With Race 3, Salman Khan goes back to humble origins of family dramas without giving up on his action hero image
Salman Khan gave up on Dancer Dad, a father-daughter emotional story, to embrace Race 3, but not without throwing some family drama into the mix.
There always seems to be so much riding on a Salman Khan movie. Huge amounts of money, Salman's own superstar status, the hopes and expectations of countless fans, and the careers of his friends/co-stars; a Salman Khan movie has more consequences than just a hit or flop verdict.
Salman Khan has entered that phase of his career where he does not have to worry about scoring a flop anymore. The actor has been able to create a brand for himself, just like his contemporaries. While Shah Rukh Khan established himself as the much revered romantic lead and Aamir Khan became the actor dishing out stellar performances in socially conscious and content driven movies, Salman played the good-boy roles in over-the-top joint family dramas before shifting to relentless, unforgiving action flicks.
The reinvention of Salman Khan has been well thought out. Even though Salman has never been considered the best actor around, he has been able to carve a place for himself based solely on his personality. When before have you seen an actor who wears a gaudy bracelet in real life and crosses it over to his characters on the big screen? Or talks in the same voice and mannerisms in the movies as he does in real life? When Salman goes to shoot on the sets of a movie, he goes as Salman, shoots (pun intended) as Salman, and talks and walks like the actual Salman does. And his fans happily pay to watch Salman be Salman on screen. No other star has achieved this feat; to basically play a version of himself in a movie and achieve big numbers release after release.
So what does Salman's decision to do Race 3 say?
When Salman (from this point on referred to as bhai) started his career, he was the calm, obedient and virtuous Prem. The widely loved Maine Pyar Kiya, the cult classic Andaz Apna Apna, and the ultimate Bollywood extended family fest Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, all these movies gave bhai an identity and made him a force to reckon with. He played Prem in 10 different movies before 2010's career-altering Dabangg.
In the Abhinav Kashyap directed movie, Salman's portrayal of the UP cop Chulbul "Robin Hood" Pandey — a young man harboring real relationship troubles — proved to be one of the best roles of Salman's career. He followed it up with a string of hits like Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Dabangg 2, Jai Ho and Kick.
All of those movies show bhai as he wants the public to see him: An honest, upright, innocent, kind-hearted and generous individual with a penchant for unleashing unimaginable violence. The Kick trailer, for instance, has the following dialogue: "Logon ko maarta hai, lekin dil ka bohot achha hai. Jail jaa chuka hai, lekin dil ka bohot achha hai". When have you ever heard that one before?
Similarly, in the Jai Ho trailer, a dialogue goes, "Aise logon ki maut unka sar kaatne se nahi, balki sar jhukane se hoti hai". Bhai, with the help of his movies, built himself up in the eyes of the public to a point where his devout fans see him as the upstanding, righteous and ineffable hero he is portrayed on the big screen.
Starting 2015, bhai stuck to a similar formula while aiming bigger than he ever did before. In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman played a gentle, guileless and innocuous Hanuman devotee on a mission. Bajrangi Bhaijaan became bhai's most successful movie and prompted him to attempt more roles dealing with a simple-minded man on a seemingly impossible mission for all the right reasons.
Ignoring Prem Ratan Dhan Payo — which saw bhai return as Prem and fight falling chandeliers — Salman once again hit the right note with 2016's Sultan. In this sports drama, bhai gave his career-best performance as the retired Jat wrestler Sultan Ali Khan. Not only did Sultan have Salman talk in a Haryanvi accent, but actually was an all-round entertaining movie that did not resort to the cheesy and predictable ways of Bollywood.
The third most commercially successful Salman film (after Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan) is last year's Tiger Zinda Hai. One of the two Salman movies released in 2017, Tiger Zinda Hai salvaged the failure of Tubelight. While Tubelight was based on the same Bajrangi Bhaijaan formula, Tiger Zinda Hai served as the sequel to Ek Tha Tiger. Salman has reached a point in his career where box office numbers have somehow become more important than they ever were. Following the failure of Tubelight, Salman chose to opt out of Remo D'Souza's Dancer Dad and do Race 3 instead.
In Dancer Dad, Salman was to play an aged dancer and a father to a 13-year-old girl; in Race 3, he will be seen in his usual fighting avatar upholding family values. Race 3 also marks Salman's return to a movie with an ensemble cast; something similar to what we saw in Jai Ho (which starred former Bigg Boss contestants, unoccupied actors, and other people irreversibly grateful to Salman).
Bhai will undoubtedly be the focus of Race 3, and will bring an old world charm to it by playing the destructive man-child he's known to be; but will it match the success of his recent releases based purely on being bhai's movie? Whatever it is, it only makes Salman's next move much more crucial.
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