A whole lot of people are inspired by your moustache look in Dabangg. What’s the reason behind it?
No particular reason. The men in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are very dabangg or fearless. Mardanagi ki nishani hoti hai wahan par (it’s a sign of being macho). They have features that carry off the moustache pretty well. They look tougher and braver. Whereas here, everyone wants to be chikna (clean-shaven and fair).
In Tere Naam, when you had long hair, pretty much everyone in certain pockets of India also started wearing long hair?
I used to go to Indore for a few months every year until I was 16. That style came from the way I’ve seen my cousins behave. Even this Chilbul Pandey character from Dabangg, has come from people I’ve noticed at shoots. It’s not me, it’s actually the common man who behaves that way. You might say ‘Kaise ho?’ (How are you), and he would reply ‘Tumko kya pharak padta hai?’ (How does it matter to you?) They have a very twisted way of saying things. Even in Tere Naam, the character was based on the kind of a guy you’d react to by saying Hero banta hai? Iske baal katto (You’re trying to be a hero? Let’s cut his hair!) In small town India, herogiri meant having long hair. Even my father was disappointed when I cut my hair after Maine Pyar Kiya. He said, Hero ki ek nishani hoti hai. Lambe baal hote hai uske (You can recognise heroes by their long hair.)
Why do people see you in a film and want to copy your style?
They see themselves in me. People used to wonder where Dilip Saab (Dilip Kumar) stays, what he eats, how he talks. There was a curiosity about the stars then. Today, there is no curiosity. I’m here right now, I’m on every TV channel. But I’m just a common man and I would never want to be remembered as a star. Everyone has pretty much done everything there is to do, or perhaps more. I am no different. So when I get screwed for that, they turn around and say, Arre isme kya hai! Humne bhi kiya hai yeh (What’s the big deal? I’ve done that too!)
We’re talking about your influence as a style icon…
But that’s what it is basically. The off-screen image helps the on-screen image develop.
In the mid-thirties, Clark Gable appeared on-screen with his shirt off for the first in It Happened One Night and the undershirt business in America went down. Since you took your shirt off, do you think you’ve lowered the baniyan business in India?
That was accidental. That’s how I’d look at home – bare-chested. If you are alone, you’re gonna be a lot more than that, but you can’t show it on-screen! Especially women (smirks). During Maine Pyar Kiya, I was working out and you can’t work out with a shirt on.
Was there a point when you became a fitness freak?
Most guys would not take their shirt off because they’re shy. Pet dikh raha, sides dikh rahein hai, handles hain (stomach, sides and love handles are exposed) I don’t have that problem yet! And because of me, lots of people don’t have that problem either (laughs).
Was it a conscious decision?
Maine Pyar Kiya was about working out in the house. But it actually became fashionable and everybody started taking their shirts off. Now, some have started showing their butt off, which is too much for me. I’m sure you girls would love to see it, but guys like us don’t want to. It (the bare-chested look) became popular in Oh oh jaane jaana from Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya. I was shooting in Madh Island and in a month’s time, I had put on four and a half kilos of muscle. So the shirt and jacket that I tried on with torn jeans a month before didn’t fit anymore. Now going back to Bandra or Juhu to pick up new clothes would take a whole day. So I told Sohail (Khan) ‘Let’s do it without the shirt.’ Sohail said, ‘Are you mad?’ I said ‘Let’s try it.’ We saw it on the video assist and it looked good, so I said Chalo, kya pharak padta hai? (Let’s do it. How does it matter?) And then every film that I did, they’d say Shirt nikalo, shirt nikalo (take off your shirt). In films where I didn’t do it, they’d say with disappointment Nahin nikala, nahin nikala (He didn’t take it off).
Do distributors or producers expect you to do it in every film?
It depends on what scene I’m doing and if I’m looking amazingly fit. ‘Apne mood pe depend karta hai’ (it depends on my mood) If you want to be healthy and patao girls, you have to be like that because that is the first attraction. After that, you find out what a jerk he is.
Did you always want to be a movie star?
No. I wanted to be a director. I had started meeting people for scripts. One of them, Veer, was destroyed by a dear friend of mine recently. Everywhere I went, they’d tell me to become an actor. They probably wondered what this 18-year-old boy would direct. I had written Baaghi and Veer at that time. Eventually I got chadaoed (flattered enough). So I went to my dad and told him I want to be an actor since that’s what everyone had been telling me. My dad said ‘Everybody comes here – Ramesh Sippy, Manmohan Desai, Mahesh Bhatt. Nobody has said “Salman beta, next film you’re on.” You see Sanjay, Chunky and Sunny in films. You can’t become a mohawalle ka dada (ganglord), lawyer or police inspector. At best, you’ll do a romantic picture or two. So I started working out and he said, ‘Ye lo, Dara Singh bannana chahta hai’ (he wants to be Dara Singh). But these are the things that got me going. When you guys lagao (pick on) me, I say ‘I’ll show them. I’ll go to their office one day.’
