‘Till the hero is not vulnerable, it isn’t exciting!’

You have a release, Jai Ho, after an entire year, and it has generated a lot of excitement in the trade. Have you watched the film? What are your expectations?

Obviously, yes! Sohail and I have edited the film, and everyone who is a part of a film believes their film is the next big thing. Once the audience leaves the cinema and says it’s an awesome film that counts as actual feedback.

Hamare bolne se that this is the best film ever doesn’t hold any weight. My job is only to make sure that people know what kind of film it is and when it is going to release. Few people will watch the film if I beg them to come to cinemas. If they like what they see in the promos, they will want to see the film.

How did Jai Ho begin?
We were supposed to make Sher Khan, a very vast film which needed a lot of writing in terms of special effects. We are still working on that and we didn’t want to do Sher Khan with the dates we had. We have always had a bank of four to five films, and then there was a point when we decided that we should do a film like Jai Ho as part of these four to five films. There was a film made in the South and we bought the rights to this film. And you have seen from my earlier films, they are hugely different from the films made in the South.

That’s because we don’t remake the entire film; we use only the plot. That’s what we did with Jai Ho. The action is very different; there’s a huge amount of emotion in it; and there’s a family angle too. It’s a very current issue. If the country is in dire straits, we need to do something about it. Cinema, TV and radio are the most powerful mediums ever. In Jai Ho, we are not giving any bhashanbaaji, without doing any neta giri you come out and give these very strong messages. You stand up for your family and for yourself.

A lot of people ask me what they can do for Being Human. I tell them you just come out of your house and look left or right and see who needs what. In your home, you have your aaya, who wants to get her son educated. Get that boy’s education done. That is all you have to do. You don’t have to send me money. I don’t want your money. I want this whole system of giving money to these daan petis to stop. Give it directly to those who deserve it. This is how I feel. And if I feel this way, everyone else must feel this way too. This is the kind of film I want to do right now. But it has to also have a commercial aspect. The hero has to be great; it has to have action, comedy, family, romance, songs.
When people say ‘Salman does not need a script,’ I tell them, ‘Are you crazy?’ I don’t get involved unless the script is ready. The script is the hero. The script has been written with heroism in mind. I can only bring it down because of my limitations. If someone else would have done films with these scripts, they would have lifted the film. This is the kind of film I like doing because I like doing films that I like to watch. There are a lot of other people who also want to do films like this. If one or two go wrong, then I am, like, Arrey yaar, yeh toh nahi chali, ab kisko pakdoon?

Then I would have to rewind and see what went wrong. You can’t keep on delivering hit after hit. Sometimes, you will go wrong. I went wrong with Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna. I was not supposed to do the film. It was a small film and one of the actors backed away, so I filled in for him. Then there was Veer. There was a version that I was shown and an entirely different edit that was released. There was a difference of 38 minutes! It was a totally different film.

Jai Ho is releasing after a string of blockbusters you have delivered. Is there pressure on you to deliver?
The only pressure is we shouldn’t fall short of the previous film. And we shouldn’t go so far beyond the previous one that we go, ‘Bas yaar ab itna bhi nahi, this is not looking convincing now.’ We don’t have the budget for the special effects (like Hollywood does) and that whole taam jhaam we don’t have that to pull off everything. We have to be slightly better than the previous one, so how do we get slightly better? You find the right music. Now you don’t know whether the music is going to be the right music or not, so you try and give it your best on action, emotional content, screenplay and dialogue.
And nobody knows till the release what will really work. You feel you are making the greatest film ever. But even a film like Sholay didn’t do well in its first two weeks and today, it’s the greatest film ever. So how can you be sure it’s a sure-shot blockbuster? You say, ‘Theek hai yaar, okay film hai.’ And there is a huge dip and you are, like, yeh kaisa ho gaya yaar. Like there are films you think will be super hits and turn out to be big disasters. It’s not about hits and flops. It’s about yeh toh hamari film galat chali gayi, agle mein kya hoga? So you are only scared ki are you in the same zone as the audience?
This genre is also going to die soon because there are many films of this genre releasing. So every time you release a film, there’s only so much more you can do. Then you have those B-grade and C-grade films that spoil the market, and somebody is going to come out with a different genre, which will be popular for six to seven years. And then again, things will change. So from an action drama, to a family-society thriller, new genres will keep getting popular every five or six years.

So we haven’t taken this film to that level ki ek laat maari toh 15 aadmi udte hue gaye. That genre cannot work because the hero cannot do everything. Till the hero is not vulnerable, it doesn’t make it exciting. Till the odds are equal. That’s why we are trying to make the odds equal. With our larger-than-life images on screen, the villains have to be that much stronger. So to get those villains and people, it should not look like we are overestimating our power, our screen image. If we think on those lines, the audience will say we have lost the plot. So we have to be very careful to limit the heroism.

It is said in the trade that no one understands the audience as well as Salman Khan does.
Who me? I toh don’t understand the audience at all and I don’t want to either! Isme mujhe koi PhD karni bhi nahi hai. Jaisa chal raha hai aur jahan laga ke nahi ho raha kuch, toh chup chaap baitho.

Do you think you’re in the best phase of your career?
I think this is the best phase for the film industry. And I think it will last as long as people are interested, till people work hard. My father always says that success has made more failures than failure itself. Failure ki laat padti hai na toh hosh thikane aajate hai ek dum and then you realise that, boss, I have to do something. With success, it’s like chalta hai chalne do and then you start getting complacent towards your work. You start taking things for granted. You will see that in most of my films. One day, when I was going through this whole thing about my films not working, Arbaaz said, ‘Gabbar ko koi maar sakta hai toh Gabbar khud.’ Toh I said, ‘Correct baat hai, boss. Chalo, yaar Salman, get up.’

Is it a new trend to promote fellow actors’ movies? For instance, you promoted Dhoom 3 and Aamir Khan is promoting Jai Ho.
I hope it is. By promoting fellow actors, you’re promoting the industry. If I am doing a show and there are some films about to release and I believe in the films, of course I would promote them. But if there is a film I don’t believe in, I am not going to tell my fans to watch the film. Mere kehene se koi jayega bhi nahi. Itna toh mujhe mere fans pe bharosa hai. Unko jo karna hai wohi karenge. I can’t convince them to watch my own film, yaar. 

On special arrangement with box office india

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