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“By promoting fellow actors, you are promoting the industry”

Box Office India (BOI): You have a release, Jai Ho, after an entire year, and it has generated a lot of excitement in the trade. Have you watched the film? What are your expectations?

Salman Khan (SK): Obviously, yes! Sohail and I have edited the film, and everyone who is a part of a film believes their film is the next big thing. Once the audience leaves the cinema and says it’s an awesome film that counts as actual feedback.

Hamare bolne se that this is the best film ever doesn’t hold any weight. My job is only to make sure that people know what kind of film it is and when it is going to release. Few people will watch the film if I beg them to come to cinemas. If they like what they see in the promos, they will want to see the film.

BOI: Do you agree that the first look of a film can work wonders?

SK: It plays a huge role in the way your film is perceived. If that doesn’t work, then there’s the second look. If that too doesn’t work, there’s the third. Something in your film should attract the audience. When the audience comes to the theatre, it’s not the award functions or reality shows you have used to promote your film; it’s due to the promos of your film.

If the promos of Jai Ho were not interesting, no matter how much we had publicised the film, the audience would have said, haan theek hai yaar, baad mein dekh lenge. But the feedback I have received from people is that it looks amazing.

BOI: How did Jai Ho begin?

SK: We were supposed to make Sher Khan, a very vast film which needed a lot of writing in terms of special effects. We are still working on that and we didn’t want to do Sher Khan with the dates we had. We have always had a bank of four to five films, and then there was a point when we decided that we should do a film like Jai Ho as part of these four to five films. There was a film made in the South and we bought the rights to this film. And you have seen from my earlier films, they are hugely different from the films made in the South.

That’s because we don’t remake the entire film; we use only the plot. That’s what we did with Jai Ho. The action is very different; there’s a huge amount of emotion in it; and there’s a family angle too. It’s a very current issue. If the country is in dire straits, we need to do something about it. Cinema, TV and radio are the most powerful mediums ever. In Jai Ho, we are not giving any bhashanbaaji, without doing any neta giri you come out and give these very strong messages. You stand up for your family and for yourself.

A lot of people ask me what they can do for Being Human. I tell them you just come out of your house and look left or right and see who needs what. In your home, you have your aaya, who wants to get her son educated. Get that boy’s education done. That is all you have to do. You don’t have to send me money. I don’t want your money.

I want this whole system of giving money to these daan petis to stop. Give it directly to those who deserve it. This is how I feel. And if I feel this way, everyone else must feel this way too.

This is the kind of film I want to do right now. But it has to also have a commercial aspect. The hero has to be great; it has to have action, comedy, family, romance, songs.

When people say ‘Salman does not need a script,’ I tell them, ‘Are you crazy?’ I don’t get involved unless the script is ready. The script is the hero. The script has been written with heroism in mind. I can only bring it down because of my limitations. If someone else would have done films with these scripts, they would have lifted the film. This is the kind of film I like doing because I like doing films that I like to watch. There are a lot of other people who also want to do films like this. If one or two go wrong, then I am, like, Arrey yaar, yeh toh nahi chali, ab kisko pakdoon?

Then I would have to rewind and see what went wrong. You can’t keep on delivering hit after hit. Sometimes, you will go wrong. I went wrong with Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna. I was not supposed to do the film. It was a small film and one of the actors backed away, so I filled in for him. Then there was Veer. There was a version that I was shown and an entirely different edit that was released. There was a difference of 38 minutes! It was a totally different film.

BOI: You didn’t take it up with them?

SK: I did and I will never work with them again. At every point, a friend has faltered as far as money is concerned, as far as loyalty is concerned, as far as priorities are concerned. I did everything. And that friend is still there but he will never be able to make any film. 15 crore ya 15 saal ki dosti?

BOI: Jai Ho is releasing after a string of blockbusters you have delivered. Is there pressure on you to deliver?

