The Salman Khan interview | 'Radhe's box office may be almost zero, but we're going ahead with the release'
Salman Khan discusses delivering his Eid promise with Radhe, how his acting has (not) changed over the years, and why the on-screen hero is far more 'self-obsessed' and 'egoistical' than his real self
Radhe, his reunion with Wanted director Prabhu Deva, will be foregoing the traditional release route, and will instead arrive on pay-per-view platform ZEEPlex and Indian DTH services on 13 May. "People who are at home would like to get some entertainment, something that will uplift them," explains the actor.
Radhe joins Khan's ever-growing list of films in the cop genre after Garv: Pride and Honour, Bodyguard, Wanted, and the Dabangg franchise. The actor features as an encounter specialist, tasked with wiping the drug menace in the city of Mumbai. Joining him in the film are Disha Patani, Jackie Shroff and Randeep Hooda.
In a freewheeling chat, Khan fields questions on the film's plot, keeping his Eid promise, the OTT release of Radhe, working during the pandemic, his much-talked about kissing scene with Patani, and much more.
Radhe is releasing..so what can we expect this time?
You can definitely expect something different from Tiger, Dabangg, Bodyguard and Wanted. We will not repeat ourselves. It is new and I need you to see the film, and tell me what is new. I am the same old Salman — which you have been seeing since Maine Pyar Kiya. The people who have watched Maine Pyar Kiya, they loved me, and they kept on loving me. From that one fan became a family and then another unit. I’m lucky and grateful that fans have been very loyal. So, from grandparents to parents to grandchildren, I have the following.
The trailer of Radhe has the essence of Wanted. How different is the plot of your upcoming project from the past ones?
The plot is that my character Radhe makes a commitment to this child whose friend dies and then Radhe goes all out to clean the city. We have three villains — Sang Hae (from Bhutan), Gautam Gulati, and Randeep Hooda. These actors have made Radhe look much stronger and bigger. With all that, we have Jacqueline; there is comedy, romance, and the first time I have ever kissed a duct-tape in a movie. That duct-tape was on Disha’s lips. When people ask me: ‘You have never kissed on-screen?’ So yes, this time I kissed on screen but not on the heroine’s lips, it was a duct-tape that I kissed. Like in Maine Pyar Kiya, I kissed Bhagyashree's lipstick mark from the other side of the window.
Nobody does flamboyance onscreen better than you. However, the characters you play are also grounded, for your fans always connect to them. Do you consciously do this?
When I was growing up and I was doing theatre, I wanted to be like the hero. I get very impressed by the good deeds that the main lead does, so I try to take that back home. But I can’t take certain characters home. For example, I can’t take characters like Dabangg or Radhe back home. I can’t walk around in front of my parents as Chulbul Pandey. My dad would hit me, my mom would slap me and my brothers and sisters would be embarrassed of me. At home, I am a son and a brother. So, I would rather be somebody like a Bajrangi Bhaijaan because I can take his on-screen goodness in real life. I don’t take the flirting and the love story with the heroines back home, nor do I take all the action, beating up 50-60 people, chopper sequences — I don't have that in me. That’s a self-obsessed, or an egoistic person. I know what my capacity is, I know how much I can do and I know how much the stunt double can do. I don’t take that back home but I take a bit of the goodness back.
How do you play these characters — the ones you can’t take back home — with so much conviction?
Sometimes when you see me laughing and enjoying a show, that is actually who I am. Be it on Dus Ka Dum or Bigg Boss, I get a little emotional. That’s not for me, but as a host, I need to see that once they are out of the house, they can afford to buy two to three houses. So that is my effort and my intention. My parents, my seniors, juniors, kids watch me and the younger generation follows me. There is a responsibility that I am very aware of right now.
In the beginning, it took time but thankfully, I was working so I didn’t get the time to go wrong. Which film will work? Which film will flop? I took my work as a 24x7 job. I just wanted to work. If a movie flopped, I would work harder. I realised that only when you give it your best- your audience would understand and appreciate your hard work. So now, at 55-56, I am doing stuff that I used to do when I was 14 and 15 years old. It is because the younger generation has actors like Tiger Shroff, Varun Dhawan, Ranveer (Singh) and Aayush (Sharma).I have to work harder and keep up with their pace.
You have often said you don't want complacency to set after seeing the career graph of some actors.
Yes. I was shooting for Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Biwi No 1 and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai around the same time in different shifts. From 7am to 6pm I was shooting Hum Dil.., from 7pm to 12 midnight it was Biwi Number 1, and from 1am to 6 am forKuch Kuch Hota Hai and after some time I had had enough. So, I started doing one movie at a time. But that does not mean I do one shift. I still work for about 18 hours a day and then even when I am not working I am only talking work, or Being Human. I am the most boring guy on planet Earth.
The last few years, you have mostly worked in action films. Do you plan to venture into the comic space?
I am not getting anything which is better than the films and comedies that I have done before, like Partner and Ready. I don’t want to do a frivolous comedy. Also, instead of sticking to just comedy — especially when people are paying a big amount to watch the film — I want to give them a mix of comedy, action, drama with a good plot. I want to give something better than what I have already done like Andaz Apna Apna, No Entry, Hello Brother, and Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya.
Most of your films since Wanted have been box office hits. At a time when actors are judged solely by the revenue their films generate, you have stayed away from defining your success along this parameter.
