What makes Salman Khan a phenomenon
You may love him or hate him, but you can't ignore him. Salman Khan is a man of all seasons. Despite several flops and controversies, he is still rules the roost in Bollywood.
What is it that makes Salman different from his contemporaries? No actor of his generation has the same fan following. At 45, Sallu can make young girls drool over him and boys pump iron to get his enviable six-pack.
There are many reasons why Khan is today one of Bollywood's most successful actors even though many have criticized his uncanny attitude towards the industry. His father and famous scriptwriter Salim Khan says, "He has all the qualities of a hero -- he can fight, he can romance, he can do comedy. I don't think any director has utilized his potential but I must say that now that is beginning to change. He thinks about his work now and gives it importance. That's why you saw him at his best in Dabangg."
Salman's mentor and a contemporary Sanjay Dutt says, "Salman Khan is like my younger brother, he is the superstar in Bollywood today."
The euphoria generated by the actor's macho image has placed him ahead of all the other actors in town. And Salman is making the most of these good times to strengthen his grip over Bollywood by choosing films with select banners.
Image: Salman Khan in Bodyguard
The Rajnification of Salman
With Wanted and Dabangg, he made a conscious effort to bring the macho man phenomenon back to Bollywood. "I had started missing the macho hero. When my father (Salim Khan) used to write, the heroes used to be the strong and central to the story. I would go to the theater and clap and whistle when I saw the hero on screen," says Salman.
"The macho hero seems to have vanished. Today's generation is missing the macho man and I wanted to bring him back on screen. I wanted to make sure people remember the hero when they leave the theater. That's why I am doing such films," he adds.
The actors' unparalleled success with films like Wanted, Dabangg and Ready has one common reason behind it. The entire film industry is talking about the 'Rajnification' of his films. Touted as the Rajinkanth of Bollywood, Salman has been following in the Tamil superstar's footsteps and making himself larger than life in his films. His fans love him in this avatar but Salman denies it. The actor says, "Rajnikanth is in a different league. I can never get close to him. I don't want to be anyone. I just want to be Salman Khan."
His fans swear by him. I witnessed the Salman Khan phenomena when I went to watch Dabangg at Gaiety, a single screen cinema in suburban Mumbai. The 972-seater theatre was packed with hardcore Salman loyalists who would whistle and clap at every dialogue and dance to his songs. Some of his fans even call him the Tom Cruise of India.
For Salman too his fans matter the most. "My fans are my real critics. I have become very choosy about my scripts because of them. I don't work for money. Even if I don't get any remuneration, I am fine with it. But I have to respect my fans who pay for their movie tickets and expect to watch good entertaining cinema," he says.
Image: Salman Khan in Dabangg
'Salman's charisma is beyond anything'
Salman's name is enough to draw in crowds into theatres. No hero can boast of such charisma.
Imran Khan says, "Salman's charisma is beyond anything. I don't think any star has possessed it at any point of time in their career. You just put his face and the name of the film on the poster and people will happily walk into the theatres to watch the film. They don't care what the film is going to be about. He is just on another planet."
Another reason behind the actor's success is Bollywood's latest trend of getting inspired by South films. A lot of Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam movies are being remade in Hindi and this fascination for the South Indian masala formula is getting rich dividends for Bollywood.
Aamir Khan may have started the trend with Ghajini (a remake of a super hit Tamil film with the same name), which was a huge box office hit, but it was Salman who truly understood the new law that that governs Bollywood.
There seemed to be a lull in Salman's career between 2005 and 2008, when he had only two hits -- No Entry (2005) and Partner (2007). However, Wanted a remake of the Telugu super hit Pokiri turned out to be the biggest grosser of 2009 and Salman hasn't looked back ever since. The actor's next film Dabangg, though not a remake, had all the elements of South Indian masala cinema. The movie broke all previous box office records. Salman once again looked down south and came up with his next film, Ready. His upcoming films Bodyguard and Kick are remakes of Malayalam and Telugu movies.
Image: Salman Khan in Partner
'Each star has a different style of dialogue delivery which makes a particular dialogue unique'
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh says, "The numbers speak for itself. Dabangg's box office collection was $32 million, followed by Ready which collected $27 million. A number of records are going to be broken on August 31 when Bodyguard releases. Just wait and watch."
Khan is a trendsetter. Anything and everything looks good on him and his fans love to emulate him. His hairstyle in Tere Naam became a rage in India and his quirky but immensely popular character Chulbul Pandey's (in Dabangg) pencil-thin moustache, and gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses hung at the back of his shirt collar became a style statement for many.
Salman does everything with lan, be it his dialogue delivery or his signature dance steps. In one of his interviews, he mentioned that Dabangg was dedicated to people who cannot dance "Each star has a different style of dialogue delivery which makes a particular dialogue unique," he says.
Success and failure are part of the business and Salman is no exception to it. He has often been called the king of controversies. His first brush with the law was in 2002 when he ran his car over some pavement dwellers in Mumbai killing one and injuring three. In February 2006, he was convicted for poaching a blackbuck near Jodhpur, where he was shooting for Hum Saath Saath Hain. Ask Salman about his controversies and he replies "Main kya karu (What can I do?). It just happens to me. People don't like to read boring stuff. Variety is the spice of life. People want to read spicy stuff."
Image: Salman Khan in Tere Naam
'I am very particular about my roles'
A string of high-profile love affairs have built up Salman's Casanova image. He had a bevy of beautiful girlfriends, including Aishwarya Rai Bachhan, Katrina Kaif, Somy Ali and Sangeeta Bijlani.
Over the years, Salman has built a reputation for being a Good Samaritan. He's worked extensively for cancer and AIDS patients. His NGO, Being Human raises funds by selling T-shirts, watches and other accessories along with original paintings made by the actor.
The lineup of his upcoming films is just incredible. Bodyguard will be followed by Yash Raj films Ek Tha Tiger, Sohail Khan's Sherkhan, Shirish Kunder's Kick and Arbaaz Khan's Dabangg 2.
Salman says there is no secret formula to success, "I am sure I would also go wrong if I stick to a particular formula. What happens is, when you start following a particular formula, you get carried away? In the end, you just become a caricature of yourself. I am very particular about my roles."
Surely there is no stopping this Khan.
Image: Poster of Ek Tha Tiger