In an exclusive interview published in 2009, Salman Khan opens up to former mid-day executive editor Abhijit Majumder about everything from his IPL ambitions to SRK to his dog, Islam to Katrina
You are there, invisibly pinned to the wall by fear as the massive, bear-like Saint Bernard casually strolls up to you.
"Don't panic, take your fears head on, run into them," advises a grinning Salman Khan, wearing just his blue gym shorts. "Come, let me introduce you to Saint. He's a harmless baby."
For the next hour or so, you have him talking about new films, SRK, Katrina, Islam, close to everything.
He confirmed in this interview at his Bandra Bandstand house on Friday afternoon that he indeed wants to buy an IPL team.
So this is Salman unplugged (just kidding... anybody who has spent some time with him knows an entirely unplugged Salman is too candid, raw and politically outrageous even for our pages). Excerpts of the printable interview:
You haven't had a hit for a while. Does that worry you?
It does bother me like everybody else. But I haven't had too many releases either. With me, there wouldn't be a film for a long time, and then there would be a flurry of them. I just let my films release whenever they are done. There is no strategy, no game involved.
Are your forthcoming films any different from what you've done so far?
Arre, lovely films yaar. These are the ones I have chosen carefully, worked very hard for. The script is the star of the film. Earlier, I would do a film because it's a big banner or name, but many of them didn't do well. Finally, a strong story works. And I have stopped doing films just because somebody has requested me, or is a friend. A large-hearted person is a bewakoof, an idiot. Even on planes, they ask you to wear the mask first in case of an emergency before helping others. Till the time you oblige people, they'll say Salman is large-hearted, etc, the moment you refuse, they'll say, Salman badal gaya hain. You get me a good script, I will be a fool not to do it.
What do you think of other stars?
To reach the top, you need to have certain qualities. Aamir is fantastic at his work. Look at how he pulled off an action film, Ghajini. Shah Rukh has the amazing romantic intensity. Amitabh Bachchan is the most professional, most hardworking man even now. Akshay Kumar has tremendous, horse-like focus. Ajay has got his own charm, his own audience. For middle and lower-middle-class audiences, the only entertainment is cinema. Going to the movies is like a picnic. If we can't entertain them, give them value for their money.
Some would say you have been unfair to SRK on the airport controversy. Doesn't racial profiling bother you? Have you never felt people behaved in a certain manner with you because you are a Muslim?
I don't think Shah Rukh has ever gone through that. He has been politically correct, there are no court cases against him... they still detained him, and he felt humiliated. They were doing their job.
Let me put this directly: what is your problem with the man who lives on the other side of Bandstand? You used to be friends once.
It's just that our thinking doesn't tally. But the world is made of all sorts of people. I did not like what he said once. He respects my family, I respect his. We just don't see eye to eye. Weird things happened one night. It could have been sorted out then and there. Next morning, I came home. But I found that it was blown out of proportion, obviously not from my side.
It was just a joke at a party, wasn't it?
(Looks across, intensely) It was not a joke.
I don't want to talk about it, but as one grows, one becomes magnanimous, more secure... chalo, god has given so much. But not in his case.
I have my family my parents, brothers, sisters, everybody. He doesn't have anybody above him. So perhaps it is lack of... guidance perhaps. Or maybe some sort of fear. Maybe, if I were in his place, I would behave exactly like that.
Do you respect Shah Rukh professionally?
He is very effective. Great script sense. He has come up the hard way, from TV. How he has climbed is his problem. But he has climbed a long way up. For me it is not about climbing, it is about growing.
Who are your best friends?
Mohnish (Behl), but I don't get to meet him often. Sadiq. A couple of my childhood friends have died. Barry, who was in shipping, died in a shipwreck. Dilip was in the US. He died very recently.
Who is the biggest star in Bollywood now?
(Ponders for unusually long) This is the question I want to ask you.
Isn't this your interview?
I want to be really modest here. It's a difficult question you have asked me and to say the right thing would sound pompous, arrogant. (Ponders again) Chalo I have an answer. Jiski bhi last picture badi hit hain, he's the biggest.
My father says if you want to give your rivals a gift, arrive late for a shoot, sign the wrong films, get drunk, get into trouble...
You have given them quite a few gifts in that case...
