“Anyone can pull off Sultan”, says Salman Khan

Celebrating but cerebral in his own way, Salman Khan takes a breather to talk dwindling cinema halls, piracy and script choices, with Rochelle Fernandez.

Whenever his fans watch him on screen, they believe that everything he does or says is for real. There is so much trust reposed in him by the millions who love him immensely, that one cannot even imagine how fans celebrate the release of his films. Many have, time and again, also said that when Salman roars on screens, that day becomes Eid! The frenzy around him is huge and no one can even come close. To his credit, he consciously stays away from being Salman Khan on 70 mm…

“I try to move as far away from Salman as possible but whatever is done on screen, the fans think that this character of Salman is larger than life. It is not true; it is the script which is the largest. Apart from that, if the people like you, if you suit the character, then anyone can pull off Sultan. The biggest compliment that I have got for the film is people watching it in the theatre twice and thrice and the collections from Wednesday to Monday. There cannot be a bigger compliment than that. It is the genius of Ali (Ali Abbas Zafar, director) who has made this happen. The script, the music, the concept is his. I was only upset that the team didn’t use my songs!”

He grins adding, “I also really liked the songs that couldn’t be a part of the film and we have got them for our next film (Laughs). Honestly I feel that I have just been lucky. I have been at the right place at the right time, choosing the right work. I am working with people who are working more on me and making this average person into Sultan. Once the luck runs out, I would work very hard on myself. Having said that, I don’t track numbers, the production team does. Once the film is done and the initial awareness about the film is done, I am out of it and on to the next one. Numbers do matter but I am not very good with dates, numbers. So if someone comes and tells me that so-and-so is the business of the film, I am okay.”

Point well made. Sultan is still raging at the box office and the biggest take away for fans has to be Salman playing a sport that is so deep-rooted in our country. Kushti has originated here and it has been fitting to see him pay ode to India’s pride. It hasn’t been easy though. Ask if he would take up a sports narrative again, and he thinks before quipping, “It is really tough to do a sport-based film. Probably next time we can make it on Carrom, Scrabble, Chess, Snooker, Pictionary…! (Laughs)”

Jokes aside, the one thing that he is very concerned about is the pricing of the tickets and the decreasing number of theatres in the country. He takes this issue to heart and his team is researching how and where theatres can be opened in smaller towns. “There is an audience who does not go to the theatre at all and watches it at home on DVD or satellite. That is the audience that we need as we don’t have those many theatres. Bajrangi Bhaijaan was the most watched film which around 40 lakh people watched in a population of 125 crore-plus which is not even 3%. We don’t have theatre goers and are still surviving. Just imagine when we have increased the number of theatres and when people actually start going in packs to theatres to watch films! We heard that there were a certain number of theatres that were shut down in UP and Maharashtra which is very sad. There used to be more theatres then than there are now. I know the ticket prices are heavy on weekends but from Monday it comes down. Even I feel that the ticket prices are very high but if you see the infrastructure of the multiplex, the value of real estate… If they don’t charge money, the theatre would have to be shut down. We tried not increasing the ticket price during the release of Jai Ho. Neither was it appreciated nor did we get any collections. It was a disaster of Rs.128 crore!”

Point made, he grins, “I remember I was shooting in Mandawa and had to travel for around two hours to go watch Dolly Ki Doli in a theatre. It was a worthwhile drive but you know what I mean, right?”

Coming to the issue of films being leaked online recently, that makes the job of getting the audience to the theatres all the more tough…

“That is really disgusting, chor log hain. Those are people who don’t want to do any kind of hard work and want to earn money off someone else’s hard work. This is the worst thing – to let someone else work and take the credit for it and make money on their behalf. I think this needs to be taken care of. Both the people – the one who is selling pirated things and the one who is buying – need to be taken into account as we pay heavy taxes. When you are paying taxes, then you need to protect us where these things are concerned. It doesn’t happen in the South, you know.”

Analysing the kind of scripts that he is green-lighting, from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan and now Tubelight… the choices seem very interesting. While others are succumbing to the old school formulae, he is on a spree of choosing brooding characters. We are very impressed!

“Yes, I have become very choosy. See the amount of films that I used to do earlier and now I don’t do them anymore. One or two disasters here and there made me a bit choosy when it comes to scripts. (Chuckles)”

On a lighter note, we know that his father is his toughest critic. Does he get any words of wisdom from the man who has seen it all?

“Yes! My dad is my toughest critic. Every time a film of mine releases, his reaction is very important. He comes back and says, “Bhool jao, so jao…nextwali pe zada mehnat karo.” He really liked Sultan. You know, he keeps trials for everyone including Karan (Johar)’s mom, Ashaji (Asha Parekh), Waheedaji… and all of them go together to watch films. They watch every film that is coming out. One day is fixed for them; Mum, Dad and they go and watch films. My father is writing articles right now and is tweeting! He is fantastic. I want him to do whatever he wants to, man; just don’t trouble my mother! (Laughs)

…And there it slips out, his core truth – all the nation’s biggest superstar really cares about is his Mama!

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