Vajir Singh (VS): The obvious question… Eid is back, Salman Khan is back.
Nitin Tej Ahuja (NTA): And is it different this time, with Bajrangi Bhaijaan also being your first home production?
Salman Khan (SK): Every film, every festive date or non-festival release is as important as the previous film. So you always have to put in that extra effort, more than what you had put in when your previous film released. You put in more effort and if this one does well, then you know that the next one won’t be a problem. You work harder on the next one, so the one (film) after that is received well. It is an ongoing process, it is a fight, it is a journey. And it is always an uphill climb, which gets more and more difficult, and only the people who are ready for the challenge and that fate ,succeed. It is not only the survival of the fittest, physically, but it is also the survival of the fittest mentally. It is your mental strength that guides you physically.
VS: This is not just a Salman Khan film,but also Salman Khan Films’ first venture. Is that special?
SK: We did a film called Chillar Party first. After that, we got into film production and we were looking for a film. We started with Hero.
VS: But Chillar Party was a film you watched and liked and so you backed it.
SK: We saw the film and we knew we were going to do it. If they would have come to us first, we would have produced it. We liked it so much. Chalti hui train mein thode hi baithenge! If they would have come to us before, we would have done it but they made the film and they wanted a name so they came to us. We have seen a lot of films like this, this year. Amar (Butala) was with UTV and even Filmistaan came to us. We wanted some changes in Filmistaan, which were not possible at that time. So when Chillar Party came to us, we were very keen to be a part of the film. We thought we would invest into films like that and also the kind of films that I do. But both would be beautiful, larger-than-life films.
We have such a large film with Bajrangi Bhaijaan that we were always aware that we would be competing with our previous films. So when we go into the next one, we will go bigger than Bajrangi Bhaijaan in terms of film, scale, grandeur, backdrop, entertainment, action, song-and-dance and script. This will be a journey of getting the right films for SKF (Salman Khan Films) and I hope we keep finding them. I will be part of some of them while other actors would be part of the others but all the films would be on that level. There is no point in making a film just for the sake of it, like, ‘Okay let’s just make this film, we can make X amount of money on this one or we can sell this film in a package with another one.’ We are not interested in that at all. We want to make films that will be remembered.
NTA: Would they necessarily be films that suit your image as a star?
SK: No, they should be entertaining. You have to make films which are entertaining and where the backdrop is larger than life. There will be films, whether tragic, comedy, romance or action, but it will be based on heroes and will be commercial. Our cinema is the only cinema in the world that gives us the liberty of songs, dance, romance, emotion, action and comedy all in one film. Plus, it allows you to have another comic track and a sub-plot. Not even the most intricate or complicated screenplays in the world have as many tracks as a simple Hindi film. We are lucky that we make these kinds of films and our audience is adapted to this format. In a scene, you could be making them laugh and in the very next scene, you can make them cry, and in the following scene you can go back to heroism. Suddenly, you can show that a character is a loser in one scene and in the next he could wake up and be the biggest superhero.
VS: Talking about heroism, in the initial phase of your career, after delivering back-to-back hits, you had a low phase. Then you bounced back with a ‘heroism film’ called Veergati. That was the first film where we saw you…
SK: Karan Arjun was before Veergati. I had nine hits in a row and after that, I had six or seven films and then later I had three or four films. Perhaps I have had the least amount of films that have not made that much money. But none of the producers have lost money. At that time, it was, like, after so many hits, a film didn’t work. For example, Jai Ho is considered a flop; Rs 126 crore is a flop, for which ticket prices were Rs 250 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which came down to Rs 80 or Rs 100 on weekdays. We reduced ticket prices so that more people could watch the film, and if you want your film to garner Rs 250 crore or Rs 200 crore, do it on a Rs 200 ticket price, na. Why do it on a ticket price of Rs 600 or Rs 900? Just because we are not the ones spending that money? That was not appreciated and everyone is going with the set norms.
Anyway, back to the topic of heroism. At that point in time, I had to buy a house and these films were among the best films of that time. I knew they might not work that much but I had to buy a house so I did them, thinking that they would have music and action and would do decent business. Now if we talk about losses or that any of my films were flops, it’s like if Shyam Bajaj were to sell a film to satellite now, he would earn more money today than any film that was a hit at that time. It’s the same with Bubby Kent.
VS: Yes, Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye, or for that matter Jaanam Samjha Karo, are aired at regular intervals on television.
SK: Yes, after re-issuing the satellite rights, these films are making more money today than the hit films they were released with.
VS: So what if it’s with satellite rights? Every generation’s kids are falling in love with Salman Khan.
SK: That will happen as long as we don’t lose enthusiasm. When you don’t lose enthusiasm, the energy levels are there, you are having fun and you are relating to the younger generation as well as the older generation, ke dekho hum kaise hain, yeh kaisa hai. That gives you a high. Recently, I tweeted a picture of my father. He is 79 years old and it is not like main apne father ki body dikha raha hoon. I tweeted our picture on Father’s Day. At 79, he is like that. You too should have your father in that condition.
NTA: You mentioned that with every film, the promotions get more and more intense. Is it a process that you enjoy?
SK: I don’t enjoy it. I hate this process. I can’t stand it.
VS: A lot of people who interviewed you recently said, ‘Salman sir is in a very good mood these days and enjoying giving interviews.’
