Who is Salman Khan? The boy from Indore who loved the dirt track or the Mumbai superstar who’s as famous for his roles as his romantic life? New book looks to actor's family and friends for answers
In an excerpt from Being Salman, by Jasim Khan, Salman’s aunt Sufiya Khan speaks of his fondness for good food.
Salman has always liked good food. He would often say, ‘Aunt, make kheer for me, make kebabs for me.’ Earlier the house had a huge compound with many trees. He loved to pluck the fruits and eat them. He would never let a bottle of sherbet last for long in the house.
Salman Khan. File photo
A whole bunch of children used to gather at our home. They would eat and play together. The children would eat fruits, climb the trees and ride bicycles in the compound.
Little Salman takes a bath. PHotograph courtesy: Naeem Khan and PENGUIN BOOKS INDIA
Sufiya Khan swears by the goodness of Salman’s heart. ‘He has the unblemished heart of a child. Salman is very simple and gullible. He loves children. He cannot see tears in the eyes of any child. Every child is a darling to him.’
Salim Khan with wife Susheela Charak and their two eldest kids, Salman and Alvira
Salman’s uncle Naeem Khan says that Salman was different from the other kids — naughty and stubborn. He never listened to anyone once he had decided to do something. He had developed an early interest in stunts. At the age of twelve, he could jump up to three metres on wheels. Sometimes he took his bicycle to stony paths, and he could balance it even on stairs.
Cousin Mubin Khan was his playmate. Mubin says he cannot count the number of times they had fallen while attempting the stunts. It would often break the bicycle altogether. But the bruises could never deter them from taking risks.
Salman (left, standing) with his brothers Arbaz (right, standing) and Sohail (middle), sister Alvira, and two cousins
Mubin also reminisces about Salman’s love for nature. He loved to walk in the woods. Nights spent outdoors were special to him. Salman was the only one in the group who loved to drive his jeep on dirt roads.
Life in the wild has always enchanted Salman. He loves remote villages, relishing bullock-cart rides and milking cows and buffaloes; he would then gulp down the raw milk.
With actress Somy Ali. Photograph courtesy: Varinder Chawla
Matin Khan, another cousin of Salman’s, recalls an adventure:
Our childhood was full of fun. We roamed the villages and fields in the jeep and performed all sorts of bike stunts on those dirt roads. We would climb trees and eat fresh fruits. Once Salman broke his hand while performing a stunt; we were in a neighbouring place called Bardari-we have our land there-we were racing and his bike slipped.
Salman’s cousin Mubin Khan posing in front of the jeep that Salman used to learn driving on
Bardari village is situated a few kilometres away from Salman’s ancestral house. This was the place where all his cousins and friends would meet to play. Mubin Khan remembers:
We would go to faraway places on jeeps and motorcycles. We often chose mud roads. Sometimes the vehicles would be stuck in the mud. We enjoyed pulling them out of it. The whole gang would jump into the well and swim together. This was the kind of family enjoyment we had.
All of Salman’s relatives recount that Salman liked playing more than academics. This was one of the reasons why Salim Khan sent him away to Scindia Boarding School in Gwalior. Counted among the top four schools in the country, it was originally built for the education of royal pupils.
But even such a high-profile campus could not motivate Salman’s heart and soul towards studies. At last, Salim Khan had to take him back to Mumbai, to study at St. Stanislaus Convent High School.
He usually avoids questions on his personal life. From Sangeeta Bijlani to Katrina Kaif, there have been women galore in his life. But few are aware of his first love.
Here is what Salman Khan’s mother Salma Khan said in an interview to Filmfare magazine in 1990: ‘My children never hide anything from me. I am more like a friend to them. They share every secret with me. Salman has had girlfriends since the age of thirteen. I have always encouraged him to bring them home.’
Salman’s Bollywood affairs have been much talked about.
However, one of his love stories has remained hidden from the limelight. That too a love which was on the verge of culminating in marriage. But destiny had something else in store.
Many of Salman’s friends confess it was a time of great emotional upheaval for him. Many other beauties passed through his life after that. But none of them could turn into a life partner. Salman has been questioned umpteen times about his marriage. His standard answer has been: ‘My marriage was averted many times. Perhaps God was kind to me. You can see from the married ones what I mean.’
He has admitted on India TV’s show Aap Ki Adalat that he has had five girlfriends in his life. He was rather slyly asked by the interviewer, ‘People associate you with two things: boozing and womanizing, which of these are true?’ ‘Both are true,’ answered Salman. ‘I have a very poor ratio in terms of girlfriends. I have had five girlfriends in forty-eight years. It is a very poor ratio.’
