I saw the eyes first.. big, wide, brimming with curiosity. They peered at me from behind his dad’s shoulders. I had spent the last hour quizzing Salim Khan on his split with Javed Akhtar, the blockbusters they had penned together and his future plans. I got up to leave and Salim saab, ever the gentleman, got up too to escort me to the door. I turned to say goodbye and was transfixed by those eyes. “My son Salman, he wants to be an actor,” Salim saab introduced. Salman, still hidden behind his burly dad, smiled shyly.
A couple of months later, we were putting together a newcomers special. Salman had just debuted in Biwi Ho To Aisi. I had a list of queries. “I'll answer only if you promise me the cover,” the one-flop actor retorted.
We had already decided on Vivek Mushran and Manisha Koirala (the Ilu Ilu cuties from Saudagar) for the cover. My queries remained unanswered. Soon after Maine Pyaar Kiya released.. and Salman was a superstar. I called to offer him the cover.. he wasn’t interested.
Salman’s love-hate relationship with the media has sparked off countless stories.. some fact, most pure fiction. I’ve heard how he made a fellow scribe follow him up and down three flights at Mehboob studio, half-a-dozen times, before announcing that he wasn’t in the mood for a q-and-a. Phew!
Up, up and away
On another occasion, he kept a colleague waiting in the sun all day. When he learnt that she was fasting and near fainting, he took her to his van, gave her juice and the interview of his life.
Then, as she was preparing to leave, he reached for her dictaphone and pressed the erase button. “That was meant for your ears only,” he smiled in response to her shell-shocked expression.
I returned to Galaxy Apartments to catch up with his brother Arbaaz. We were sitting on the terrace, chatting easily, when something jumped over my outstretched legs. It wasn’t a cat or a rat but Salman in a vest and shorts.
He walked to the end of the terrace, waved to some fans below, walked back to the room, lightly skipping over my feet again. This happened a few more times.. in between he stripped off his vest. I took his silent interruptions in my stride, and finally he retreated.
Table for three
I ran into him a third time at his Bandra home when I went back to quiz Salim saab. This time Salman joined us at the dining table. Once again he didn’t utter a word, but responded to my queries with smiles, headshakes and sniggers. Mid-way through the interview, Salim saab acknowledged his presence with, “This is my son, Salman, he's an actor.”
Salman was by then more than just an actor. He was a reigning superstar. But at Galaxy Apartments, equations didn’t change. He was a son first, then a brother. And in these roles his star shone bright.
As I got up to leave, Salim saab once again escorted me to the door. I turned to say goodbye and was transfixed by those eyes again.. big, wide and brimming with curiosity.