(Laughs out loud) Quite a few. But Sanju has given more such gifts. If he hadn't, nobody could have dislodged Sanju from the top position. He's a man's man and a ladies' man.
Don't you feel Amitabh Bachchan can still give the big four you, SRK, Aamir, Akshay Kumar a run for your money?
He has been there for such a long time. I definitely have respect for him as an actor. He was the biggest star there was ever... ever. Among his contemporaries, Dharamji is not interested, VK sir (Vinod Khanna) would do a film once in a while. But Amitji has the passion to go on and on.
Now, we don't have anybody who can play father or god (in God Tussi Great Ho) better than Amitji. Even though Jackie is playing father, he can't do it like Amitji; Jackie is far too young.
Has Salman Khan mellowed down from the wild brat who allegedly had brawls over girlfriends, hunted wildlife and ran over people with his car, to being more of a thinking man?
Nothing has changed.
Are you still as impulsive?
I'm the same guy. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time was part of my destiny. And from there, the media took it to a different, negative level and that was my destiny too, as was going to jail.
Would you still react if somebody bad-mouthed a friend in front of you?
Yes. But I'd ask my friends not to react if somebody bad-mouthed me in front of them.
Have you got more love from your audiences than your contemporaries?
There's no comparison. If people had seen an Aamir or Shah Rukh go through what I went through, they'd have given them far more affection. People have seen me as a real person. For them, Salman 'apna bachcha hain, apna bhai hain'. Also, over the time, start doing away with your insecurities, start getting more and more magnanimous, and you will get love.
There are fatwas against you celebrating Ganpati in your house. Haven't you ever worried that it might alienate thousands of your Muslim fans?
First came human beings and then came religion. Muslims don't like bad Muslims; Hindus don't like bad Hindus. Fatwa is an opinion. Nobody is allowed to issue fatwas. The relationship is between me, the banda, and god.
Are you buying an IPL team?
Yes, I want to buy an IPL team. I am interested. So is Lalit. He and I have discussed this. It is a long process, involves bidding and all that.
Which team do you want to buy? Kolkata Knight Riders?
No, no. I want to buy one of the two new teams that they are going to introduce. People think I want to buy a team because of an ego hassle with Shah Rukh. Suniel [Shetty] put it very well the other dayÃ¢ÂÂÂÂÂÂ¦he said I don't think somebody will put in hundreds of crores for an ego hassle.
You like cricket?
My father and brother are crazy about it. I am not that ardent a fan, but once I'm into it, I'll make sure things work.
Is everything fine between Katrina and you?
Ya, ya. Everybody has problems. My parents still have problems, boss. When I get to know that something's not happening, I'll tell you.
Do media reports about closeness between John Abraham and Katrina bother you?
I had asked her to do the film. I don't like him too much. But I asked Katrina not to be influenced by my thinking.
He had apparently removed her from a film a long time ago. She was not very comfortable. Right now she is in a position to kick him out. But I told her it is the director's film, she should do it.
Just like with Karan Arjun, Shah Rukh tried to get me out of the film but when we did it, I told him we are now going to play brothers for not one but two births, so let's be like brothers. Ask me for anything.
You are apparently against heroines exposing on screen.
People say I keep on saying 'Don't expose, don't expose'. There's a theory behind this. The audience doesn't want to see you like that. They want you as girlfriend, or want to marry you. They don't want to share you with others.
So your advice doesn't stem from being possessive?
That's also there. But frankly, exposure doesn't work in this industry. That's why I say, 'Upar se thoda sa upar, neeche se thoda sa neeche.' About clothes, that is.
When the girls come in, the producer or director says, 'iska kapda chhota karo, aur chhota karo.' Then they become established heroines and refuse to bare. And when they are on their way out, they find the younger lot baring, and go back to it. I don't think they should do it.
You still haven't bit the bait, but do you feel marriage still works as an institution?
Of course it does. My parents' marriage has worked beautifully. I would like to get married at some point.
How many kids do you want to have?
I don't know kitne ho sakte hain. Two-three may be.
(Laughs) Unless something is confirmed, I can't say anything. If signing a paper means you have married, then sorry I have not done that. And if signing a divorce paper means you are divorced, sorry I have not done that either.
What beyond acting?
Being human (his NGO). There is nothing greater than touching people's lives, addressing their suffering, bringing dignity.
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