While growing up, were your icons directors?
I didn’t have any. Until five days ago when I saw Expendables. I always liked Sylvester Stallone. But at 67, he’s in ten times better shape than me.
Were you not a movie buff growing up?
Obviously I was. My dad is a film writer. But I never wanted to be an actor. I was very thin, about 48 kilos. I could play sports and learn martial arts, but I didn’t have a screen presence. It took me years to double my weight. Now I’m 78 kilos. But if I go back to the weight I was in Maine Pyar Kiya, people will say ‘Yeh to bimar ho gaya bechara.’ (This poor guy has fallen ill)
Maine Pyar Kiya was in ’89 and you, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan all debuted together. It’s been over 20 years and the Khan trinity still exists. Very few people have managed to break that. Why?
There’s no explanation and that breach will never happen. I’ve never thought about it. Sholay didn’t do well until four weeks after the film released, and then it ran for five years. What is the explanation? They say ‘Wait wait, the movie will pick up by Monday.’ But the picture doesn’t pick up, the prints get picked up. Akshay Kumar also debuted at the same time. Ajay Devgn is still there. It’s just that we have the surname Khan. If Akki’s name was Khan and I was Kumar, it wouldn’t have made a difference right?
I once read an interview where you said no one can fault your acting because you don’t act. What does that mean?
I can get caught for anything, but not acting. I’m on screen just the way I am in real life. I’ve never played any characters. When you’re acting, you’re basically taking a character from somewhere. With me, it’s like Jo line aya hai, jaisa bolne ka hai, waise bolo, khatam karo. Aage bhado. (Read the line and move on) I’m not one of those who comes on the set and says ‘Give me half an hour, I want to get into character.’
Is it unnerving for your director to know that you’ll land up anytime and do anything?
They are worried about whether I’ll land up at all. Once I’ve arrived, they know I’ll finish the work faster than anybody else.
What about scripts? What is the one thing you definitely look at before signing a film?
The script; and if I like the narration in the first go. If I say I’ll see it tomorrow, I’m a bit confused about it right now – then it’s not happening. That movie will only happen if a friend is doing it and if I have the dates. If he keeps saying ‘Trust me. Let’s do it. Don’t you want to work with me?’ Then the film will happen. But that stopped some time ago.
Do you regret doing those films?
I don’t. But the most important reason for doing a film is the script. You feel the script is outstanding and positive and there is heroism where you come out either laughing or wiping away tears. For example, if you’ve ever watched Bruce Lee movies, you see the skinniest of guys wanting to start fights. They get thrashed outside Gaiety. I’ve seen that. But that is the spirit of the hero – you want to be like him. That is the character that people follow.
What do you make of this multiplex and single screen audience split?
I think multiplex audiences have money and are more conscious of what people will say if they clap and whistle. That’s it. We are trying to change that in Dabangg, get them off their high horses and make them scream and shout. If a film has a good opening, single screen theatres are a lot more expensive than multiplex theatres, because the black tickets average around Rs 500 a ticket. In that much, you can get three tickets in a multiplex. I want the single screen guys to go the multiplexes and teach them how to have a blast. Now the multiplex guys are going to single screens because they’re bored and wondering where the entertainment is.
In Disco Dancer, Amrish Puri says ‘Creative mind ko destroy karne ke liye, usse dimaagi pareshani deni chahiye. (To destroy a creative mind, you need to trouble it) You’ve had a lot of demaagi pareshani in your life – with the car accident and the poaching case. How have you kept yourself away from all that?
The fact is if you’ve done it, you can’t do anything about it. If you haven’t done it, you still can’t do anything about it! Kharab chal raha hai. Jitni jaldi jhel sakte ho, jhelo (Luck is bad. Deal with it, the faster the better). I was advised to run away. Cops in Umedh Bhawan said, Hum sab idhar udhar dekhe rahein hain. Aap bhag jao. (We’re looking away, you run) I said Pagal hai. Salman Khan kahan bhagoonga? (Are you mad? Where will Salman Khan run away to?) Every villager in every village recognises me. If I go out of here, I will walk out with my head held up high.
Do these things bother you?
You mean like flashes come back to me? (Laughs) No, what bothers me is that half the people in jail are the ones whose term is over. Many can’t see or walk. In the monsoon, people get into small fights, just to go to jail. And our jails are in tip-top condition. If your toilet flush isn’t working, you should go to the jail toilets. Agar mahine ke andar kabz na ho jayein, to mera naam change kar dena (if you don’t get diarrhea in a month, change my name).
There was a time when movies were almost paid for from the underworld. Were you ever paid at any of those times?
