Salman Khan on the end of the superstar era: 'I've been hearing this for last four generations, I don’t think it'll ever happen'
'The younger generation will have their superstardom. But we will not leave it for the younger generation to have it easy. We will not hand it over to them,' says Salman Khan.
Action-dramas with heroes taking over the bad guys are a huge draw among the audience especially when the protagonist belongs to law enforcement. Salman Khan has played cop multiple times in films including Dabangg, and Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai in the recent past and the one he plays in his new release Antim: The Final Truth is quite close to his character in Garv: Pride and Honour, says Khan. The plot of the 2004 release action movie Garv revolved around the life of an honest and decorated police officer Arjun Shekhawat who in the larger part fights back corruption peacefully. Khan, who will be back on the big screen after about two years (his last theatrical release was Dabangg 3) plays an honest sikh police officer Rajveer Singh in Antim.
“My character in Antim has a seriousness which is similar to my character in Garv. Rajveer Singh is also very noble. He is rugged but he is not shouting or yelling. He is focused on what he wants to achieve. He is a no-nonsense cop, one cannot mess with him. He gets humiliated by politicians magar woh khoon ke ghont pee leta hai (he swallows insults). He has that mental strength to tolerate insults. He will take orders and get humiliated but will do what he wants to do at the right time. He will show his emotions and will also sacrifice for someone for the right reasons, but he does what he wants to do,” said Khan explaining his character. Antim: The Final Truth that released on 26 November, is an adaptation of the Marathi hit Mulshi Pattern (2018), which explores the hard conditions faced by farmers that push some of them towards crime. The Hindi version is touted as a tale of two powerful men with opposite ideologies; one a cop and the other a gangster.
The idea of remaking the Marathi film dawned upon Khan when the DOP (director of photography) of Dabangg 3, Mahesh Limaye narrated the story to the actor as Limaye had shot the original film. However, the Antim team decided to tweak it a bit. “I saw the Marathi film much later when I was sitting at my farmhouse and I really loved the subject. The idea was stuck in my head. There were two characters (a cop and a gangster) who come from a similar situation and they take different paths. But I realised that they had left the cop's character halfway and the cop had only four or five scenes in the Marathi film. I felt that both the characters needed to have equal time. In fact, we decided to make this film more from the cop’s point of view. There have been talks that this was Aayush Sharma’s film. He is there in the film but the movie paaji ki hi hai (the movie belongs to me) (smiles). I started working on the script with Mahesh (Manjrekar, Director). We have only picked up the basic plot from the original. The screenplay has been changed and it is a different film altogether. It is lavishly mounted while the original was made on a limited budget,” said Khan.
“I was at the farm. My hair had grown long and so had my beard. We were supposed to shoot the film in Punjab but we couldn’t do it due to the lockdown. I realised that the story could be set in any village in our country. We have so many sikh cops here in Maharashtra, too. So that is how we decided to shoot the film here,” he added.
Contrary to his previous films where he played policeman, Antim features a cop with no romantic angle, nor the larger-than-life song sequences. Manjrekar had also mentioned that he stripped Khan off his stardom for this film. Explaining the same, Khan says that the objective was to not dilute the character of Rajveer Singh. “There is a stark difference in the characters of policemen that I have played in the past like Chulbul Pandey. Mahesh had guaranteed me that this would be one of my best cop characters and I agree. There is no shouting, no screaming, my character is a calm, hard-working policeman. We couldn’t have made this character like what we did in Dabangg. If I wanted to do that I would have made Dabangg 4.
There is action and all the other ingredients but it is just that this character looks best alone so we did not have a heroine with him and the only place where he dances in the film is in Bhai Ka Birthday and that too because he sees his junior officers behind him shaking a leg. This character is also larger- than- life, but at the same time, it is realistic,” said Khan. When asked if his fans will miss his ‘iconic’ dance moves, he hastily adds, “It’s there in the film but it is different like how my dance moves were different in each film of mine whether Dabangg, Kick, or Hum Aapke Hain Koun, or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. All the facets of the character are decided by the director. In this, the director wanted something like what you have not seen so far. There are also many one-liners in the film which are seeti-maar,” he said.
With the OTT boom during the lockdown as the pandemic had forced cinemas to shut down, Khan says that he never ever felt that the magic of theatres would fade away. “No, I never felt so. I knew theatres would be shut for some time but once vaccinations are done, people would come back and shoots would restart too. I don’t think cinema can take OTT’s place and vice versa because it is not the same thing. To watch something at home, one would sit with family and watch it either on television or laptop, it is no fun to watch anything on phone or iPad, best is to watch on TV, but that also doesn’t match up to the theatre screen. Initially, people had said that theatres would stay closed for 15 days or so, but I had said that nothing less than one-and-a-half to two years. Theatres give that family experience. Outside our country, there are a lot of options [for entertainment], but even then we can see the numbers their films make and know the huge amount of theatres they have,” said Khan.
While accepting that the success of Sooryavanshi -- the first big-budget Bollywood film to release in cinemas post pandemic that crossed Rs 100 crore -- has instilled confidence in the industry, Khan said,
“But I was really impressed with the media. It is for the first time in many years that I felt the critics showed some kind of pathos, sensibility and graciousness and didn’t go down on the film. They advised people to go and watch the film in theatres. So, it was really nice. If people don’t go to theatres then how will we write new films.”
There have also been endless discussions with OTT boom that it was curtains down on the era of superstars and how the emergence of digital levelled the playing field. However, Khan, who has been in the industry for over three decades, takes this argument with a pinch of salt as he says, “I have been hearing this for the last four generations, ‘ki yeh last generation hai’ (this is the last generation of stars). I don’t think the phenomenon of superstars will ever fade. We will go and then somebody else will come. I don’t think that era of stars will go. It depends on a lot of things, selection of movies, what you are in real life, and more. It’s a whole package of things. The younger generation will have their superstardom. But we will not leave it for the younger generation to have it easy. We will not hand it over to them. ‘Mehnat karo bhai, pachas plus mein hum mehnat kar rahe hain, toh aap bhi mehnat karo (work hard, we are working hard at the age of 50+, the younger stars should also work hard),” saying so he signs off laughing heartily.
Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based mainstream entertainment journalist who has been covering Bollywood and television industry for over two decades. Her forte is candid tell-all interviews, news reporting and newsbreaks, investigative journalism and more. She believes in dismissing what is gossipy, casual, frivolous and fluff.
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