The heart-throb of Bollywood, Salman Khan, has yet another blockbuster treat for his fans, with his latest film Bharat. And, as he always does, Khan has added his own unique magic to the festival of Eid with this release. The trailer and songs of the film first whipped up a huge buzz and the audience now can’t contain the excitement they see the actor in his newest avatar on the big screen. Khan speaks of the layered character, the adulation of his fans, and why he feels the need to raise the bar with every film, in conversation with Anita Britto
Your fans still see you as the 20-year-old Salman Khan from Maine Pyar Kiya…
(Cuts In) This is an honour that they give me, it is their love. Yeh toh unka badappan hai. (Smiles)
And we have seen how your stardom has only increased in the last three decades.
I really appreciate that. I think they feel that also because of the films I do. The films have lots of humour, action and entertainment, and maybe that is why I think they are not able to see the age factor, which let me tell you is a good thing! (Smiles)
But how do you keep yourself so fresh with every film and every role that you do?
I have been very lucky with the scripts I have been getting. The scripts I have chosen so far have taken me in the right direction. I think that is why my fans like me on the big screen. And it is not just me, they also like the films. There is that heroism, comedy, romance and then there is an emotional thread. If you put all these together with the masala that should be there in a film, it is something the audience will like.
We all like masala in our food and that is why it is so tasty. So, therefore, it should be there 1,000 per cent
in the films we do and see. If you make a film on one single track, it would not interest me or the audience. Like if you make a murder mystery or a thriller, they should also have songs, romance, action, thrills… it should
all be there. A single line, a single-track film is something I would not enjoy. So, when I hear a script like this, which does not interest me, I start yawning. Then I know that yeh picture life mein kabhi nahi karni hai.
You spoke about emotion in a film. What was the emotional connect you felt with Ode To My Father that you decided to adapt it for the Indian audience?
It was actually the father-son bond in that film that I connected with. We keep on doing films on the mother-son relationship. But this angle, the father-and-son bond, is the most amazing one. The thing with it is that the emotional connection is not blatantly visible. It is the only relationship where one person is proud that the other has become bigger than they are. When the son makes it bigger than the father, the father is very proud of his achievements.
Did you resonate with that emotion because of your relationship with your father? Did that reflect in the film?
My relationship with my father is one where we are friends who have a lot of respect for each other, especially where I have a lot of respect for my father.
During Sultan, you had mentioned that you needed to push yourself more, since you have achieved this level of stardom. Is that still a motivator for you?
The thing is that someone liking a film and someone not liking a film, both motivate me. If someone says to me that they did not enjoy one of my films, then I have to make him or her, the audience, like the next one that I do. I know that if they did not like the previous one, they will not come to see the next one because they can say that they did not like the film before. But when someone else goes and sees that film and says that this film is very good, that is when the audience will go to the theatre and watch it. It is always about raising the bar for yourself. And for the fan who appreciated the previous film, I need to give him or her much more so that they can appreciate the next film I am doing too.
Your fans idolise you, and the roles and characters that you play. Does that factor come in when you are choosing a script?
I, myself, am a big movie buff and I will only watch films that really interest me. Now, with ticket prices going through the roof, we need to give the films that we do our blood and sweat to make sure the audience comes to theatres and really enjoys the film, enjoys what they are seeing on the big screen. We have to make sure it is not a waste of money for them.
You have worked with Ali Abbas Zafar in Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai. What made him the right fit as the director of Bharat?
I had mentioned this film to Ali when we were shooting for Tiger Zinda Hai. When he saw it, he liked the film (Ode To My Father) and said he would be keen to do a Hindi film adapted from that story. Ali and I have done two films together and so has Katrina (Kaif), with Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Tiger Zinda Hai. We know Ali and he was, at that point, the right choice to direct Bharat.
We spoke to Ali last week and he mentioned that an Eid release with Salman Khan comes with a lot of expectations from fans. Is there something you keep in mind to make sure your fans have a festive weekend?
I want people to come in and enjoy the film. Like the last film, some time ago, was Tubelight. And even though Tubelight was a beautiful film, it was not an Eid film. That is where we messed up. If it had released on any other day, then Tubelight would have been approached very differently as a film. If you tell the audience to watch films like Dabangg or Wanted, which have all the dhamaal, masti, action and masala, where dhaad, dhaad, dhaad kisi ko dho rahe hain, they like these films. These movies did good numbers at the box office as well. So when the audience goes in to see a film of mine, they want to thoroughly enjoy it. And that is what I want to give them. I want to give them happiness, I want to give them enjoyment, I want to give them heroism, I want to give them nice, kickass lines as well, which they can use, and the right kind of emotion. There always has to be emotion.
Your character spans 70 years and has several layers. How did you internalise those emotions?
I have experienced this in my own life and I have used it. I have used the way I used to be earlier and where I was 15 years ago, and where I am now. I have these characters which I have seen myself go through. Then for the older one, I have the best example in front of me, and that is my father. I played a 70-year-old in the film and my father, touch wood, is 84 years old in real life. He still takes two to three rounds at Carter Road every day; he practices yoga; he has started doing pilates.
Yes, he does that. (Laughs)
That’s really great.
Yes, so I just looked at him and designed the character according to that.
We also spoke to Sunil Grover, who plays a pivotal role in Bharat, and Shashank Arora. Both of them said that, as an actor, you make them feel comfortable but the aura of Salman Khan is intimidating.
Both of them have very good roles in the film. Shashank is a superb actor and plays my younger brother in the film. But I don’t really think I intimidated them. They are just saying that just to give me that respect. As actors, they are very competent. They know their job, so there is no nervousness at all, especially relating to work. If someone is standing in front of you who knows their work, there is no question of being intimidated. I think I should be the one to be intimidated by an actor like Sunil Grover because he is by far one of the most talented people I have ever met.
Speaking about younger actors, you are working with Alia Bhatt in your next film Inshallah, and you mentioned that she is ‘godown of talent’.
I was asked a question where someone said she is a bundle of talent. So I said that a bundle of talent is working with a godown of talent. That’s what I said. But, yes, it was quoted the way you said it, so it is not your mistake.
What is that one thing that the audience will take back after watching Bharat?
They are going to take away lots of things from Bharat. They are going to take away the father-and-son chemistry, they are going to take away the bond of a family, they are going to take away responsibility and the fact that for handling these responsibilities, you do not have to be a boring man, you can enjoy your life as well.