Bollywood's Salman Khan on Antim, stardom and the legacy he hopes to leave behind

Superstar is pitted against brother-in-law Aayush Sharma in the action drama out in UAE this weekend


Ambica Sachin

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Published: Wed 24 Nov 2021, 7:17 PM

A chance to interview Bollywood’s resident bad boy Salman Khan is akin to indulging in a mild version of Russian Roulette. You never know if you have been dealt blanks or you’ll strike lucky.

After umpteen delays and at times even last minute cancellations, when you finally get to sit down with the superstar or even have a one-on-one conversation with him, it could go either way.

He can be to the point with his responses at times, that you run the risk of finishing all your questions before your stipulated time is up, and are left frantically thinking up new ones before your call is put on hold.

But whatever the image he projects through his over-the-top histrionics on screen, you are left with no doubt that behind the ‘mass hero’ is a supremely intelligent actor, with self-deprecatory humour that cracks you up.

When we catch up with the star ahead of the release of his next magnum opus Antim: The Final Truth that pits him against his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma, we have to zone out the honking cars and various other audio distractions in the background even as ‘Bhai’ deadpans his way through queries about stardom, his legacy and why he is the indisputable launch pad for a zillion newbies in Bollywood.

Many of his responses may be one-liners but he still manages to give one a glimpse into the person behind the actor with those succinct words, though we suspect some of them are a little tongue-in-cheek.

When we bring up the recent video that shows him feeding monkeys along with niece Ayat, his voice becomes more animated and he proudly mentions how she was fearless when faced with the aggressive animals.

Edited excerpts from a phone conversation with the star ahead of the release of the movie in the UAE on November 25.

What made a superstar like you agree to play a cop against a newbie like Aayush Sharma?

The demand of the script. It was very fascinating work for me to do. I really liked this character (Inspector Rajveer Singh) and that’s the reason I did the film. It’s a very noble character, very straight and correct…

What was it about Aayush that impressed you the most considering this is just his second movie?

When this film came Aayush was not in the running for this character. But then he started changing so rapidly and began looking like this character, that I knew that no matter who I cast, this is the guy who is going to give me his 100 per cent.

His whole transformation — his look, his body — he’s worked so hard on it, and done a great job and I thought he deserves to be in the film because he is that character now. He’s broken his hand in the film and then shot a song, he’s done action with the broken hand... He comes across as someone who is very hungry and very dedicated and passionate.

You are someone who has launched the maximum number of newcomers in this industry. What makes you such a generous co-star and actor?

Because my seniors and my directors gave me a chance, and they kept on giving me chances and the audience also kept on giving me chances. I just believe that everyone requires a second chance and if somebody is good, he deserves a chance to prove it.

Salman, all your movies have a pretty much white and black plot — is that how you, as an individual, view the world as well?

Yes, totally. There is no grey for me. It’s either a yes or a no.

It’s been over 30 years since you were launched as a chocolate boy hero with Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). What was your motivation then and what is it today that makes you sign a film like Antim?

My motivation then was to eventually become an action hero and my motivation now is to go back to doing a romantic film.

Your Instagram profile identifies you as an actor, artist, painter and humanitarian. Which among these roles is most important for you?

You can catch me for anything in the world, but you can never catch me for acting because I don’t act! I never call myself an actor. I consider myself fortunate that people go watch my movies, and they like me on screen.

You are a mass hero with a huge draw that’s incomparable in many ways. Why do you think you are so popular?

I have no clue and I don’t want to find out what it is. If I find out perhaps I will just overdo that and it will be fake. Maybe there is something that they like or perhaps that they believe (in me), and I am in their range... I don’t see what they see, and I think that’s how it should be. A lot of people see something in themselves and they question as to why people don’t see it as well. I’m just the opposite. It is hard for me to figure out what they (fans) see in me, because I don’t see it, but that’s okay. That’s the way it should be.

Is that also the reason the Maharashtra government has approached you to help them implement vaccination in certain areas in Mumbai…

I’ve been trying to get people vaccinated for the longest time. People are scared of getting vaccinated for some strange reason.

What’s the legacy you hope to leave behind?

I don’t want to be remembered. I just hope that Being Human continues even after our names are gone as actors. Even if they say that some actor started the charitable trust... and we can help as many people as possible.

And also after you are dead and gone, some people should say that you need to be like how this man was or if there is something I have not done right, then he should tell his children that be whatever you want to be, but don’t be like this man. So either way, you are getting good from both ends…

Aayush seems to be in awe of you. He told us how he warned you about the social media trolling going on about how he got this movie…

The fact is that I have not got Aayush anything. So before we even met him and before he even came into my sister’s life, Sohail (Khan) had seen him at a gym and already decided to take him in a movie. So this has nothing to do with Arpita; this has nothing to do with him being our brother-in-law; this is about a boy in a gym, and a film that Sohail wanted to make and he came and told me that he had seen this boy for this script we have. So he was going to be approached for a movie much before this relationship happened.

Finally is Antim a film for Salman Khan fans or one for Aayush Sharma fans?

Aayush Sharma still has to make his fans. Aayush Sharma doesn’t have those many fans and I hope with this movie, he will get a lot of fans. This film is definitely for my fans and when they see that, I hope they become Aayush’s fans as well — at least, give him the respect since he has worked hard.

There was some conversation that had come up that Antim is a two-hero film which I had to explain and say, no, this is not a two-hero film; it’s two different characters and one character is a hero, the other character, will soon, God willing, become a hero!

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