SK: One, two or three interviews are fine. I don’t talk that much, so after that, suddenly it’s like a month’s talking goes in one interview. And the questions are the same, one after another. Now even if I want to answer the same question in the same way, it is just not possible. But if the question is the same, my answer will also be the same, na! So you have to find a way of saying the same thing differently, which is taxing. Sometimes you lose interest and go off on a tangent. Sometimes, people ask unrelated questions and that’s irritating. This time, we are not promoting the film but we are just spreading awareness that the film will hit cinemas on this date. People who watch trailers and songs on social networking sites are the audience who visit cinemas to watch the film, repeatedly, with friends or family.
They already know when the film is set to release, par phir aisa bhi hota hai ke they think, ‘Yeh bol kyun nahin raha hai kuch film ke baare mein? Kahin film mein koi gadbad toh nahi?’ Toh unke liye batana padta hai ki yeh film hai, yeh plot hai. So I don’t feel the need to be everywhere. Har jagah buffet laga hai aur har jagah khane mein lag pade toh indigestion toh hona hi hai! We feel where there are people who would say, ‘This film is coming and we should go and watch it.’ That’s where we should promote it. We have done some reality shows, some dance shows as well as lots of kids’ shows. Bachon ke shows kyunki bachein woh show dekhenge aur maa baap ko bolengey ki Bajrangi Bhaijaan dekhna hai.
NTA: It is said that some people are paid to tarnish other people’s reputations.
SK: Yeah. That’s why, what we did through our account was, to figure out all those who were inactive by not tweeting for six-seven months and we deleted their names from our account. If you are going to have an account, you have to be interactive or at least check.
VS: Right now, we are discussing only footfalls of your Eid releases, which are growing with each release.
NTA: Doesn’t that put pressure on you as the benchmark keeps rising?
SK: No, not really. Population is increasing, kids are born daily and before they even learn their parents’ names, they know which songs are trending, and the names of heroes. With caretakers looking after kids, the TV is always on and depending on who her favourite actor is, she will sing those songs and the kids will pick it up. When the parents return home and the song Dhinka chika is playing on TV, the kid picks it up and the parents are amazed at what’s happening! They don’t realise that when they are watching TV, the sound is familiar to the child. That’s the impact television and cinema have on individuals.
It could be an older person or a child who is getting it into his consciousness. He will hear and absorb it. There are people who ask why I don’t do negative roles and this is why – there is so much positive stuff to do. The negative person is doing his negative stuff because without a villain, who is larger than life, a hero can never be a hero. Woh apna job kar raha hai toh apanapna job karo.
VS: Talking about number of cinemas, do you miss the era of jubilees?
SK: It’s the same thing. Cinemas were less then and are still less. Right now, we are still short by 25-30,000. Even if two newcomers want to release on the same day, toh prints ki mara mari hogi, screens ki mara mari hogi toh yeh kaunsi industry hui? You need to get the theatres. It is such a powerful medium, such a powerful industry only because there are no numbers. Film music plays everywhere, from weddings to nightclubs. Also, all the musicians from these small bands, when they perform at weddings, they perform on our songs. So the revenue generated is very large. Check the business of everything, from your clothes to your hairstyle.
NTA: TV for that matter…
SK: Yes, TV, radio kahin se bhi dekhein. The expenditure on petrol, diesel, rickshaw, taxi, popcorn, tickets etc. It fetches a very large revenue. I think it is one of the largest industries. What can be bigger than this, yaar? Ek ladka ladki picture dekhne jaate hain. Har theatre ke andar aapko hazaaron log milenge who will say, ‘Hum aapki picture dekhne gaye, phir hamari shaadi ho gayi aur ab humara bacha aapka fan hai.’ I mean, they won’t say,ki, ‘You know what, we went to a press conference or a political rally and then we fell in love and now we have a kid!’ So it is such a large industry in terms of revenue, love and respect!
NTA: Given the very large numbers your films generally have to clock, does that restrict your choices? For example, a Rs 60-crore film might be considered a hit for someone but a Rs 150-crore Salman film is considered a flop. Does that restrict you from doing a certain role?
SK: We lose on an imaginary profit. We think that the film will do Rs 300 crore but it earned Rs 250 crore, so we are, like, arre Rs 50 crore lose kiye humne. Yeh kya baat hui? Ek hota hai ke zyaada se zyaada karein and when you see that the trend is not going that way, then we are, like, are kam se kam flop ho, ek phat se change hota hai!
NTA: For example, you can’t do Phir Milenge now.
SK: I couldn’t do Phir Milenge even then! I did that film for Revathy and it was a beautiful film. I keep saying that if your intention is to make a movie, then people have to see it in theatres. If it is to spread awareness on AIDS, then people have to watch it in theatres.
But, today, television is so big that people watch it at home but, as a producer, they would have wanted the film to be a much bigger hit, which didn’t happen then. You can spread this kind of awareness through social media.
NTA: There is no need for a film?
SK: You can do it through a press conference, we can do interviews like this, we can talk
VS: Lastly, Mr Butala (Amar Butala, CEO Salman Khan Ventures) is here. Tell us what are your plans for SKF?
SK: Arre, he is here now, you can ask him.
VS: You tell us.
SK: Arre, no yaar, you ask him, he is all charged up!