Neither a wah wah nor a hatchet piece, this one looks at an actor who can be tremendously nice and awfully hot headed. He can be the epitome of courtesy and he can be the last word in arrogance. Obviously, there is no single key to his personality. Khalid Mohamed, who has seen him from his teenaged years to a man of 41, attempts to understand Salman Khan.
It's a business as heartless or caring as any other. It was during the eclipse phase of the significant-other of the Salim-Javed team that I got to know the Khans of Galaxy Apartments, Bandra. The first floor was three BHK then. The snuggest corner: a handkerchief-balcony overlooking the Carter Road rocky sea face.
The apartment was an open house. No one is turned out of a Pathan Khan's residence. Great food and drink flowed for every one. The chefs were loyal there since decades. And it was a joke that a stranger could walk in, hang out for a couple of days and the family wouldn't know the difference.
It's pretty much the same way there today. Be it down time or boom time, Salim Khan and sons are what they are. Dildaars but one wrong move, and it's khuda haafiz.
From a friend sworn for life you're suddenly a "kutta kamina" and worse. Abuses that Salim Javed would have considered clichés in their cream salad days.. are flung at you on the always buzzing showbiz network. No secrets here.
Never mind. The point is that if anyone comes close to being Salim Khan in flamboyance and large-heartedness and alas, also stubbornness and self-absorption, it's Salman.
They even wear the same turquoise stone bracelet. The father aspired to become an actor (Sarhadi Lootere, Sapno ka Saudagar, Professor, Teesri Manzil) but today admits with much bemusement, that he couldn't act for nuts.
Like father, like son
Salman Khan lives out his father's role. And it would be an understatement to say that the son has been far more successful, with a boyish screen presence and a casual acting style which is as good or bad as the project he's featured in. Salman's success became the father's, giving him an upper hand to date in this industry .
Meanwhile his second round at scripting was short-lived, varying from knuckle-rapping scripts like Naam and Kabza to clinkers like Falak, Akayla, Patthar ke Phool, Toofan and Mast Kalandar.
Salman Khan, the eldest of three brothers and a sister, could restore that stardom clout, at Galaxy.. and he did. Salim would always be in the centre of showbiz -without even trying - as much as Javed Akhtar would.
At one point, a patch-up meeting was organised between Salim and Javed at Holiday Inn. The former partners came to blows; the Khan sons were livid.. but were held back by the father. There was no arguing against that.
Evidently, Salman continues to be fearful of his father -like Sanjay Dutt was of Sunil Dutt. Khan Sr would often criticise his son for staying out late, going haywire on mobikes and generally being what Bandra brats were in the 1980s.
There was this apocryphal story of Salim Khan getting so incensed over Salman's ways that once the son locked himself in the toilet to escape his wrath. The father's fist went through the wooden door, the boy couldn't escape the beating of his life that day .
Mum Salma is resilient and doting.. and so used to the post-midnight lifestyle of the Khans that she can sleep with the lights on and the music blaring. Helen Khan drops in frequently from her house around the corner. If there was any hesitation in accepting her within the fold, it has been erased like writing from a blackboard.
Hum saath saath hain
In the Galaxy Khan scenario, there is no question about who the boss is. It is the father who's perhaps thrilled that the son he had written off is a star. Salman stinted as a while as assistant director to Sashilal Nair but hated the experience to the extent of quitting the project (Falak). Brother Arbaaz was the hypochondriac, given to non-existent ailments and Sohail, the one with tehzeeb. Very unlike, the three brothers stick together with the cementing force of the father.. and more silently, Salma Khan.
<b3>In this story there can be no betrayal of confidences. Only professionally I can state that Salman Khan can do a 360 degree turnabout.. Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde. If I knew him, in close up, that didn't count when I met him on the sets of Hum Aapke Hain Koun! and Jeet. He displayed a hostility, which had been sparked by a quarrel with another journalist over clicking his photographs on the sets of Suryvanshi. The journalist had been invited but... Now, every journalist was an enemy in his eyes, even evoking statements like, "Their families feed on me." Does he even know what he's talking about?
Blow hot blow cold
On occasion, he's been unusually cordial - handshakes, how-are-you's, even an insistence on sharing ghar ka khaana on a studio set.
On the other end of the spectrum, I've seen him, punch drunk and threaten a senior journalist who had a cast on his fractured hand, "You want me to break your other hand!" Wonderful.. it's another story that this un-heroic incident happened in front of Aishwarya Rai and her brother. Whom was he impressing?
I've seen Salman Khan sprinting around Mehboob studio to collect donations for a physically impaired boy. And I've seen him from afar through his relationships with women coming and leaving, probably hurting him and themselves.
All of us have contradictions, family anchors, loves found-and-lost. If there is a key to Salman Khan's personality – according to me it's simply this.
He's still the boy, trying to hide his glass of whisky, on the Galaxy balcony.