By Shama Bhagat
Among other journalists — who were there with Salman Khan when he was giving that infamous interview — I was there too. This is the same interview where he made an insensitive remark about ‘feeling like being raped’.
To be fair, Salman Khan immediately knew that he had made a wrong comment. Here’s the audio recording of the interview and if you scroll down to 0:45 seconds, you will hear that he says, “I don’t think I should have….” and takes a pause. It was clear that he knew that those words had slipped out unintentionally. The journalists giggling at the comment was more unnerving than the comment itself.
I am not supporting Salman Khan in any way but I want to present the whole picture.
The truth is, Salman Khan only went wrong in that one instance, otherwise he made sense. He had some great answers to the questions posed by us. Looking back, one of the answers of Salman Khan reveal his deepest fear — when people will stop loving and respecting him.
Here are a selection of questions from the same infamous interview.
Aren’t you working too hard for your age?
It’s important to work hard at this age. Everyone … all my seniors are working hard. I should have worked harder earlier. This is the time to sustain myself (in the film industry).
(continues after a brief pause)
I recently saw an earlier film of mine and I didn’t like what I saw. I was wondering, ‘how did everyone like me in this film?’ Then, I was young and I could pull those films off. Not anymore.
If I work hard in a film then people are bound to notice it. They will look at me on screen and will tell others, “Look at him. He is 50 and he’s working so hard”.
You go through the pain so that somebody can appreciate and take inspiration from it.
(speaks about the film Sultan and then continues…)
Hard work always pays off. I remember when I was training for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), some Georgian fighters had come on the sets. They were all huge and hefty (shows animatedly with hand gestures). They stood there (shows a corner) and we’re watching me from a distance. They never knew that I was not a wrestler and they said that they were mighty impressed with my moves (on the wrestling mat). When I heard about it, I realised that I had won half of the battle then and there. That is how hard work for you.
Do you fear losing stardom?
I think every star fears losing his stardom. I would be lying if I say no. It’s not just about stardom. The fear is about losing the love and respect (of your fans). You definitely don’t want to lose that. This is the thing that bothers everyone. You need to be man enough to speak it out. Yes, I have gone through phases of lows and highs and so has my father. I have lost stardom many times. But life is more than being a hero or a star what we yearn for is the love of our fans.
Fame is fickle. How do you look at it?
Fame is indeed fickle. Today I may be on the top but tomorrow I won’t be. As I have said, I have seen both the highs and lows and I am careful about the kind of films I do these days. These days, I don’t take up a film without a proper narration. If I don’t like it (the script), I will say ‘no’ immediately. No amount of convincing will work after that. I refuse to do films offered by my friends and my own brothers too if the script is not up to the mark. We are working on Dabangg 3 now. I told them that if the script is not good, I will not do it.
Do other people’s opinion bother you?
No, it doesn’t (others’ opinions). It’s their opinion and they have to bother about it.
But then is there anything you want to learn now?
In my case it always happens the other way round. I wanted to learn acting but I did a film before I could join an acting institution. I want to learn singing but I have already sung two songs in films. Then I come to a point where I felt, “why take the trouble now?”
(pauses and continues)
I learnt swimming in Indore in a well when I was nine years old. My cousins tied a rope around my waist and threw me into the well and said now move your arms and legs and you will learn swimming automatically. They were shouting the instructions from top and when I struggled, they just told me to move my arms and legs.
(when I got a little accustomed to the water) I saw a turtle in the well, then I saw small fish and a big fish. After that I spotted a water snake. I got so scared that I started to move my arms and legs rapidly. As I was struggling, they (his cousins) left me in that condition and went away. They later told me that it’s the best way to learn swimming. I learnt swimming that way. (Salman later became a national level swimmer).
Regional movies are doing well now, do you feel that they will be a threat to Bollywood someday?
Of course, they are a threat. Look at the revenues they are churning out despite so many handicaps. If we don’t control the ticket prices (of Bollywood films) and bring it down from the current range of Rs. 350 – Rs. 450, we are going to see a drastic drop in our business. Our (number of Bollywood films) numbers are increasing but the footfalls are increasing too. Look at Marathi films, they are doing so well and are making 100 crores these days. We (the Bollywood films) are not making that kind of money. It’s shameful. Hindi audience is impatient and we are (claiming that) making cool films (for the audience). But the revenues are not cool anymore. Regional cinema like Malayalm, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Marathi have their own heroes and they have great scripts. Our films have huge budgets but they are barely making more than 50 crores. People say, I do boring films like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and Bajrangi Bhaijaan but my aim is to return the investment made.
Do you think releasing two blockbusters on a single day will affect the revenues?
Undeniably yes. If Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees and my film Sultan were to release on the same day it would have affected the box office and we would have bled each other out. Sensibly, one of us would have to move out of the race. They (SRK camp) have not completed the shooting so they could change the date. But that’s what happened when Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale released together last year. As it is we are short of 2000 theatres. Because of the ego clashes of the producers we sometimes suffer losses. The time is not for blockbusters. It’s about time that we have good scripts. If the writing improves then I am certain that every film will garner 100 crores.
(He then goes back to talking about Wrestling, Dangal and Sultan)
Do you feel that Bollywood cinema has alienated itself from its roots?
I don’t know why we get alienated from our roots but that’s what works. There is phase when we had alternate cinema but it’s not there any more. Every few years, there’s a wave of cinema that hits us like action, romance, loser story, rom com and social drama and it works for three to four years. Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun was a hit till Kuch Kuch Hota Hain arrived (and started a trend).
What do you have to say about the flak you received for being made the Goodwill ambassador to Olympics?
I was the face and the Goodwill Ambassador . What people didn’t realise was that I was not a brand ambassador for Indian sports. They wanted to cash on my name so that they could make money for the sports organisation. I thought I could rake in that kind of money. We need nutrition, coaching, equipment and training and our sportsman do not get enough of it. Olympic is poor man’s sport but here in India, it’s a rich man’s sport. (In India) only shooting champions are doing well because as they come from well-to-do families. But even they are not garnering much attention and finally some of them take up jobs in the armed forces. I believe that every child, who plays any kind of sports is a sportsman. In fact every citizen who reads about sports, is keen on sports and is a sportsman. I have won many swimming championships and have got tonnes of certificates.
(continues disregarding the questions thrown at him)
I got to know that I qualified for state shooting championship. Gagan Narang met me on a flight and he had seen me in a shooting championships at Chetana College (in Mumbai). I didn’t have any gear with me and I went in jeans and a tee shirt. They had set up a target of 60 shots in under one hour and 20 minutes. I walked out in 50 minutes. He (Gagan) said I qualified and I didn’t know about it till now. I should have waited for the results. I am sorry I didn’t. I thought if I win (the competition) then people in the media will pull me back (rake up old issues again) into the Black Buck case again. I have had very complicated life.
I have to be very careful these days.