Building Bridges

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Building Bridges

Salman Khan gave us the inside scoop on everything from his latest movies to helping the needy to kickstarting a new cycling fad

By Adam Zacharias

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Published: Sun 30 May 2010, 7:53 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:53 PM

“We don’t like it, we don’t believe in it,” said a sombre Salman Khan. “It’s got nothing to do with the public, it’s to do with a minority.”

The Bollywood heavyweight was discussing the longstanding animosity between India and Pakistan, which flared up yet again on November 26 2008 with the Mumbai terrorist attacks, co-ordinated by a Pakistan-based militant organisation.

“It’s a fraction of people who start something like 26/11,” continued the Wanted star, talking exclusively with City Times ahead of Thursday night’s T20 celebrity cricket cup, featuring dozens of stars from India and Pakistan.

“What will come out of the match is India and Pakistan not playing against each other, but playing together and walking together. That’s a good message.”

The thrilling contest, which took place at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, was held to raise awareness of his charity Being Human, as well as promoting peace and unity between the neighbouring nations.

Among the famous faces on show were Sharman Joshi, Riya Sen, Suneil Shetty, Arbaaz Khan, Riteish Deshmukh and Imran Nazir.

India snuck a victory with just one ball to spare – an overthrow by fast bowler and Pakistan captain Shoaib Akhtar proving decisive. Although Salman was the nominal captain of the India side, he chose not to play; unsurprising given his admission that, “I haven’t held a bat in 25 years”.

Instead, the 44-year-old stays fit by getting on his bike. “I cycle almost every other day to a film shoot, be it 30 or 40 kilometres, then have a shower and I’m done with my cardio,” he said.

Salman participated in the Mumbai Cyclothon in February, drawing a predictable slew of media attention and reigniting the public’s interest in the activity.

“It was lovely,” he recalled. “In fact, from what I hear, all the kids have started to turn back to bicycles and a lot of people are buying them again.” Besides which, he added, a journey through Mumbai’s traffic-clogged streets takes the same amount of time by bike as it does car.

Famed for his powerful physique, Salman said he works out for 90 minutes a day even when he’s not shooting a movie. This rises to two-and-a-half hours when he needs to get fully sculpted for the camera – and though he doesn’t kickbox any more, Salman said he still gets a thrill from “punching and kicking a bag”.

The Human touch

All the stars we spoke to were quick to praise Salman’s noble humanitarian efforts with Being Human, which the Filmfare Award-winner said is deliberately cloudy in its mission statement.

“Every charitable trust has a focus – be it children or cancer...we have no focus,” he said of the organisation, which was established in 2007. “If money can save a life and we have it, we will do it.

“But we do not believe in miracles. If the doctors have given up hope, and we know for a fact that the patient will not survive for more than two or three months, we will not touch that patient. If the money can be used for somebody who could get better, we’d rather give it there. It’s ruthless, it’s heartless, but this is something that we believe in.”

Similarly, Salman said that people asking for donations for their children’s wedding would probably be turned away. Although he might help them “on a personal level”, the foundation is unlikely to divert its funds in this manner.

“My parents (screenwriter Salim Khan and first wife Salma) got married on 60 rupees (Dhs5), so it doesn’t make any sense to us,” he explained.

However, Being Human is dedicated to all manner of causes including child labour, autism and especially medical procedures. “We do a lot of surgeries, every single day there are two or three happening,” said the actor, adding that the charity keeps low administration costs and ensures that “every penny” sent to another charitable trust is accounted for.

While the cricket match itself did not generate any money for Being Human, due to a hitch in India’s laws dealing with overseas fundraising, Salman received a pledge of $100,000 from the Grand Midwest Hotel at a press conference immediately prior to our interview. Quick as a flash, Salman joked he wanted more – causing the hotel’s generous rep to double his offer on the spot. Not bad for a few seconds’ horseplay…

“I made him commit to that!” the actor chuckled in hindsight, adding that as yet he had “no idea” where the funds would be administered.

Battling the bootleggers

Salman was less amused by the fact that his clothing line for Being Human, which will be launched onto the market in December, is already seeing greedy counterfeiters siphoning money from his charity.

“People are making tonnes and tonnes of money on fakes,” he said angrily, pointing out that he was wearing several genuine items from the collection (a sleek black watch and a blue shirt which had ‘Being’ and ‘Human’ imprinted on either sleeve).

“There’s this guy who I know for a fact has manufactured around 30,000 shirts. And people are buying them, which is even worse,” he added, urging everyone to avoid these callous knockoffs.

After Friday’s gala dinner and fashion show, which was held at the World Trade Centre, Salman said he would jetting back to India to continue filming for his latest movie Dabanng. Co-starring brother Arbaaz and Sonu Sood, it’s the tale of a corrupt police officer in Uttar Pradesh and is set to release during Eid.

The performer, who made his name with 1989’s Maine Pyar Kiya and went on to star in a succession of box office juggernauts, has a host of other films on the horizon too. Among these is the sequel to Partner, and three more projects entitled Kick, Bodyguard and Ready.

“My films have just about everything,” he declared. “Action, comedy, emotion, drama…There’s so much poverty and unhappiness, I make sure when people go into a movie theatre, their minds are taken off their stresses for a few hours.

“I just want to see lots of smiles on people’s faces.”

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