We may get the lowest numbers with Radhe. It might not even cross Rs 10-15 crores, but whoever wants to be happy with this lowest number, they can be happy. We would lose money on Radhe and box office collections are going to be almost zero but we are still going ahead with the film. Also,Wanted didn’t change anything, the film that changed everything for me was Maine Pyar Kiya. Wanted was a hit film, an action film. Before that also there were enough of such films.
Are you a person who follows their instinct in choosing scripts? If yes, has your decision ever backfired?
I have always been following my instincts, and they have always dragged me in trouble. But I have always got out of the trouble because my instincts were correct. Career, real life, personal relationships... are always based on instincts. Now you can go right with that or you can go wrong.
What is the most important thing you look for while choosing a script? How much has it changed over the years?
What I look for in choosing a script is the script itself. Then, when I am doing a romantic film, I would want the person who is going to see the movie to be like me, or to have a boyfriend like me. If I am playing a son then I would want parents, or a sister to have a son or brother like me. Son-in-law is difficult (laughs). So when you come out of the theatre, everyone has something to take back. If I need to give a message though I hate messages. Message would be there in the plot. I am not going to ‘pakao’ them with a message. I make sure that the film is a full package with music, entertainment, drama, and dialogue-baazi.
You retain simplicity in your films, and they always cater to a family audience rather than the "intellectuals."
Yes, I prefer keeping it simple. Good versus bad, fun, humour. Maybe the intellectuals would not appreciate that, but I’m no intellectual and I don’t cater to intellectuals. If they can’t understand simplicity, they are not intellectuals to me.
How important is it for you to keep your promise of delivering a film every Eid?
If we didn't have Zee to partner with us, we might not have been able to do it. I apologise to all the theatre owners that we are going ahead with the film now, and it is the right thing to do. The intention was to release this film as soon as the pandemic gets over. The intention was also to release in theatres. As you would remember a few months back, there was a request on social media to release Radhe in theatres on Eid and we agreed to it. We thought getting Radhe in theatres would get the crowds back and the theatres would become functional but all that did not happen. Now, this film is going to release on OTT and in 20-25 theatres abroad though not with the same number of prints that we usually release in. And, once the theatres open we will do a release in India in theatres as well because there are people who would want to watch it in theatres and some may not watch on OTT.
At a time like this where salaries of many people have got cut, there are people who don’t have jobs and on top of that fans would tell their parents that they want to watch the film in theatres at a ticket price. Now that it’s on ZEE5 and ZEEPlex at a nominal price; the whole family can watch together at that cost. We will lose in this and few people will be happy that after earning Rs 200 crores at the box office, we are now earning Rs 2 crores but we are okay with that.
You wanted to support the theatre-owners by taking the traditional release route.
We wanted to support the theatre owners but the theatres again got shut. But, then what is the fault of the fans who wanted to go and see the film? So, in a time like this you get to see the film at a bare minimum cost with your whole family. We will bear the loss. People who are at home would like to get some entertainment, something that will uplift them. As promised I am going to run it in theatres too because this film is meant for theatres like Wanted or Dabangg. There is some brilliant action in this. Our Korean action-director and the action-director from down South have done a fantastic job. It is a fun watch and the most important thing is that the plot of the film is very relevant.
There's a buzz that some of your fans have booked theatres in some parts of the country.
Yes, I have also heard that. I don’t think it’s a right thing to do because it should not be that they go and watch Radhe, and COVID-19 cases surge there. I don’t want to be a part of that. I can only help during the pandemic by doing what I do. I don’t want to add to this situation and I also hate one thing, that a lot of people have a new profession of making money out of somebody’s misery. There was a time when no one charged for a bottle of water and today, they are charging for oxygen. It just upsets me when I hear such things.
You have once again collaborated with Prabhu Deva. How is your equation with him? We have heard he is a tough task-master when it comes to choreography.
Yeah, but now he has understood what I can do and what I can’t. So, now he makes sure I do what I can’t do (laughs). He has got his own comic timing. When he performs, we all laugh and then when I am doing it he is like — 'One more, sir', 'Not right sir' or 'Okay'. But, I have my own style that my fans like because there is no style to me. For my next film, I am going to give my fans the easiest hook step - just stand or sit (laughs).
You have worked on this film during the "new normal." What was the experience like?
I hope the new normal goes back to the old normal. This new normal, no one would be able to survive. How can you live your life on Zoom call with your boyfriend? It’s just not possible. You need to come back to the old normal. This thing should end. Only way that would happen is when everyone gets themselves vaccinated. My mom and dad have gotten both vaccinations done. I have got one dose of vaccination and I'll go for my next in the next 10 days. COVID-19 can happen then also but after the vaccine, we wouldn’t be fighting for life. It would be a lot safer and easier if everyone gets vaccinated.
It’s heard that profit earned from Radhe will go towards COVID-19 relief efforts?
Yes, the publicity money. Why should we put so much money in publicity? So we have tried to cut that money hugely, and ZEE and I will plan and give a portion out for whatever we can.
What 's next for you?
I have got Antim ready already and I am working on Tiger 3. Once we open up, we will finish the Tiger shoot and I hope by that time the theatres will open. Just that I am running out of professions to play on screen. I’m playing a cop in Dabangg, Radhe and in my next film Antim; I’m playing a RAW agent in Tiger 3. So, I’m repeating the professions in different manners.
How different would be your Eid celebration this year?
Very different! Everyone will be in their own rooms this year. I live down and mum and dad live up. Then my brothers and sisters will be in their own homes. And, I hope there is no crowd outside my house this time, in fact, there should be no crowd outside any star’s house.
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