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'People are embarrassed to do good things'

In the last few years, the superstar has put his best foot forward and received not only his usual dose of adulation from his dedicated audience but also managed to impress naysayers with his acting chops, at least, most of them. Now the actor has taken another big risk by skipping his larger-than-life onscreen persona to play a simpleton in Kabir Khan's upcoming film Tubelight.

Ahead of the film's release, Salman Khan, in a freewheeling chat with Box Office India, Salman reveals how he is pushing the envelope to get better with each film. In characteristic style, he says, "Level bada rahe hai mediocrity ke upar." Over to the man of the moment…

Another Eid and another big release…
These festive dates are the best dates for movie releases. Since it's the holiday period, people have received their salaries, families get together at that point of time…
Also, here, if we want some entertainment, we go either to a park or to watch a movie. So I think the culture we have of people going and watching a movie together, with friends or family… I think that's the best outing there is in our country. Biwi No 1 also released during Ramadan, against the World Cup. It did really well. So, for us, we never got Eid-Eid, most of them were during Ramadan, three-four days before Eid. But after that, ek boost milta hai which is a fun thing.

You just mentioned Biwi No 1, which opened with 100-per cent occupancy. Those were times when movies were judged on their occupancy, whereas today it's all about the opening… Rs 20 crore, Rs 30 crore… Does it pressurise you, that more than anything else, it's only about the number of crores a film earns?
You know, pressure comes when you are doing a film that you don't have full confidence in. So, if you have not signed the film for the right reasons, which means you have not loved the script, but instead signed it under some pressure ke dost bana raha hai, dates are available, you are not getting good offers… then you are under pressure, and when you are giving interviews and stuff like that, aap jhoot bol rahe ho. You are basically conning the audience.

You say, 'This is the best film that I have ever done', when you know that yeh picture mein kuch dum hai hi nahi aur aap usko promote kiye jaa rahe ho. I think that has stopped with all of us since quite some time. Earlier, producers and directors did not let us hear the script. We didn't know what the characters were like in the movie. Agar aapne bola ki 'sir story suna di jiye,' toh it was considered rude. It was like, 'Yeh toh batameez aadmi hai.'

However, now we do only what we like. So when youdo interviews and stuff like that now, you are genuinely talking about the movie and your character. How that translates later is decided only by your fans.

Earlier, when a movie would flop, jashn hota tha, party hoti thi. Now people have realised that if kisi ki film flop hogayi, toh yeh asar humpar bhi padega. So, today, everyone in the industry wants every film to do well. A regional film like Baahubali (The Conclusion) made about 500 crores here, with the Hindi film-going audience. That means our Hindi audiences are so amazing ki they watch an English film, they watch a Hindi film, and they watch a regional film too because the film is a good film.

First Ek Tha Tiger, then Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Was it difficult for the Kabir-Salman combination to come together for Tubelight?
We would have never made Tubelight if the script was not better than Bajrangi. It was fantastic on the script level. For the next film, we will have a problem because it has to be better than Tubelight!

Kabir Khan has brought the best shades of you onscreen, he has unleashed you as an actor…
(Laughs) Yes, our journey started with Ek Tha Tiger. It was a very cool stylish film, and then we went on to this emotional film called Bajrangi, a very simple character, and now we have come up with Tubelight, which is a lot simpler than Bajrangi Bhaijaan. It's a very pure, noble character. He just wants to stop the war so that his brother comes back to him. He wants the Chinese jawans to go back to their families, and our soldiers to get back to their families, bas ki yeh jung khatam hojaye. You know, hum sab mein ek cheez bahut kam hogayi hai, woh hai yaqeen.

We don't believe in ourselves any more. Everyone says we gave our best but nahi hua. That means you haven't given your best. Agar aapne best diya hota, toh woh ho jaata. This happens because you don't have enough confidence in yourself, or someone has discouraged you because of which your morale has broken and you cannot achieve what you actually want to achieve.

You know, we always say, kaash kuch aur maang leta, or arey I was just thinking about you and you called, toh usme toh koi telephone vagre toh hai nahi na, apne socha and it was conveyed to the universe and the universe conspired to get you there. So when somebody needs something and s/he sends it out in the universe, the universe works like a wireless and in the end what you desire, from somewhere or the other, comes to you. It's all belief.

Coming back to the character, this boy, Laxman, stays in Jagatpur and he is praying and believes that he will stop the war and his brother will come back.

Salman plans a unique fun day with the kids of Tubelight. In what ways could you relate to your character, Laxman?
Not any more. I mean, we have grown up and that innocence has gone. We have become smart; we have become clever; there is a certain amount of corruption in our thought. So, even when we want to do something, we can't do it. We are afraid of what people will think… Yeh toh image change karne ki koshish kar raha hai, or he is trying to show a different side. We are always aware of all this.

When we were young, 12 or 14 years old, thoughts like these never bothered us. Today, people are embarrassed to do good things, which is the worst thing that has happened to all of us; it is really, really sad. Galat karne mein kisi ko koi problem nahi hai, lekin accha karne mein people are conscious. People are hesitant to do good.

Like you said, we have lost our innocence, whereas this character, Laxman, is very pure and very innocent. How did you bring out that innocence in him?
You remember your past, what you were like before you started movies, how you were in school. That was the connect I did. When I heard the script, I was, like, abhi ka Salman Khan toh yeh role play hi nahi kar payega. I had to go back to when I was 12-13 years old. Memories of when you are 12-13 years old are engraved in your brain. That was the journey I had to go through.

SK & Matin – Icecream competition – 2What attracted you to Tubelight?
The script, you know, bada zamana ho gaya hai, ki bhaiyon ke upar kahani nahi aayi, and Tubelight basically is a love story of two brothers. The elder brother is simple and the younger one is like a man, and one of these guys goes to war and the other one is waiting for his brother to come back, not knowing whether he will and what will happen to his life. He is a helpless boy, he can't do anything, he can't pick up a gun, he can't go to war, he is not a tiger that he would just go get his brother back.

He has a different way to bring his brother back, which is the most noble – belief and self-confidence. You don't have to pick up a gun, you don't have to take on 50-60 people, but just by your niceness and your heart, you can achieve things. Since Sohail was playing the character, there was no acting involved, it went beautifully.

What was your thought process when Kabir narrated the film to you for the first time?
I actually loved the film. I loved the character. The screenplay goes so beautifully. So when he was narrating the script to me, I was totally involved with it. First, I didn't see the character because it's a very difficult character to play. You can go overboard, you can mimic someone, it could look caricaturish… then uss mein woh baat nahi aati. So you either overdo it or you under play it. You need to strike the right chord. So by the time we were done with the narration, I was already there.
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