Discuss: Will Salman be able to do justice to the role of Rama?
Thereís no denying Salman Khanís star-power. Fans of every size and creed swoon when this self-proclaimed "rock star" comes on stage. Khanís films from Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun to Karan Arjun and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam have created box office history. Both his releases this year Tere Naam and Baghban are winners. But ask Salman if he cares! In a rare interview with Subhash K Jha, showbizís most misunderstood icon opens up.
Though the media was largely hostile to you the audience has welcomed your new films.
In this country a section of the press writes whatever it wants. I donít think the general public actually believes everything thatís written about me. No matter what the crisis I was always supported by my fans. One doesnít have to shout from rooftops to prove one is a good guy. If you are, it shows. If you arenít it wonít show no matter how hard one tries. Making Tere Naam a success was one way for my fans to tell me detractors to lay off. I think the success of my films is a big slap in the face of those who try to sell extra copies of their magazines by writing garbage about me.
Curiously, your first release after the hit-and-run controversy took a much larger opening than the film that came before.
Yes, but you must understand Tere Naam was my first release in two years. My two earlier releases Tumko Na Bhool Payenge and Yeh Hai Jalwa opened well. Audiences smell a product they like. No matter how promotion and publicity happens they wonít go for a film unless they want. When I promote a film I donít like, it shows on my face. Tere Naam opened a week after Duggu(Hrithik Roshan)ís KoiÖMil Gaya. Even he experienced so many professional setbacks. And look where that one film put him.
You say your likes and dislikes show on your face. But acting is all about lying?
Not for me. For me acting comes straight from the heart. In that sense I donít act at all. I think to feel the characterís pain Iíve to be myself. Somewhere audiences see that. Thatís why Iím very careful about what I do in my films. In Tere Naam I played a character who smoked endlessly. I told my fans not to imitate my character Radhe. I wanted him to be the kind of guy that parents could point to their son and say, "See, thatĎs what we donít want him to be." He was a very real, in many ways very pure-hearted character but out of step with todayís reality. If you walk down the streets of any small town in North India youíll come across many such campus heroes.
Tere Naam was a very dark film. Do you think it wouldíve been bigger success othewise?
I donít know. For that weíll have to make the film again. Yes, in Tere Naam my character didnít get the girl. If he did, it wouldíve been just another Hindi film. I got calls from everyone saying the ending shook them. Which is another way of saying it was accepted. Iíd say Tere Naam was my most offbeat role. In all my films I kept doing the tears-and-laughter routine. Here I really let my emotions go.
Your character was involved with excessive violence.
But I wasnít being violent for my own sake. Thereís violence all around us. But my two films after Tere Naam, Baghban and a film tentatively titled Dil Churaya Aapne have no violence at all. These are very Hindustani films. Working with Mr Bachchan in Baghban was an awesome experience. I can go on and on about him. But whatís the point? The other film is a marital drama which shows that the first fight between a couple is always beginning of the end. As far as I can see, itís several times better than the same director Adhiyaamanís other marital drama Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam. Itís got very real scenes between husband and wife. They fight over nothing, as most couples do. I play guy who knows heís right. Such people are always unhappy in real life. When people have to repeatedly say, ĎI told you soí they donít like doing so because people say kaali zubaan hai. Shilpa Shetty is amazing in this film. I have Boney Kapoorís No Entry with Fardeen Khan and Anil Kapoor. ItĎs like my comedy Biwi No.1. Iím also doing my brother-in-law Atul Agnihotriís film with Bhoomika and Preity Zinta. Iíve an international project Marigold which I go into in February-March, then I go into Sanjay Bhansaliís Bajirao Mastani. Iím pretty much booked for the next three years. I decided if Iím back to work I might as well make the best of it.
Everything is going right for you. Then why do you sound so unhappy?
Iíll tell you what. Weíre all born with unhappiness. Thatís the one Ďgivení of existence. In school you get constantly berated by the teacher, you got out for a while play cricket and feel better. Then you land up with a wretched job, marry a woman whom things arenít okay with, worry about your children...people you love leave and die. I was so shocked when director Anant Balani died. I did my second film with him. He was a dear friend and I lost touch with him. I kept saying Chalo aaj nahin kal. Then it was too late. One of my schoolteachers also passed away recently. I wish I had met him. He used to beat me in school but I knew he intended well for me.
For now youíre well out of your legal troubles?
I donít think the press writing for or against me makes any difference. As long as weíve honest cops and judges this country is going to rock. I donít need a character certificate from those who donít know me. Iíd rather win the approval of my family and friends and my staff.
Are you really making a film based on the Ramayan?
Of course, though not right away since funds are a little short right now. But Iíll certainly play Rama. Itís my dream to do so. Who can stop me? I want to make my film on par with The Lord Of The Rings, Lady Hawke and The Last Of The Mohicans. It has to be directed by someone with the vision to make the Ramayan contemporary and yet pure. The language has to be accessible to todayís generation. Otherwise whatís the point of doing Ramayan again?
Why are you so media-weary?
Iíve been like this from the time I did Maine Pyar Kiya. The media couldnít make me when I was struggling nor break me when I was successful. Iím paying a price for being a part of the film industry. And I donít mind. Because I love the industry. I wonít change my profession for anything in the world. I guess negative pieces sell more than the positive ones. Iíll tell you what happened to me the other day. I saw a lame guy hitting a kid with his crutch at the traffic light. When I intervened he said, ĎFirst let me tell you what happened. This kid was clinging to the back of a speeding vehicle. Suppose he had died?í I think people need to understand my situation before passing their judgement.