Eid 2019: Salman Khan's biggest challenge yet

Vinayak Chakravorty

May 17, 2019 13:40:56 IST

Salman Khan is literally banking on the nation this time. It is perhaps no coincidence that the superstar’s Eid 2019 release is titled Bharat. Beyond the wisdom that patriotism works like no other genre at the Bollywood box-office right now, Khan perhaps knows the verdict accorded to the aptly-named film will underline what Bharat as a nation currently thinks about him — coming as his latest effort is after Tubelight and Race 3, his consecutive lukewarm Eid shows over the past two years.

Which makes this the most crucial Eid of his career, actually. For the 53-year-old Khan, Bharat is important because a good run for the film is not just about the superstar getting yet another blockbuster. Importantly, if his Eid hits became a big part of Khan’s identity as a superstar over the past decade, that position itself is seems threatened currently. Akshay Kumar earlier this week announced plans to release his biggie, Sooryavanshi, on Eid 2020, irrespective of whether Khan’s Inshallah, also slated for the festive date, opens or not.

Eid 2019: Salman Khans biggest challenge yet

Bharat (film still)

Khan’s monopoly is being challenged, for the first time since 2010 when Dabangg started his Eid run. It’s happening amid whispers that a Salman Khan release on Eid no longer guarantees blockbuster returns. The fact doesn’t help that younger actors — notably Ranveer Singh and Varun Dhawan — are giving screen machismo an update.

A good show for Bharat becomes mandatory, all things considered, for Khan to just prove that he is number one.

Khan’s latest, in this context, would seem like his best shot at an Eid blockbuster in years. The film borrows its script from a soppy Korean hit titled Ode To My Father, and rolls in romance, humour, tragedy, suspense, and drama in a wholesome commercial package. The film narrates the story of a protagonist, aptly named Bharat, over 80 years from the Partition era to presentday India.

In its trailers, Bharat has looked like exactly the fun package that Salman fans ordered. Khan has been touted to be donning five different looks to establish advancing age. He lip-synchs in the classic love song situation with Katrina Kaif, his rumoured ex-girlfriend opposite whom he incidentally scored his last blockbuster, Tiger Zinda Hai. The period drama has him set the dancefloor afire with the much-younger Disha Patani, who twists the retro oomph statement with new-age appeal. Ali Abbas Zafar, who called the shots on Salman superhits such as Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai, directs the film, which is a home affair for Khan — sister Alvira Khan Agnihotri and her husband Atul Agnihiotri are credited as producers.

Clearly, Khan has gone for a sturdy safety net with Bharat, away from the risk factor of Tubelight, which saw him essay a slow-witted man in an image makeover bid, or Race 3, where he tried entering a specific Hollywoodish action thriller domain.

Bharat, though, is significant for Salman beyond the box-office factor. The choice of subject seems a smart one at this stage of his career. The story of an average Indian, whose existence becomes synonymous with the growth of his country, renders a nationalistic appeal to the image of its superstar hero. This is clearly aimed at a lucrative image makeover for Khan at a time India and Indianness have come to be big-ticket moneyspinners at the Bollywood box-office as never before. If latching onto nationalism worked for Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan must be hoping to give the idea his own spin.

Beyond screen basic, however, there is a very different purpose that Bharat may serve for Khan. The concept of the film would seem to work as a tremendous push for the one thing that has become a growing obsession for Khan over the recent years — his non-government organisation, Being Human.

Being Human, Khan has made it clear, is what his future is going to be all about, once all the hysteria fades away. “I would be a fool not to use this love. Now. Not when there’s somebody else being loved,” Khan told Forbes when asked if being a superstar was an advantage that helped the venture, and insisted: “I am loved not as an actor anymore. I am loved as the man who started the Being Human Foundation.”

Khan knows stardom changes face and name with time. If his legend must grow, Being Human as a brand must outlast him.

The idea of Bharat and its gregarious protagonist fits nicely with the concept of Khan’s charity. The idea works even better — for the film as well as his objective in the direction of altruism — because it releases on Eid.

It has been a while that Khan has been revealing such method amid the apparent madness that drives his superstardom. It is obvious in his film choices, for instance, considering most of his recent projects have essentially tapped into his ability to thrive only when he plays himself on the screen. Aided by a sturdy management team he has, over the past decade, intelligently cultivated a brand value that makes him synonymous with Being Human. This works nicely with the fact that he has quietly moved away from his Bad Boy tag of yore, putting filmland scandals and the court cases behind him.

His well-planned avatar as a star helped him race past rival Khans, Shah Rukh and Aamir, even as fierce fan base has loyally backed him up so far. Bollywood’s reigning superstar, however, is aware that one more Eid slip after Tubelight Race 3 could cause a deep dent to his stardom. Show business, after all, is fickle domain and every superstar from Rajesh Khanna to Salman’s contemporary Shah Rukh Khan would vouch for that fact.

Bharat is rumoured to be among Bollywood’s most expensive projects this year, at a budget of around Rs 100 crore. Clearly, despite tepid shows of his recent Eid releases, Salman Khan has characteristically chosen not to lower his stakes. Being Salman is about being grand, after all. That’s another fact the film will hope to reiterate.

 

Festive Spoils in B-Town

Gen-Now Bollywood superstars and their lucky dates at the box-office

SALMAN KHAN: Dabangg, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Kick, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan have been Salman’s Eid blockbusters

SHAH RUKH KHAN: His Diwali hits include Om Shanti Om, Veer-Zaara, Baazigar, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Dil To Pagal Hai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

AAMIR KHAN: He’ll release Lal Singh Chaddha on Christmas 2020, after PK, Dhoom 3, 3 Idiots and Ghajini scored in the past

AKSHAY KUMAR: He scored with Airlift and Baby on past Republic Days, but was trolled for launching the Kesari poster on January 26, 2019

 

 

Updated Date: May 17, 2019 13:40:56 IST

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