A group of 450 diehard Salman Khan fans will have a theatre to themselves to enjoy the actor’s latest movie, Sultan, which opens on Wednesday.
The group, New Bombay Gym, books an entire theatre for the first-day-first-show of every of Salman’s movies since Tere Naam was released in 2003.
“It is difficult to pick any one favourite film of Salman. All his films are our favourite. But one role that is truly close to our hearts is Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” said Ankit Choudhary, a member of the group. “Only he could have done justice to that role.”
But Salman’s latest release is especially close to them. A member of the group, Animesh Thakur, had the privilege of sharing screen space with the superstar.
“There is a scene where I am wrestling with another kid and Salman is watching us. Our bout links to a flashback scene where Salman is reminded of his wrestling times as a child,” said Thakur, a Class 9 student of DC Memorial School, Indore.
The New Bombay Gym had just 10-12 members when it was started in 2004. “Later, more Salman fans started joining us and today we are 450 members strong. Anyone who is Salman Khan’s fan can be a member of this group, irrespective of age or profession,” said Yuvraj Mandloi, another member.
In the film directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, Salman plays a former wrestler — Sultan Ali Khan — whose life has lost all meaning. Still resting on laurels from his past, Sultan gets the jolt of his life when Aarfa (played by Anushka Sharma) brings him back to reality.
Thakur was recommended for the brief role by his wresting mentor Kripashankar Patel, and the scene was shot in January in Mumbai’s Goregaon.
“Jagdish [Kaliraman], who trained Salman for the film, is a friend of mine. He was looking for a wrestler aged between 12-14 years who knew the technicalities of wrestling. That is when I recommended Animesh to him and he immediately got picked,” said Patel, the coach of the Indian women wrestling team (junior).
What was it like for the young star to meet his idol? “I was very excited about meeting him. He asked me about my parents, my city and when I told him that I’m from Indore, he asked me about my locality. Then he revealed that he is from Indore too,” Thakur said.