Salman Khan recalls how he struggled to focus on work with conviction in the 2002 hit-and-run case staring him in the face; talks about further collaborations with Sooraj Barjatya and plans for his 50th birthday
Aaahh. Salman Khan lets out a big cry as he takes his seat next to me. He winces as he flexes those bulgy biceps and turns his head from side to side. Hectic promotions are on for his Diwali release, 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo' (PRDP), but I am told the exhaustion has nothing to do with it; the star has been undergoing intense training for his 2016 film, 'Sultan', in which he plays a wrestler.
I ask if he's ready for the interview and his manager cuts in, "Give him two minutes, please". Salman smiles and quips, "You think I will feel okay in two minutes? Come on, let's do this." Munching on protein cookies and fruits on the side (and repeatedly insisting that I have some of it), he gets talking about movies, controversies, stress and plans for his 50th birthday this December. Excerpts from the interview:
How's your health?
Good, but since I am training for 'Sultan', it's getting a bit painful. The prep-up involves a lot of physical exertion, so something or the other keeps hurting everyday. But I am enjoying it all. Don't worry, I won't let my fans down.
You have teamed up with Sooraj Barjatya after a decade and half for 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo'. What can the audience expect from this collaboration?
I value my association with Sooraj; the kind of films we have done has earned us a lot of respect. Yes, we hadn't worked for a long time and now we doing a film, which in my eyes and mind, is better than the three movies we did earlier - 'Maine Pyar Kiya' (1989), 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!' (1994) and 'Hum Saath-Saath Hain' (1999). Sooraj's movies are not preachy; there is a nice feeling to them. When you come out of the theatre, you will be glowing because you imbibe all the niceness. It's also one of the biggest budget films that I have done so far.
To what extent are you involved in the marketing process? Why did you choose Diwali for the release?
Sooraj wanted a Diwali release. He planned this film three years ago, but then I got busy with other projects.
Did you also take time to agree to do the film?
I knew he was writing the script. When he was done with it, we sat down for a narration. There was no way that I could say no to him.
Will you collaborate with him again in the near future?
Of course, there will be more collaborations.
You were juggling the shoot of PRDP and your last outing, 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' earlier this year. Court hearings related to your 2002 hit-and-run case were also going on at the same time. What was your frame of mind? How tough was it concentrate on work?
It was very difficult. I had to block everything out and give my 100 per cent to my work. When a fan pays to watch my film, I have to ensure that he/ she enjoys it. I can't do a half-hearted job and say that 'guys, I was going through sh*t'; they won't care. I mean, they do care, but when they go to see a film, they want to enjoy. Concentrating on work when all those things were happening around was really difficult.
What sort of role do you personally prefer playing on screen: family guy 'Prem' or 'Dabangg' style action hero?
Depends on the script. Like in 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', my character could have easily beaten up people and done a lot of stunts, but given the story, he was the one who had to get bashed and bruised to help Munni reach home safely. You have to forget about your image if you want to do an honest job.
The 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' story turned real with a Pakistani activist helping Indian girl Geeta return home 15 years after she strayed across the border. Do you plan to meet her?
I don't think so. I work closely with an NGO which tracks missing children or those in remand homes in India and helps them reunite with their families. We recently sent 30 kids back home. When the first lot was being sent, I went to meet them. So, every time the kids were going home, they expected me to see them off. Besides, two or three of them ran away from home to meet me in Mumbai, so I had to stop going to them. As far as Geeta is concerned, she wanted to meet her biological parents and I am happy at their reunion. The family that she was staying with in Pakistan took great care of her. I hope her real parents take as much care of her. Lot of Indian kids have disappeared and people have exploited them, trafficked them and did what not! Geeta was fortunate to have not gone through any of that.
You will turn 50 on December 27. How do you plan to bring in your big day?
I don't think turning 50 is a big deal and so, I have no plans for any celebrations. In fact, we have to work harder for our fans to have a memorable time at the movies. The pain this side is directly proportional to the enjoyment on the other side. And if you endure the pain on the sets, your fans will strive to take their lives a notch higher and be better human beings.