is Bollywood's original bad boy. But two decades after his debut ' and
debacles'his original image has paled in front of his newly acquired
status'that of a phenomenon and the most sought after actor in Hindi
cinema. Earlier known for giving flops after a mega hit, now Salman Khan
do no wrong. His latest hit "Ready" may not match the first week
collection of his "Dabangg", but Salman's message is loud and clear'he's
got his act together after crossing the age of 40, a threshold that
most actors dread.
How else does one explain the fact that
"Ready" was widely panned by critics but took an extraordinary opening
at the box office and continues to sustain itself both in single screens
and multiplexes? Says trade analyst Vajir Singh, "We're seeing a new
trend here. Earlier, multiplexgoers weren't interested in masala
entertainers, but now they are. When "Wanted" released, it got maximum
single screen audience as it was a mass-oriented film, but "Dabangg" was
patronised by both multiplexgoers and the singleplex audience. It all
began with "Ghajini", but it was "Wanted" that really kicked off the
trend of wholesale entertainment masala movies. The deal was sealed by
Salman's own film "Dabangg"."
Critics feel that Salman is
unpredictable. A trade pundit said, "Right after "Wanted", Salman had
two big flops in "Main Aur Mrs Khanna" and " London
Dreams". Between 2005 and 2009, Salman had only two hits '"No Entry" in 2005 and "Partner" in 2007."
Filmmaker David Dhawan
who has given Salman six hits in his career, says, "I feel he has
always been underrated as an actor. Although Salman gives the impression
of being nonchalant, he has always taken himself seriously as an actor
The fact is that the negatives in his lives have not affected his fan
following, the audiences love him too much." Dhawan also believes Sallu
is the Rajinikanth of Bollywood. "Salman Khan is like Rajinikanth, you
cannot keep him tied to the script. Like Rajini, he improvises his
scenes. Since he is a writer's son and a writer himself, he has helped
me with scenes. Salman's emphasis on doing things in style and having
dialogues with flair comes from his father. Salman the actor is a giver.
In fact, there have been times when has given away his scenes to other
actors. He has been the most easy actor to work with and is the best
entertainer we have today."
Like his idol, actor Sanjay Dutt
Salman's personal life almost took a toll on his career ' be it in
matters of the heart or law. The actor's relationships with his women
'Sangeeta Bijlani, Somy Ali and Aishwarya Rai 'has always been wrought
with high-voltage drama. Although he acquired an image of a
girlfriend-basher and was an accused in a hit-and-run case, he bounced
back with superhit "Tere Naam", "Baghbaan", "Garv" and "Mujhse Shaadi
Karogi". Ranjan Singh
who has been in exhibition business for many years, says, "Although
"Garv" was not a big hit, but it took a good opening. Exhibitors love
Salman probably because he does more films than all the other Khans.
He's one actor who cuts across all classes, and makes sure that
audiences walk into the theatre on the first day of release. Even a film
like "Veer" took a huge opening although it failed to impress the
Sociologist Shiv Vishwanath describes the
Sallu phenomenon thus: "Salman Khan does not need a good conduct
certificate. He doesn't need a high IQ, he doesn't have to take stands
and he is not an intellectual like the other two Khans. He is the lowest
common denominator. He is a hero and a wishlist. All of us dream of
being loved even if we are a bit bad. Salman Khan accommodates that
world. You don't have to work hard to be a Salman Khan. It's a more
magical world where people forgive you easily. That's Salman. He is also
strangely the family man without being married 'he carries a soap opera
of a family with him. It's a clan. He accommodates them all 'from Helen
to Malika Arora Khan. He advertises himself. He is his own message,
literally and symbolically. He doesn't have to try hard. What more can
you ask? Everything he does echoes himself."
Harish Shetty has his own take on Salman's success despite the many
controversies in his life. "The nuance, the nautanki and the noise is
all cool. Salman is perceived as a funny lesser evil. Those who
castigated him earlier feel guilty as he pales in the presence of a
Raja, Kalmadi or a Maran. 'Salman itna kharab nahi hai' is a common
Sallu getting serious?
Salman himself does not
believe that he has turned into a phenomenon. "Three big hits
("Wanted", "Dabangg" and "Ready") do not make me a phenomenon and I
don't believe that these films have worked only because of my presence.
It was a team effort." Having said that, he adds, "I have been lucky
that good scripts have begun coming to me. Earlier that was not the
case. I did films for friends. Some worked, some didn't. Besides, every
film and ever actor has his own destiny."
The perception today
is that Salman has begun taking his work more seriously now, but the
actor does not agree. "Was I not serious in my earlier films like Maine
TV ka boss
ventures on the small screen with shows like "Dus Ka Dum" and "Bigg
Boss" showcased his off-screen personality and helped him to connect
with viewers big time. It's no surprise that the actor readily agreed to
do "Bigg Boss 5". Salman Khan is also the most downloaded star today.
"If brands earlier sought out only the macho side of his personality,
his TV innings and his philanthropic work have showcased a softer side,"
says Salman's brand manager Vivek Kamath. The fact is that Salman has
an amazing body of work as a romantic hero ("Maine Pyar Kiya", "Hum
Aapke Hain Koun", "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam") as comic hero ("Andaz Apna
Apna", "Partner", "Ready") and as action hero ("Tere Naam", "Wanted",
"Dabangg") and brands are now seeking to capture these aspects. "So in
Wheel and Gitanjali, you see the romantic side. Mountain Dew and Dixcy
Scott capture the action hero. Rotomac taps into the activist.
Chloromint brought out the comic side," says Kamath. The ICC World Cup
was this year's biggest event and India
the cup. But in the two months after that victory, no cricketer has
signed a single new brand, while Salman has signed not one but two.
"This stands testimony to his appeal," adds Kamath, refusing to divulge
the names of the brands right now.
Next is what?
In the next
one-and-a-half years, Salman has three releases '"Bodyguard", "Kick",
and "Dabangg 2". Approximately Rs 250 crore would be riding on these
three films in terms of investment, but investing in Salman is giving
big returns right now. Independent distributor and trade analyst Suneil
Wadhwa says, "There is already a queue of distributors wanting to buy
his movies at any cost as they give guaranteed returns in the first
weekend. Bookings of screens for his films will go up with each
"Bodyguard", his next Eid release, is perhaps the
hottest film of 2011 in trade circles. After Ready's performance at the
box office, Reliance Entertainment, who are the co-producers of the
film, are getting offers that are unprecedented in motion picture
business. The India theatrical business alone is attracting offers to
the tune of Rs 75 crore, an increment of Rs 20 crore on the sale price
of "Ready". All other rights of Bodyguard will fetch an additional Rs 45
crore, safely making it a Rs 120 crore film on an investment of Rs 65
crore plus marketing expenses. "We are receiving great offers for
Bodyguard and naturally so," Priti Sahani of Reliance Entertainment.
"Last year, when we had invested a certain amount in Salman, it did seem
to be expensive but now we are on a solid economic wicket. A Salman
Khan film is delivering returns on the investment," she adds.