There was no money earlier, leave aside black or white. Most of us used to sign a movie for Rs 5 lakhs and this one man used to come home and say, ‘Sethji, that man doens’t have money. Give him a discount. And it happened to me for the longest time! My price would go up to Rs 25 lakhs, and he’s make me forgo Rs 10 lakhs. If it were Rs 30 lakhs, he’d discount Rs 15 lakhs. One day when he came, I asked my dad who he was. He said, pata nahin beta! (I don’t know son).
So this one time, I asked him, Aap price badhane aye ho? (You’re raising my share?) Have you ever pleaded my case or told me that you’ll increase my price. Every producer is making money, why are you doing this to me? Next time you come to this house, I’ll take it for granted that you’ve increased my price by Rs 25 lakhs. After that day, he didn’t come back again. You know who that guy was? It was Hari Sugandh. After that, I made Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam with him and it was all good. I earned all my money for that movie.
But did you fear the mafia at that point?
No. They kept me out of this. They never bothered me because I did say no. They thought I was kind of erratic.
That’s what people think about you generally right?
No, not erratic. If you ask nicely, I’ll listen to you. But if I feel there is any kind of threat or pressure, then there is no chance. It was a big threat and people have been shot in the film industry. Lots of people were targeted, especially producers, like Mr Rakesh Roshan. Not that one didn’t get calls, but there is a way of handling these things. You talk to me with respect, I’ll talk back with respect. You threaten me, I’ll threaten you back.
Talking about your erratic nature….
There is nothing erratic about my nature. I would react the same way as you. It’s just that people in limelight would not react that way. They would go back home and plan their reaction. That’s more dangerous. I forgive and forget very easily.
What are the craziest fan moments that you’ve ever had?
Lots of things! I have this scar on my arm and I see guys who come with scars on their arms. It’s ridiculous. It was an accident. These kids do it on purpose. I’m thinking of getting plastic surgery to remove this myself. I also get a lot of people writing to me with their blood. I have stopped replying to those. Then there is the whole Sallu bhai fan club. My name is not Sallu bhai, it’s Salman. I think Jackie (Shroff) was the only one who called me Sallu.
Do you think about this kind of stardom, of people losing themselves in it?
I never think about this, because your ears get used to it. And when you don’t see that anymore, you start imagining it. Sometimes, they’re screaming for somebody behind you. Then frustration builds up and you become a disgusting human being.
You have a younger sister. Do you think she finds it difficult to date, with you, as a brother?
Are you mad? She (Arpita Khan) is not scared of anybody. The boyfriend is also not scared. That used to happen with Baby (Alvira). When we were teens, we’d say Maar dalenge, cheer dalenge (we’ll kill and shred them). Then by 20-21, we started wondering what was wrong. Koi toh shaadi karo (Someone marry her). Baby’s boyfriend was Atul (Agnihotri) and she got married to him. Poor guy!
Did you grow up in Bandra?
Yes. Bandra was full of cottages. There was a green patch right opposite Shah Rukh’s house, where we used to sit as kids. Now we can’t do that any more. Our childhood was spent between Sea Rock Club and that place- cycling, robbing mangoes and even boating on the floods. St Paul’s Road used to get flooded and the fishermen would get their boats out. Now if we boat, they’ll say ‘Kitna heartless aadmi hai’ (what a heartless man)
‘I prayed for Biwi Ho Toh Aisi not to do well, but it ran for 100 days’
A lot of people don’t know that Maine Pyar Kiya was not your first film and that it was Biwi Ho Toh Aisi Ho?
A lot of people know that in fact and I prayed for that film not to do well. But it did 100 days, so just imagine how God doesn’t listen to me.
Why did you make that choice to act with Rekha and Farooq Sheikh?
Arre, I had no choice. It was the first film I got. And I thought it was the best film ever. There was Rekhaji, Farooq Sheikh, Kader Khan. That combination of Kader Khan – Shakti Kapoor was working well in movies at that point of time. And I was playing the young romantic lead with Renu Arya. I met her on a flight recently and I didn’t recognise her. Same thing with Bhagyashree when I met her in Filmistan Sudio. I haven’t met them in 22 years. Ajay Devgn and I were sitting down and this girl walks up to me in heels and says, ‘Hi Salman.’ I say ‘Hey.’ She asks, ‘What’s up?’ and I reply ‘All good. You ok?’ Then she says, ‘A******, you don’t recognise me? I said, ‘Bhagyashree! I’m so sorry! Don’t blame me, apna chehra bhool jaoonga main kabhi! (I’ll forget my own face one day).
‘I’ve only seen Andaz Apna Apna once while dubbing for it’
How many times have you seen Andaz Apna Apna?
I only saw it when I was dubbing for it and then a little bit on TV, about five or six years ago. It was really funny because Katrina (Kaif) was watching a film and she called me, saying ‘Come here and see this guy. There’s this new kid who wants to be you. Just look at him. Poor thing he’ll never make it.’ She was watching Maine Pyar Kiya.
Courtesy : Hindustan Times