He’s back on the telly again as the host of Dus ka Dum. Only, this season, the show will air once a week instead of bi-weekly. The 14-week run can be extended if the TRPs are high. Salman Khan is confident the show will top the popularity charts again: “I knew as soon as I saw the first episode we shot at RK Studio last season that the show would work. It did and I’m back,” he smiles.
But unlike last season, this time, Salman won’t use his clout to rope in his celebrity friends.. not even his new muse, Claudia. Reference to the firang beauty makes him uncomfortable. “She’s a friend, she has come home, met my family, that’s it!” he says shortly.
On the subject of Katrina Kaif and marriage, too, he’s mum. All he says with a laugh is, “Main dab raha hoon,” obviously referring to pressures from the family to tie the knot.
What about Asin, London Dreams dream girl for whom he’s been house hunting and pup gifting? And Sonakshi, Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter, who refused to debut opposite him? And..? “Wait,” he orders. “You’re not going to get a reaction out of me by quizzing me about these ridiculous stories that only my family has the right to ask me about. I was a hot-blooded boy earlier and the slightest anger would get flashed. But now I’ve become a man, I’m more resilient and resistant,” he smiles.
He’s out to change his image of a brash brat. He wants to be allowed to sip a cup of coffee with friends at a coffee shop, go riding in a rickshaw, stroll down the road or just live peacefully in the house he bought with his hard earned money without being answerable to anyone for anything. “If it wasn’t for my background, I would never have become an actor. But of course, if I wasn’t an actor, I couldn’t even have been a darwan in a five-star hotel.. they are taller and sturdier than I am,” he jokes.
And he wouldn’t have been asked to campaign for politician friends or got flak for not exercising his right to franchise? “I would have voted if I hadn’t been out of the country. I’m not a show off that I will fly 48 hours to get myself clicked outside the booth. I was shooting for a film in London. There were too many technical problems, I couldn’t just give up and leave my unit in a lurch,” he argues.
He adds that to ensure that everyone votes, incentives should be offered or a law be implemented. “We’re all law abiding citizens and we will all follow what the law says,” he says, then covers his mouth, as if he had said something he shouldn’t have.
Will he contest in future? Nope, he’d rather do social work than jump into politics. “I don’t need to contest the elections to serve my people,” he asserts.
We return to Dus ka Dum 2 and its first celebrity guests, Karisma and Kareena Kapoor. Salman confirms that they were brought in by the channel. Apparently, he threw a tantrum and refused to shoot when he learnt the identity of his guests. “Really? I was in London, so how could I throw a tantrum? I didn’t even know they were going to be my first guests,” he protests, adding with a naughty twinkle, “I’m sure the channel will deny these stories but who knows, they may be true.”
What if Shah Rukh Khan was invited? “He’s welcome. I don’t mind him or any other Khan coming on my show, if they don’t mind it,” he smiles. Last year, Salman’s Dus Ka Dum had a stiff competition from Shah Rukh’s Panchvi Paas. But, so far, there’s been no news of SRK’s show returning to the tube. He must be relieved? “Why should I be happy because someone’s show didn’t work as beautifully as mine?” he asks. “Of course, in this business, whatever works, returns. There’s no denying that.”
Apart from Shah Rukh, Salman’s guest wishlist includes Sunny Deol, Dharmendra, Sanjay Dutt, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit. “Sunny’s killer smile and Sanju’s chemistry with me will work wonders,” he prophesises, adding, “I have very few friends in this industry. Sunny and Sanju are among the few who are genuinely thrilled if I succeed.”
Buzz is that he’s getting a higher fee this season? Salman instantly goes into denial mode: “I have a tiny bank account now because I have cut down my fees drastically, following the economic slowdown.” He says that recession, the great leveler, has cut short undeserving price hikes. He quickly adds that saleable names can still hike their price and get it too. “But character artistes and actors who’re not commercially viable, hiking their remunerations isn’t fair because the production budget shoots up without the guarantee of returns,” he reasons.
The initial budget of Veer has multiplied by a few crores since it went on the sets. “The story is set in the 18th century and it takes big money to recreate the times,” he argues. “And it couldn’t be set in today’s times because there are no men like that in our society now.”
Besides Veer, Salman has three other releases this year, Wanted, Main aur Mrs Khanna and London Dreams. Isn’t that an overdose? “Half the year was wasted on the strike, so all the films will come together. But no one will be bored because they are all different kinds of movies,” he reasons.
As a producer, he thinks that the impasse with the multiplex owners can be resolved in 10 minutes, if they met across the table. “It’s gone on for two months because both parties are waiting for the weaker other to break. It’s an ego problem and so the multiplexes remain empty.”
Quiz him if he would ask for a share in the ticket sales, and Khan quips, “Main to popcorn aur pepsi bhi nahin chhodta. These items sell at exorbitant rates because of our movies. If there were no movies, who would pay Rs 150 for a tub of popcorn?”
Finally, will he be at the IIFA Awards? He says sarcastically, “I would loooove to be there, but I don’t think I can make it. No offence meant, but if they want you for a show, no matter how much they hate you, they will call you and say, ‘Daaaarling, come na, and it will be so cool if you dance too.’ Even if they may not be willing to shell out money for your act.”
Last season, buzz was that Salman Khan’s fee for 15 weeks, two episodes per week, came up to approximately Rs 89 crore.
That makes it roughly Rs 3 crore per episode.
This season, buzz is that the actor is charging Rs 60 crore for 14 weeks, one episode per week.
That makes it approximately Rs 4 crore per episode.