Salman Khan's confession proves age is no longer just a number for the Khans; it's a concern
Age is just a number, they say. But not when you are a Hindi film superstar who is expected to bring in huge numbers at the box office.
It is common knowledge that the three letter word is a crucial deciding factor in the careers of female actors. As soon as a female actor crosses the 40-year mark, or even 30 in some instances, she is pigeonholed as a mother or an elder sister (just a small case in point: Tabu, 45, played older sister to Salman Khan, 51, in 2014's Jai Ho). However, the longevity of the three Khans bears testimony to the fact that age is seldom considered a barrier in the career of male actors (Shah Rukh, like Salman, is 51; Aamir Khan is 52).
Howver, age is gradually coming into play in the lives of the triumvirate. While they can still conveniently run around trees and play college goers (although that is questionable), the range of their roles is getting limited. They no longer have the same physical endurance to keep up with the changing demands of the Hindi film industry that require them to be on their toes all the time.
In order to portray characters, and not larger-than-life heroes, an actor often resorts to three tools (given the fact that body doubles are slowly becoming a thing of the past): prosthetics/make-up, VFX and drastic physical transformation.
However, with the age factor coming into play, it is becoming difficult for the three Khans to incorporate these into their respective approaches. In a recent interview with Film Companion, Salman Khan confessed that he could not do a Kabir Khan film owing to his medical condition.
"The script required me to play an old man and then different age groups. In that case, prosthetics would come into the picture. I have a breathing problem. There is 87 percent blockage in my nose so I cannot act comfortably with all the make up on," said Salman, referring to his Trigeminal neuralgia disorder for which he underwent surgery back in 2011.
Salman also faced a difficult moment in Ali Abbas Zafar's sports drama from last year, Sultan. Zafar required him to sport a paunch for a crucial scene in the film.
"Ali has never gone to the gym. So he is probably not aware that it demands months of patience and hard work to gain weight and then lose all the kilos to play a professional wrestler. Aamir (Khan) did the same for Dangal but in my case, I had a very haywire shooting schedule. I was not shooting the film chronologically so I had to play an active wrestler for 15 days and then a retired one for 15 days," said Salman, in the same interview.
In another interview, exclusively to Firstpost, Salman addressed the ageing issue, " Post Sultan, I still have lot of aches, pain, and ligament tears. Once I sit down, it’s difficult to get about. In Tiger Zinda Hai, I am just shooting, jumping of buildings and running."
Aamir did not use prosthetics or VFX for his role as the older Mahavir Singh Phogat in Dangal, and was lauded for his drastic physical metamorphosis — from his regular weight, to 97 kg with a paunch, and then back to an athletic physique. However, some fitness experts including Ranveer Allahabadia, had alleged that Aamir used steroids for his 'Fat to Fit' transformation as an organic change is not feasible at his age at such a breakneck pace.
Though Aamir's physical trainer Rahul Bhatt refuted the allegations, the fact is that Aamir could risk such a transformation only because he chooses to do one film in two years and had time to invest in the process. It would not be possible in the case of — say, an Akshay Kumar — who churns out four films in a year.
Like Salman, Shah Rukh Khan has also voiced his concerns about being an ageing superstar, at his recent TED Talk in Vancouver. He admitted that it was the love from fans that drove him but he is aware of his physical limitations. He has undergone repeated surgeries (on his knees, shoulder, spine) which prove to be a hindrance in how he approaches his films.
In a recent interview, Shah Rukh mentioned how he cannot play a dwarf in Aanand L Rai's next the 'old school way' — as he cannot walk on his knees thanks to his prior injuries. That is why he is complementing prosthetics with VFX, for the part.
Age may be a factor, but the three Khans aren't ready to slow down just yet — and since they're still bringing in the box office numbers, clearly, the fans haven't had their fill of the superstars either. Meanwhile, they each continue to play to their strengths to make the most of their run as leading men in Hindi cinema. After all, had Aamir not turned his perfectionist approach to playing an overweight, old former wrestler in Dangal, he wouldn't have made what is today, the highest grossing film in the history of Indian cinema.