SK: The only pressure is we shouldn’t fall short of the previous film. And we shouldn’t go so far beyond the previous one that we go, ‘Bas yaar ab itna bhi nahi, this is not looking convincing now.’ We don’t have the budget for the special effects (like Hollywood does) and that whole taam jhaam we don’t have that to pull off everything. We have to be slightly better than the previous one, so how do we get slightly better? You find the right music. Now you don’t know whether the music is going to be the right music or not, so you try and give it your best on action, emotional content, screenplay and dialogue.

And nobody knows till the release what will really work. You feel you are making the greatest film ever. But even a film like Sholay didn’t do well in its first two weeks and today, it’s the greatest film ever. So how can you be sure it’s a sure-shot blockbuster? You say, ‘Theek hai yaar, okay film hai.’ And there is a huge dip and you are, like, yeh kaisa ho gaya yaar. Like there are films you think will be super hits and turn out to be big disasters.

It’s not about hits and flops. It’s about yeh toh hamari film galat chali gayi, agle mein kya hoga? So you are only scared ki are you in the same zone as the audience?

This genre is also going to die soon because there are many films of this genre releasing. So every time you release a film, there’s only so much more you can do. Then you have those B-grade and C-grade films that spoil the market, and somebody is going to come out with a different genre, which will be popular for six to seven years. And then again, things will change. So from an action drama, to a family-society thriller, new genres will keep getting popular every five or six years.

So we haven’t taken this film to that level ki ek laat maari toh 15 aadmi udte hue gaye. That genre cannot work because the hero cannot do everything. Till the hero is not vulnerable, it doesn’t make it exciting. Till the odds are equal. That’s why we are trying to make the odds equal. With our larger-than-life images on screen, the villains have to be that much stronger. So to get those villains and people, it should not look like we are overestimating our power, our screen image. If we think on those lines, the audience will say we have lost the plot. So we have to be very careful to limit the heroism.

BOI: How have you been getting it right with every film since Wanted?

SK: I have no idea. I am just giving each one my best shot. I do a film only if I like the subject and there’s something in the script I would like to do. I would tell my manager Reshma (Shetty), pull this film ahead. That means I would want to do the film. Then the film that has been pulled ahead will happen. Maybe the film it has been pulled ahead from might not happen. So all the films where I would say, ‘Theek hai, acchi script hai, very nice, lovely, very cute,’ I will never do them! I only do a film when I say, ‘This is it man!’ Pick up the phone and say, ‘Sohail, this is the film, let’s do it. Or Arbaaz, this is the one.’

BOI: It’s an instant thing?

SK: Instant! I am not like sochenge, pakaenge, ruko, give me two days. Then you should understand it’s a ‘no’. But if you still try to convince me bhai kar lo yeh film, what will happen is that you will know the film will not work, you will try and improvise the film, and the film will become an average film. And why would I want to do that? I am doing you a favour and you are taking me down.

BOI: Did you develop this method of choosing the right film after your experience with Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna?

SK: No, it happened before. It happened right before Partner or may be actually post the release of Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!. Before that, we didn’t have a choice, whichever filmmaker used to tell me that you are doing my film, and I would say, Sir where is the script? And they would shoot me a look, so I would be like, Sir, dialogue? And they would say, jaake khade ho ja wahan pe chup chap. That’s how we have all worked. So you see our old films, they are all lovely films! They are on a different level! (Smiles)

They are so amazing ki hum kaise bach gaye itni gandi gandi filmein karne ke baad bhi. But now things have changed. There is a certain amount of quality control now. In fact, I am the weakest at that, because I feel that if I put my foot down, they will say he is throwing his star power around. If it’s a newcomer, they will say you’re dabaoing him. If it is somebody senior, it looks like this arrogant guy who is doing badtameezi with a senior artiste. Aur aisi picture karne se waise hi relationship kharab hone wali hai then what’s the point?

