He has been linked with virtually every heroine in town and he has waged a cold war with one or two of the heroes. Described as the "most misunderstood good guy in town," he can be mercurial. Indeed, the 42-year-old Bandra boy-man has no compunctions about using four-letter words against the media... and he has no compunctions about admitting that he needs to do pre-movie-release interviews. Salman Khan does his Sallu number on Hiren Kotwani.
A mucho-star hotel lobby, a mucho long wait for the five-star actor to show up. Fret, fret.. 90 minutes later he does.. with cohorts including a business manager, make-up guy, hair stylist, spotboy.. and the merry bunch trots straight into suite 1925.
Don't know whether that digit is lucky or what.. but no matter.. for a journo a delay is like the ones at Santacruz for airflights nowadays.
Our star of the day, Salman Khan, gets his TV bytes done. Then for more starters, he joins three of us journos, as if we were the proverbial musketeers.
It's a group chat like the ones conducted for Hollywood star promo campaigns. Keeping cucumber-cool, I go with the flow:
The release of your first Hollywood movie, Marigold, is fast approaching. So.. um.. er.. um.. are there any anxiety pangs?
Sssssh (Looking scared, trembles and then laughs charitably) Kabhi kabhi main sochta hoon ke main India ke liye bana hi nahin hoon. (Sometimes, I think I wasn't made for India at all).
Really. What's the difference in working for Hollywood than our good old Bollywood?
No difference, except that I had to wake up early in the mornings. And I had to say my dialogue in English in front of the camera. Marigold seems to be quite Bollywood in its essence. It's like the way they made Notting Hill. It was a Hollywood film shot in London. Now, they've shot a Hollywood film with an Indian actor and an American actress. <b1>
The story is about Bollywood.. our cinema. (Director) Willard had watched about 400-500 films, he wanted to make something around it. This film is designed more for the international market.. but we're releasing an equal number of prints in English and Hinglish.. it will also be released simultaneously in Pakistan and maybe even in Bangladesh.
Any more Hollywood films in the offing?
If an actor even gets a brief role in an international film, he or she goes ballistic. (Laughs) My name is Salman Khan dude. Mashallah, I'm really happy in my country, in Bombay city, Bandra, Galaxy Apartments.
You finished shooting for Marigold a while ago. Why the delayed release?
This is the way they work. Not like us.. rushing promos at the last minute. Tell us about your newfound friendship with Govinda. It's not new, it's been there for 20 years.. way before Partner. When I was a model, I met him, tried to be so very cool and said, "You know dude, I really like your style." And he was like, "Oh thank you so much." My attitude backfired.
I learnt my first lesson before joining the indusry – to be humble – from Govinda. I haven't learnt it too well, but I'm still learning. We're not competing with each other.. he's done 17-18 films with David Dhawan. I've done about seven-eight.
It seems a sequel to
Partneris already being planned.
Yeah, it will be called Tom and Jerry.
If you were in my shoes, what would you ask Salman Khan?
What size do you wear? I'm not in your shoes, I will not know what to ask. If I were in your shoes, and I were a journalist, I wouldn't go to Salman Khan to ask him any questions. I would do something more constructive with the power of the pen.
For me to give you? Journalists should start exposing corruption and not write stupid gossip items. Try to make a positive difference, even if it's a small one.
What's with your sudden interest in art and painting?
I still don't have any real interest in painting. I haven't spoken about it either. I paint for my foundation.. to sell my work for charity. I can't ask anyone to support or praise my paintings. I'm not a beggar. Tomorrow even if I have nothing at all, I'll do something or the other, but I won't beg.
Has any artist inspired you?
I don't know any artists. I know (M F) Husain saab from the painting he made of me. He's the only artist I know of.
Aren't you disturbed that controversy never seems to leave you?
No. But I'm sure it disturbs you. Are you married?<b3>
Life kya hai yaar teri? You got a girlfriend? You got parents? Do you give part of you salary towards your household expenses?
What does this have to do with anything?
You know the story of Gautam Buddha? He's walking down the road and one person spits on him every day.. Buddha remains calm and one day the man realises his mistake and starts following Buddha.
Journalists can say what they want to about me.. but it will all come back to them.. to you.. one day.. whatever it is, you have to pay here. You'll pay!
Excuse me.. why are you getting unnecessarily nasty.
What do you think? Have you seen what the media has become?
There you go again.. take it easy Mr Khan.
We guys don't want all that stuff any more. (Red in the face) It's your problem that you need us. Out of respect, we don't say anything.
Thanks for the respect.
You're welcome. (Getting redder) See all the TV channels, the journo asks all the (bleep bleep.. bleep) questions to the star.. in which he'll try to frame the star, to put him in a tight spot. Are we idiots to talk to the channels only to be walked all over by them?
I've heard you say this a thousand times before. (Ignoring the remark) And what have we done? Have we raped or murdered anyone? You guys are Shaikh Chillis. (Coming out a near trance) Chalo, aaj ka lecture yahin khatam.
If there's so much bile in you.. against interviews, why do you do them?
(Winks) Because my film is due for release.