Four out of these five girlfriends are well known to the world. However, the fifth has always remained a mystery. Salman has always remained tight-lipped about this episode of his life.
This story dates back to the time when Salman was a student of St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. He was in his second year, but was mainly focused on his Bollywood career. As the grapevine has it, one Shaheen Jaffrey entered his life during this time.
Shaheen is the maternal granddaughter of the famous star Ashok Kumar. His daughter Bharti was remarried to actor Saeed Jaffrey’s brother, Hamid Jaffrey. The couple had two daughters, Jeniv Advani and Shaheen Jaffrey. So Shaheen is also Saeed Jaffrey’s niece.
Shaheen has been a model by profession. She has strong connections with Bollywood. Her niece Kiara Advani has corroborated that Shaheen indeed was the first one to steal Salman’s heart. Kiara, who entered Bollywood with the movie Fugly in 2014, said this during an interview to the Times of India:
Salman used to date Shaheen long ago. It is very much possible that she was his first love. My mother knows Salman for a long time as he has grown up in Bandra. He would always say to my mother that one day I will be a big star. Shaheen and Salman had been together for a long time. They used to go cycling together. My mother introduced Salman to Shaheen. She had been to Salman’s home on a number of occasions.
According to some accounts, Salman was nineteen when he was smitten by Shaheen. Salman’s red sports car was frequently spotted at the gate of St. Xavier’s College where Shaheen studied.
It is said that the two were just about to tie the knot. Then Sangeeta Bijlani, the famous model, entered the plot. People say Sangeeta was a regular visitor to the same health club at Hotel Sea Rock where Salman and Shaheen used to go. Sangeeta was smarting from the pain of her break-up with her boyfriend Binju Ali at that time.
The real story of Salman’s and Shaheen’s parting of ways is still a mystery. However, we do know that Shaheen Jaffrey joined Cathay Pacific airlines after Salman bid adieu to her.
Sangeeta Bijlani saw a chaste and sensitive human being in Salman Khan and soon they became close. It was a casual relationship in the beginning, but soon flames of passion ignited between the two. Sangeeta was older than Salman, and Salman was taken by her emotional maturity. He was at a crossroads and had no idea where to go.
According to gossip at that time, the Salman-Sangeeta affair lasted for six years, ending in 1994. Sangeeta admitted that she had parted ways with Salman. She had become close to Salman’s family. She explicitly said, ‘I regret the break-up because I had to distance myself from Salman’s family. They treated me as one of their own. I cannot repay the affection I got from that family. The moments spent in that home, on its balcony, are unforgettable. How can I ever forget those moments?’
The media was rife with speculation about Salman’s and Sangeeta’s marriage. Stardust even announced the couple was going to tie the knot on 27 May 1994. Sangeeta Bijlani was prompt in her denial. ‘I know you will not trust me. But wait for the date. You will find me unmarried the next day,’ she said. Instead, she went a step ahead and parted ways with Salman.
Salman’s aunt Sufiya delves more on this break-up without mentioning names:
All the relatives were awaiting the marriage. Even the month of marriage had been decided. I do not want to take names, though I can confirm that she was not Somy Ali. We were just waiting for the announcement of the date of marriage. It was almost final. Then suddenly the circumstances changed.
It was left for others to conclude that the one who wrecked the relationship was Somy Ali. Somy Ali was just sixteen when she entered Bollywood in 1992. She had come with her mother from Pakistan to become an actress in Mumbai. Dharmendra signed her for Jaan opposite Bobby Deol.
...The moment she quit Dharmendra’s movie, she became Salman’s heroine in the movie Buland. Friendship led to love, and undoubtedly this was what led to Salman’s break-up with Sangeeta Bijlani. Somy Ali co 'nfessed to the New York Times in 2012: ‘I was so ambitious that I forgot Salman was with somebody else. This was morally wrong.’
Sangeeta Bijlani and Somy Ali remained in Salman Khan’s life for the longest period of time. Both enjoyed a close relationship with his family. This author tried to inquire of Salim Khan why Salman’s marriage had to be cancelled at the last minute. ‘Every romantic relationship starts with the promise of marriage. Sometimes, it comes out later that the two are not cut out for each other. They have different ambitions. The guy may want a woman who can manage the home, but the girl may have different ambitions,’ said Salim Khan. This author asked Salman’s aunt Sufiya if she had ever prodded him for marriage. This is what she had to say: ‘My husband’s brother was a bachelor for life. He stayed with us. “At least one person in the family must be like the elder uncle,” he would say.’
— Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books India from Being Salman by Jasim Khan