BOI: When you are evaluating a script or a film, are you subconsciously also looking at the commercial aspect?

SK: If by that you mean the economics of filmmaking then, no. But fortunately what I like is commercial. If I like a film, I say it and people sometimes get upset with me. In one statement, I once said that Phir Milenge ko mere kutton ne bhi nahi dekha. Revathy called me and said how can you say that about my film. And I even said haal hi mein ye picture lagi Guzaarish and Duggu (Hrithik Roshan) smsed me. And I said that yaar I haven’t said that in that context. I said at least find out from those people what I said. Then he wrote me a long list of things I had said and, without reading it, I replied, ‘It’s all good don’t worry’. Then he sent me another message and I read that and then I read the early ones. He had taken off on me, and I had to call his father and speak to him.

Painting painting… main painting banata hu yaar, mere diwaaron pe painting hai. Main theatre pe nahi lagaunga woh! Painting banayenge? Pehele film banao yaar. I don’t want to do that kind of film ki message diya aur theatre khaali hai poora. And you see that film on TV phokat mein and are like, ‘What a film man!’ So why didn’t you see it in the theatre then? Because you went to see something else! Lecture ke liye bahut paisa diya school and colleges mein, ab nahi sun na koi lecture. Aaj kal bhashan sunane ke liye politicians bhi paise deke jaate hain!

BOI: It is said in the trade that no one understands the audience as well as Salman Khan does.

SK: Who me? I toh don’t understand the audience at all and I don’t want to either! Isme mujhe koi PhD karni bhi nahi hai. Jaisa chal raha hai aur jahan laga ke nahi ho raha kuch, toh chup chaap baitho.

BOI: But, as you yourself said, the films you like tend to do well vis-à-vis the films you don’t like. You have a connect going with the audience?

SK: Ek cheez hota hai na, when you see something, koi peet raha hai kisiko raste pe. Dus aadmi maar rahe hai kisi ko, you feel that emotion that you want to go ahead and kick their a**. But you don’t have the courage to do that. You want to but suddenly you feel that, yaar yeh dus log hain main bhi fatke mein aajaunga, and you want to call the cops. But, then, you realise that yeh police wale bhi baad mein are going to fatkao me. But the excitement is when someone comes up who whacks those people and he protects that one person.

Something that you want to do but cannot do because of your wife, your parents or the love of your family or your kids. You feel you can’t do that and your hands are tied. Those are the films ki hathkadi khol diya. Larger-than-life characters that inspire people ki yeh hum bhi kar sakte hai. And my intention is that I want to give them (the audience) that vitamin shot.

Who is the audience? Subah se gaya hai kaam par, train men dhakke kha raha hai, boss tang kar raha hai, uski biwi kutte ki tarah treat kar rahi hai usko. Bachcho ke school ki fees hai, seedha sa admi hai, dus log ek bathroom share kar rahe hai, festival hai paise nahi hai naye kapde kharidne ke liye. Yeh sab bojh ke andar, banda bole ke yaar this is the film I have to watch. Or the disinterested man who goes to watch a film with his children as they have forced him to. I want these men who have spent their hard-earned money to get such a vitamin shot that they feel that they are that larger-than-life character, Jai, which Salman Khan is playing.

And you see pretty much in all my films, even the lines are not like the lines we usually hear. They are written differently. There is no gyaanbaazi. Even if there is gyaanbaazi, it is put very simply.

BOI: Do you think you’re in the best phase of your career?

SK: I think this is the best phase for the film industry. And I think it will last as long as people are interested, till people work hard. My father always says that success has made more failures than failure itself. Failure ki laat padti hai na toh hosh thikane aajate hai ek dum and then you realise that, boss, I have to do something.

With success, it’s like chalta hai chalne do and then you start getting complacent towards your work. You start taking things for granted. You will see that in most of my films. One day, when I was going through this whole thing about my films not working, Arbaaz said, ‘Gabbar ko koi maar sakta hai toh Gabbar khud.’ Toh I said, ‘Correct baat hai, boss. Chalo, yaar Salman, get up.’

