.
“Currently, he is the biggest star, who churns out one box-office success after another,” says trade analyst Komal Nahta. As per industry estimates, a whopping Rs 650-700 crore is riding on the star — combining big-ticket films, ad campaigns and a particular TV show contract. “Naturally, there’s some panic, since the sessions court wants the trial to be completed by December,” Nahta adds.
Salman, who is currently busy shooting Sooraj Barjatya’s next and a Kabir Khan directorial, revealed in an earlier interview that he will also be signing other big projects like Karan Johar’s next, Anees Bazmee’s sequel to No Entry (2005), a film produced by Aditya Chopra, and one by Mahesh Manjrekar. There are rumours that he’s in talks with Aanand L Rai for a film too.
Bazmee, who directed Salman in No Entry and Ready (2011), says film-makers have every reason to be worried, though money isn’t the only factor: “Film-makers will be worried about their investments, but it’s not just about the money. His friends and well-wishers are also concerned about him.”
The advertising world, too, will stand to incur losses if the verdict is unfavourable. Salman presently endorses over 10 brands — ranging from cola to footwear and motorcycles. “The ad world has been unfair to Salman in the past, because they were wary of his slightly rebellious image,” says ad man Prahlad Kakkar.
“When it comes to drawing the masses to theatres, no one can come close to Salman,” says exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi, adding, “If the verdict goes against him, all the makers with their films on the floors will face a crisis.”