Salman Khan: Bollywood’s Bold, Bashful & Brilliant Superstar

On the heels of yet another entertainer, a closer look into the mind and method of the muscled Midas (very few films that he has touched haven’t turned to gold!)

By Nichola Marie

Reviewing ‘Tiger 3’, the film critic at ‘The Indian Express’ voiced the question on a million minds: “Why does this film leave Salman with his shirt on? That’s one thing guaranteed to bring the house down. Yes, even now, after all these years. Don’t tell me the plot couldn’t find one appropriate climatic moment for such a momentous, and anticipated Bhai moment. Or are they saving it up for the fourth ‘Tiger’ outing?”

Jokes apart, will Bhai’s fans ever get enough of seeing their beloved superstar minus his shirt? Decades pass (it is approximately 34 years since he first shed it on screen) and still the clamour continues. Don’t forget, he is the trendsetter here, displaying his lean yet muscled gym bod in the smash hit ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ (1989). However, it was with films like ‘Veergati’ (1995) and ‘Karan Arjun’ (1995) that his body-building efforts became noticeably apparent. He would rationalise it at the time saying, “I realised that a good body was an asset and hence I cast my shirt off for the film. When you have a good body, why shouldn’t you show it off, man? Walking around bare-chested is not new for me. Even in my house, I never wear a shirt. You will always find me in just shorts. If I am driving or walking down the road, and if I feel hot, I just take off my shirt and carry on. I do not care what people say. If you have a problem, get lost.”

Cut to 2023, where he sometimes firmly decides he will keep his shirt, no matter how fervently fans hope he will shed it! That, in a nutshell, is the superstar – unpredictable. Just the word his ‘Tiger 3’ co-star Katrina Kaif used to describe him recently. Opening up about her nearly two-decade long onscreen equation with Khan, she revealed that he is “unpredictable” as an actor, and so, she always has to be on her toes to keep up with him. “He will change it every take. He will throw something else at you so you have to be fluid.”

She also made another very interesting observation – that Khan does not talk much on set, as he is just sitting in a corner “chewing on his shirt collar,” constantly thinking about his scenes. “Salman will never show you what he’s always thinking,” she shared.

This quiet, ruminative side of Khan is not often spoken of but it is very much a part of his mental makeup. For one, he is not flippant in the least about his humungous success, the enormous fandom he enjoys. “I wake up in the morning, have my coffee and thank God for giving me another day to get through. I am really blessed,” he said recently. He prefers not to dwell on the personal and professional lows that have also peppered his more than three-decade-long career. He reasons, “There are a lot of people who are 1000 times better-looking, talented, hard-working, have the zest towards their goals, and they have not made it. So when you see that, what you describe as my lows would be a high for 99.9% of the population in the country. So, I don’t think there is a low. I have been fortunate by what God has bestowed me, my family and my families with.”

A Philosopher In Disguise

His stance hasn’t changed; many years ago, facing considerable setbacks, he had maintained, “I was neither disillusioned nor disheartened when my career took a turn for the worse. In fact, I accepted my fate as part of the job. Highs and lows are part of the profession… I just indulged myself and had a good time.” Having regrets, in his opinion, is just “silly and idiotic.” Unexpectedly philosophical, he points out, “The past is gone. We have to concentrate on the present and get a better future. But that does not mean that you slog your a** out. You have to work hard, but then you have to enjoy what you are doing so that you do not ruminate and cry over it if it does not work.”

The Side We Don’t See

Today, in a position that just a handful of chosen ones ever enjoy, he does not shy away from affirming, “By the grace of God, I can bring in crowds Friday, Saturday and Sunday because of the way the fans are with me.” After that, he points out with the wisdom of being an industry-wala over so many years, “The film also has to be on that level that they want to go and see the film again. That’s how the film makes the numbers when people go and watch the film twice or thrice. That only happens if your blood and sweat are in the movie and you are sincere about the time that you spend on sets, away from sets… Like you are thinking, eating, drinking, breathing that particular movie.”

The Reluctant Superstar

Quiz him about his sustained stardom, he muses, “See, I don’t know what it is but we have been really fortunate that we have been here for over three decades. All of us actually came at that point of time in the ’90s. Ajay (Devgn), Akki (Akshay Kumar), Aamir, Shah Rukh, me and all of us have been there. Now Sunny’s film is a big hit… I believe I’ve been lucky that I’ve survived all these years in the industry.”

That said, he claims he is no fan of the superstar tag and has never felt like one. “I have never felt like a superstar ever. My habits are not that of a superstar. The way I travel, the way I dress, there is nothing I do that speaks superstar. My mind is not tuned that way. Nothing about me is super starry. Nothing at all. It is all bulls**t. I have never felt it… I just want to give my best.”

Success, he believes, also depends on the right film choices and how interested one is. He gives credit to the film itself that helps create a bond, “where it’s an outing and bonding with friends and family. You create a bond, feel good that you are going out instead of sitting at home in a bad mood, watching a bad print.”

A Friend Indeed
Generous with his enormous clout, Salman Khan is one of the few who spontaneously helps boost the careers of newcomers or those who are going through a lean patch. In an industry that is largely cutthroat or nonchalant, that is a rarity. Bobby Deol, for one, has made no secret of the fact that Khan helped revive his career by giving him an opportunity in ‘Race 3’ (2018) and thus reintroducing him to younger generation viewers. Calling Khan an amazing human being and a very big-hearted person, Deol revealed that when Khan really cares about someone, he goes all out to be there for them. From Katrina Kaif, to Govinda, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Suniel Shetty, Daisy Shah, Aayush Sharma and more, Khan has gone the extra mile to help them find a secure footing in the industry.

Years ago, he had opened up in an interview saying, “I was always considered the black sheep of the family. But then, the situation is not the same anymore. I have done a lot of good work. I have given so many hits and the number of flops that I have given is much less than anyone else in the industry today. I am not here today to prove a point. I have already proved my worth…”

Actor Shri Salman Khan calling on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on November 06, 2014.

That, Salman Khan amply has; all that has followed is a bonus!

The ‘Human’ Effect

  • A successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, Salman Khan founded Being Human – The Salman Khan Foundation in 2007, to provide education and healthcare services to the underprivileged classes in India. He is also the owner of Being Human branded merchandise which primarily funds his Being Human Foundation.
  • A glance at some of the projects supported by Being Human…
  • Akshara High School – The Foundation has been funding the education of 200 children at Akshara High School, Kandivali, Mumbai, a not-for-profit neighbourhood school, since June 2012.
  • Aseema – Associated with Aseema since 2011, the Foundation supports around 300 neglected children at Aseema to receive holistic and relevant education.
  • Tubelight Project – Started to empower youth with disabilities, Being Human’s Tubelight Project is a joint initiative between the Foundation, TRRAIN and Rann Neeti Strategic Consultants. Under this project, various skill training centres in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi have been set up. The aim is to train differently-abled youth to gain employment in the retail sector.
  • Being Bajrangi Project – The aim of the project is to identify lost children in Mumbai and reconnect them with their families. The team works with child welfare NGOs and helps them in tracking the missing children. A total of 51 children have apparently been reunited with their families and are now enrolled in schools and other projects in their hometowns.
  • The Foundation also runs educational resource centres in Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Prabodhan Seva Mandal’s arithmetic project and computer programme, and the English learning and digital language programme.

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