BOI: When it comes to success, promotions play a very vital role. Like, the way you promoted Dhoom 3 and now Aamir Khan is promoting Jai Ho.

SK: The people who are going to the cinemas to watch these films are the people who know the film is going to release on January 24 and liked what they saw in the promos. It’s simple actually. If people know when a film is releasing and like the promos and there is a race to be the first one to see the film and tell your friends the film’s story, then it will work. If the reaction is that, ‘Yeah, I will see it on Monday or next week,’ then you are in trouble.

BOI: Is it a new trend to promote fellow actors’ movies? For instance, you promoted Dhoom 3 and Aamir Khan is promoting Jai Ho.

SK: I hope it is. By promoting fellow actors, you’re promoting the industry. If I am doing a show and there are some films about to release and I believe in the films, of course I would promote them. But if there is a film I don’t believe in, I am not going to tell my fans to watch the film. Mere kehene se koi jayega bhi nahi. Itna toh mujhe mere fans pe bharosa hai. Unko jo karna hai wohi karenge. I can’t convince them to watch my own film, yaar.

BOI: You don’t need to.

SK: No, somebody told me ke abhi kuch bhi lagado. I said kuch bhi lagado matlab? He said nahi kuch bhi lagalo chal jayega. I said Main Aurr Mrs Khanna lagadu wapis? Kamaal ki baat karte hain yeh, kuch bhi random. (Laughs)

And these industry pundits… ye toh kamaal hi hai yaar. If asked how much a film will generate, they say anything between 95 and 145. Arrey? That’s a difference of 50 crore! Sir, 25 se leke 28 day one. There is a 3 crore difference. Sir ye 200-300 toh jaegi sir. Arrey 100 ka difference hai yeh!

But I don’t believe in all these things and I go by the opening, morning collections and the Monday collections. That’s it. And I don’t even believe in increasing collections.

BOI: So you are aware that a lot of people fudge collections?

SK: Haan hota hai woh dikhane ke liye. When they do that, the audience gets the impression that the film is a very big hit. Ab industry ke andar pataa hai ki kitna business hua hai. And if someone goes to these guys and says achcha itna business kiya hai, so you will have to pay tax on that much, then they will be like nahin sir, aisa nahin hai ye toh bolna padta hai!

BOI: How clued in are you to box-office numbers?

SK: No, no idea. I toh don’t even know how many territories there are. That is not my department. It will be and I will get into that, but right now, I am not into the numbers game and it doesn’t really matter to me. As long as my numbers are coming in, I don’t get it.

The film has to do well. My price has to be justified to the distributors and the exhibitors. They have to be happy. Now Aamir’s film has collected over Rs 250 crore and they would have been like, ‘Arrey yaar, kaash 300 plus kar leti. 300 plus ho jata yaar, agar isme ye hota, woh hota...’ So they are just like profit mein se loss dhundenge.

BOI: Many of your contemporaries and even people who have come after you have set up their own production houses whereas you have just about got into it.

SK: I didn’t want to do it because Sohail has his own production company and Arbaaz has his own but for me it’s Being Filmy. And with Being Filmy, everything is going to charity. It’s not like no one will get paid. Everyone will be paid. The profits will go to charity.

BOI: Will you be acting in those films?

SK: I will act in some of them.

BOI: You also produced Chillar Party. Will we see more films like that from your banner?

SK: Yes, some children’s films but they will be in a commercial format. Like Mahesh (Manjrekar) and I are producing a film, Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho’s remake, and I am playing an important character in the film.

BOI: What are your future projects?

SK: Kick, then I have Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho’s remake. I think it is called God Only Knows, and there’s No Entry. There’s Kabir Khan’s film and then Sooraj Barjatya’s film.

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