Superstar Salman Khan now knows how actresses feel when they have shoot in swimwear. "The most difficult part in this film has been the langot (loincloth). Today, I understand what heroines feel when they do the swimsuit shots.
"When I was told I had to wear a langot, I thought I could do it. When I reached there (the venue of the shoot), I saw a crowd of 5,000 which included ladies. I was like, no way am I doing this. When I was walking out of the vanity van to the location, I was in tears. I felt violated. And I am not shy at all. I don't feel ashamed to remove my shirt and wear shorts."
The trailer of Sultan, starring Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma and helmed by Ali Abbas Zafar, was launched at Filmcity, Mumbai, on May 24.
At the launch, Salman made it clear the film was not based on a real life character. "It isn't a biopic. Not is it based on any real life incident. It is from Ali's head. It is a story of an underdog."
Ali added, "It is a fictional story. It is a Hindustani kahaani (Indian story), a story about relationships in which sports is the backdrop. The common thing between life and wresting is that, in both, people fall but you have to rise again. That's what the film stands for."
Sultan (Salman) and Aarfa's (Anushka) love story is not smooth. Anushka said, "This love story is about two wrestlers who understand each other's ups and downs. In a way, it's a relationship of equals. Like my character says, 'Sometimes in life, when you start focusing on something too much, you forget some important things.' You will also get to see the way their love story goes through its highs and lows and how it impacts the story."
Salman added, "Sultan is a simple man who has no ambition. He sees a feisty girl and falls in love with her. She's a wrestler and he is nobody. He feels that, if he gets married, it will be to her only but then it goes wrong because she is strong-headed. She misunderstands him. It's all about Sultan -- how he goes down, then comes back up again with the help of the woman he loves. This results in a happy, beautiful love story which may or may not be the end of this film."
For people wanting to rise and grow again, Sallu bhai had some advice "Family support is important. Also, you need to realise when you've gone wrong and rectify it. The most important thing is to keep on competing with yourself and not cut anyone's level down but to only increase your level."
Learning wrestling is no easy task but Anushka was fortunate. "Luckily there were no injuries, as I had a good team of a trainer and a physiotherapist. In order to play an athlete who has been doing a particular sport for her entire life, I got only six weeks to prep. In situations like this, injuries can happen."
Wrestling is an experience Anushka will never forget. "One thing I'd like to press on is that the kind of training that goes into wrestling. I am happy that, in fragments at least, I got to experience it and keep it with me as a part of my life experience. I am always going to hold it very closely."
She added, "I was scared initially because, firstly, I don't look like a wrestler. We have a set perception about wrestlers that they are a particular size but then I researched and realised there were some international wrestlers who looked like me too. I just had to look toned. There are weight categories and my category was the lesser one."
"Correct," interrupted Salman. "The 15 kgs one."
"58 kg," grinned Anushka.
She also said she was a little uncomfortable initially. "As an actor and a girl, you aren't used to people coming this close to you. I used to feel very uncomfortable about that in the beginning. I saw videos of the matches and realised that, if I have to do this, I have to go all in. I went for it, didn't care about anything and learnt the moves properly. I insisted I wouldn't use a body double. I worked hard and I am happy I got to do it."
Salman's experience with wrestling was completely different. "She was lucky she didn't get injured. Meri toh picture mein vaat lag gayi (I had a tough time while shooting for the film). When Ali told me about the role, I thought I would easily do it. But when I actually had to do it, there were real wrestlers standing in front of me," he said.
"In the film, in most of the shots, the wresting is real; there's no cable. They were lifting and throwing me. It hurt. But the most difficult part was when I had to lift and throw wrestlers who weighed 120-130 kgs. They were not our film fighters who would actually give the leap and go down; these wrestlers expect you to pick them up and throw them down.
"When a wrestler trains, he trains for 2-3 hours and then for a couple of hours in the evening. I was training for wresting and mixed martial arts. Along with that, I was shooting for 6-7 hours a day nonstop... meaning fighting nonstop. Those hours of training use to take a toll on the body."
There's a scene in the trailer where Salman is running with a train. "That's also difficult, running at my age," laughed Salman and added, "Obviously we want this to be the biggest hit of our lives and Ali has given his life to the film."
Anushka has worked with all the three Khans now (Shah Rukh Khan in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Aamir Khan in PK and now Salman in Sultan). When asked about their individual working styles, Anushka chose to speak about Salman only as they were promoting Sultan. "Salman is a very refreshing person to work with because, with him, what you see is what you get."
Salman joked, "Aamir and Shah Rukh bilkul aise nahi hai (Aamir and Shah Rukh aren't like that)."
Anushka continued, "He is unfazed by anything that happens around him."
Tongue-in-cheek, Salman agreed, "Correct, Aamir aur Shah Rukh bilkul aise nahi hai (Aamir and Shah Rukh aren't like that)."
Anushka continued, "If you see someone who is at the top of his career and still that way, you feel relaxed. He is very blessed and he has a lot of people around him who love him. Since I was announced for the film, the kind of messages I have got from Salman fans is unbelievable. When you see the film, you'll realise how hard he has worked."
"You're lying," said Salman.
"No, no, I am not," countered Anushka. "Hats off to him for having done this at this stage in his career. I think it is amazing and I respect that a lot."
Ali has mostly worked with younger actors in his previous films (Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Gunday). Ask him what it was like working with a big star like Salman and Salman immediately replied, "He has worked with Katrina Kaif."
Ali said, "I am fortunate to work with Sir (Salman). When you write a character, you visualise an actor who can pull it through. We (Aditya Chopra and Ali) were very clear that we will only make this film if Sir agrees to do it. When you take a script to a big star, you think that character will do justice to his stardom. The story narration took 20 minutes. When he heard it, he instantly said this is something I relate to. That's how the journey of Sultan began."
Sharing his learning experience, Ali said, "Nobody can beat the experience and Salman has experience of 25 years. There's a lot of Salman in the film because his contribution to it is phenomenal. He never pointed the bigger things to me, he only told me about the small ones. My learning from Sultan is that the depth of a film lies in the small things, not the big ones. As for the rest, you'll see it on Eid."
Ask if we will see Salman and Anushka wrestle and Salman says, "There is one bout... a very nice, beautiful, romantic bout."
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar