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Salman KhanIn a candid tete-e-tete, Salman comes clean on his many controversies, discusses future plans and squirms in embarrassment when reminded that he is among the ten most handsomest men in the world. “I don’t believe that. There are so many boys in Bandra who are better-looking than me. I was just lucky I was born as Salim Khan’s son,” he mumbles.

We present a Salman Khan you’ve never seen... or heard before.

You started your career with a string of hits, Maine Pyar Kiya, Baaghi, Sanam Bewafa and Saajan and then just when everybody had thought the next superstar had arrived, you went down with a row of debacles. We know you detest post-mortems but have you ever tried to analyse where you went wrong in the past?
Initially I had nine hits and then five or maybe six flops. Chandramukhi, Ek Ladka Ek Ladki, Chaand Kaa Tukdaa, Nishchay, Suryavanshi and Jagruti were total washouts. Love and Dil Tera Aashiq were commission earners though the press decided that they were disasters. And Salman was out. He was finished. But actually, going by box-office figures, even today I am the hero with the minimum flops.

That’s some consolation today, but at the time you must have been pretty disillusioned and disheartened.
No, those disasters made absolutely no difference to me. Highs and lows are a part of this profession. I’d seen my dad going through it all. Most people say that they are very affected by the success or failure of their films. But I don’t care. I guess, I’m one of the few actors who acknowledges a flop. Hey, there are times when, during the trial of one of my films, I have said that it is a bad film, it won’t run.

Salman KhanEven when I had a string of flops I could indulge myself, have a good time. There was never a question of survival since I come from a pretty well off family. I concentrated on my workouts, worked on my looks. I did not get desperate and sign films by the dozen because I was insecure. Though no one would have been surprised if I was insecure. There were producers, or rather proposal makers, who told distributors not to touch my films. There were always producers queueing up at my door step, but with C-grade offers. They thought that since all other heroes were busy they should opt for me. I was down and out so I had plenty of dates and they must have thought I’d be happy to oblige them. But I turned them away. Look, I can fight, dance reasonably well, I’m good at comedy and I can handle emotional scenes too. I have got a great physique and I look good on screen. I am not saying that I am brilliant. But with these assets, I knew I could survive. All I needed were the right kind of films. And I waited for them. Eventually, I signed films with the people who matter. Filmmakers like Rajkumar Santoshi, Rakesh Roshan and Sajid Nadiadwala. Soon Sooraj Barjatya also signed me again. With their films I was soon back in the running.

A general opinion about you is that you are very arrogant and brash. Thanks to your reputation a lot of people, including many producers, are wary of approaching you.
If I am so bad then why aren’t little children scared of me? Why do their parents not hesitate to introduce me to these little fans? The truth is that only those people are scared of me, who, when I was going through a low phase, wrote a lot of rubbish about me. The people I was rude to was because of their own mistakes. Most of them were journalists who indulged in yellow journalism, and I refused to give interviews to them. They’re the ones who’re wary of approaching me today. It’s simple. If you’re in the wrong you will be scared, never mind if you are the strongest man on earth. If I have harmed you then for all my power I will still be embarrassed to face you. That is why strength lies in honesty, in truth.

Salman KhanIs that the reason why you steer clear of the press?
If I call you names, if I write rubbish about your family, will you like it? The written word has a lot of power. It can spoil your relationships with your colleagues, it can upset families, it can put them in many embarrassing situations. Just because somebody wants to sell his magazine, does it mean I should give them the liberty to make use of me?

But the press is your only link with your fans. By banning the press aren’t you effectively closing all channels of communication with people who love you, want you?
I have to admit that because of my attitude to the press my fans don’t get to see good photographs of mine. They always read rubbish about me. But I’m lucky I have such diehard fans. By Allah miyan’s grace, they like the way I look and irrespective of what journalists write about me, they still stand by me. They still see my films. The good films in the theatres, the bad films at home. I haven’t lost my fans because of my stand.

Most of the films you are doing today are love stories. Films like Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Janam Samjha Karo and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Are you only in romantic leads?
No, I have done some very different films too. Films like Veergati, Auzaar and Judwaa. And I am doing very different roles in some forthcoming films too, films like Bandhan and Dus.

Most of your contemporaries are working in at least one off-beat film every year. What about you?
By off-beat do you mean you mean the arty type? No, I’m not doing such films. I don’t believe in looking dirty and resorting to any kind of yedapandi (foolishness). If you want to propogate a message the theatre has to be full. And if you want to earn money you need a full house again. If you make a film with the idea of promoting social awareness and the hall is empty, what is the use? Today all good films are called art films and all successful films are commercial films. But if you go by this rationale how would you describe a film like Ardh Satya? Would you say it was an art film? I’d say it was an out-and-out commercial film.

Salman KhanFrom an actor you’re now turning into a businessman with your chain of restaurants, India Talkies. When will the first one open?
Within six months. The first restaurant will open in Mumbai. We have already finalised the location but I would not like to disclose it at the moment. Apart from me, Sanju (Sanjay Dutt), Govinda, Karisma and Mahima are also involved with this project which will be on the lines of Planet Hollywood. Delicious Indian food will be served, the kind you won’t find anywhere else. All the dishes will be named after the films we have worked in. Our costumes from popular films will be on display. We will be making personal appearances at these joints. Branches will be opened all over the world. We have already received franchise offers from New York, London, Hong Kong and Australia. But we want to start with Mumbai.

Suppose any of the partners hit a low patch, won’t that affect business?
The food business is one business with which you can never go wrong. The food will be heavenly and whichever restaurant serves the best food people will make a beeline for it. We are concentrating more on the menu and ambience.

It is said that actors generally make bad businessmen. Their decisions are often influenced by the heart and not the head...
There are very few actors in this industry who are educated, well-read and intelligent. Earlier, you only had to be good looking and confident to be considered fit to be a hero. But that’s not the case anymore. Most of us are pretty intelligent now. And with the prices having escalated, we need to have a head for business. Yeah, maybe when we venture into a field we’re completely unfamiliar with we may flounder for a while. And anticipating such problems we have tied up with people who have the know-how as far as Indian Talkies is concerned. And that’s one smart move, right?

Salman & UrmilaApart from India Talkies, you have also entered into film production, right?
Yes, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya is a home production. It is a love story, a romantic comedy. A film about relationships. It doesn’t have any dull moments. From the first frame to the last frame, it is good fun. I am sure people willl want to see it again and again.

Your younger brother Sohail who has directed it didn’t make a very good beginning with Auzaar...
Auzaar was an action film. Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya is a love story. And that will make a big difference. As far as I’m concerned, Sohail did a good job with Auzaar too. I feel that if the film had come along with films like Mohra it would have been a blockbuster. It was a fast-paced, entertaining film with slickly executed scenes. It had everything you expect from a normal action film. And Pyar Kiya... is a much better film than Auzaar.

This was the first time you worked with your other brother, Arbaaz. What was the experience like?
Arbaaz is wonderful in the film. His character is really very funny. All through the film I keep buttering him up because he is the brother of the girl I love. He is one guy who will get a lot of respect after this film. After Pyar Kiya... he’ll be miles ahead of the competition. He is a very hard-working boy with a very American-Indian look. A hard face but very vulnerable features. He is one of a kind.

How was it working with Kajol?
It was okay. I don’t interact much with my heroines. If I speak to them people think I am flirting with them. And if I don’t speak to them it is said that I am arrogant. So I think it best to keep my distance from my heroines and do my own thing. I am so busy with my friends and staff that I don’t have time for anything else. Anyway, if you get emotionally involved, you make the mistake of falling in love with a pretty girl. So now I just give my shots and go back home to my girlfriend (Somy Ali). We have a nice relationship going. And I’d like to stick to that.

Why have Jatin-Lalit been credited with music of Pyar Kiya... when you have used other composers like Kamaal Khan, the Sabri Brothers and Himesh Reshamiya? Doesn’t it upset Jatin-Lalit?

Yes, they were upset. But what could we do? We wanted the music of Pyar Kiya... to be very strong. After all it was our home production. A lot was at stake. I’m glad we experimented with the other composers. The film’s music has become very popular and I’m happy.

You are promoting Kamaal Khan in a very big way. Why?
He is my friend. He’s like my brother. My parents treat him like their son. Whenever he’s in Mumbai he stays with us. I have known him for the last ten years. But till four-five years ago, I did not know that he could sing too. When I heard his songs I was very impressed. I had given the song which he has sung for our film, Ahha janejana... to the producers of Janam Samjha Karo. I told them that it would be a surefire hit. But they refused to incorporate it into the movie. So then I offered it to Tips but they refused it too. When we started planning our home production my first thought was that now I could use this song. The song has become a rage. And has proved that I was right all along.

Why did you opt out of Raju Raja Ram?
I have not left the film though I have been hearing rumours that I’m no longer part of the project. Some time ago, I spoke to Jackie over the phone. There are some date problems. The dates for Raju Raja Ram were clashing with the dates I’d given to Sooraj for an outdoor schedule. If there are some changes in the Rajshri’ schedule then I will definitely adjust my dates for Raju Raja Ram. But if they are looking for a replacement for me, it is fine with me. If they find someone else I’ll opt out. And if they don’t, then I will do the film. With Jackie and David it is ghar ki baat. Even if they come to me at the last moment and tell me to do the film, I will do it. As far as I’m concerned, I am still doing the film. It is an amazing film. And I have a very good role.

But you’re not doing Josh, are you?

Salman Khan & KajolWhy did you drop out of that project?
There was a problem of four days in January. I asked them to make an adjustment but the producers were adamant. But because of those four days their film has now been delayed by a year and a half. If I’d been in the film, I would have been completed the film by now. I definitely wanted to work with Mansoor Khan. Mansoor’s films are my kind of films. But when the producers refused to budge, I thought ’forget it’. I could work with Mansoor some other time. Now I don’t want to even talk about them. They don’t mean much to me.

What is happening with Mukul Anand’s Dus?
The major work is over. Dus is a very different film, with lots of action and touches of light comedy. It is mounted on a very lavish scale and if you replaced Sanju and me with some Hollywood stars, you’d think that it is a foreign production. Mukul Anand completed a major portion of the film before his sudden demise. Now Ramesh Sippy has taken up the project as director and I am looking forward to working with him. Shooting should commence by the end of the month.

You have been doing a lot of guest appearances. We saw you in Deewana Mastana and now we hear that you’ll be making a special appearance in Mohan Baggad’s Sir Utha Ke Jiyo, KC Bokadia’s next with Shah Rukh and Madhuri and Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
I do these roles for masti! Recently, I worked in six-seven episodes of my old buddy Nazam Walker’s (Johny Walker’s son) TV serial Lage Raho. When he told me that he was making a TV serial I told him I would be working in it. I made an appearance in one of Anaida’s videos too, which was produced by my friends Bittu, Samir and Kumar Gaurav. I had also worked in one of the songs in Sheeba’s album. It’s fun.

We hear that you charged Karan Johar an astronomical amount for that special appearance in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai...
Yes, I am charging him but not an astronomical fee. It is a guest appearance but an important role. The same is the case with KC Bokadia’s film.

You are doing a lot of stage shows abroad...
Yes, I do that to establish a relationship with my fans abroad. Such shows give me a high because the response is immediate. And it’s all white money and non-taxable.

Are you against awards?
No, I am not against awards but I don’t think winning an award is a big deal. For me, my biggest award is if my film does well. All the actors who are winning awards today have already worked with me. But tell me, were they appreciated when they were pitted against me? Today if somebody tries to give me an award, I will refuse it.

Then why did you walk away with Shah Rukh’s award at a recently held award function?
That was a pre-planned comic routine. I had told him that if he won the Best Actor award he should call me on stage. It was just to give the event a lighter touch. As soon as I stepped off the stage I handed the trophy to Shah Rukh's wife.

Why have you suddenly started not just attending award functions but also performing special items at such shows?
I went on stage at Filmfare awards night along with Karisma, Govinda and Mahima because they had agreed to publicise our restaurant, India Talkie. Sanju was not in town, so I had to do it. I charged both Filmfare and Zee for my performance on stage.

Why do you walk around with your shirt off these days?
Is it to display your physique?

Walking around bare-chested is not new for me. Even in my house I never wear a shirt. You will always find me in just shorts. If I am driving or walking down the road and if I feel hot, I just take off my shirt and carry on. Tomorrow, even if I become fat and stout, sporting a paunch, I will walk around without a shirt. I don’t care what people say.

How does it feel to be one of the world’s ten most handsome men?
I read that news item too and took the compliment in my stride. I don’t know the people who gave me this title. In fact, I don’t really believe it. In Bandra where I stay, there are thousands of boys who are better-looking than me. When I look at them I wish I looked like them. I am lucky I happen to be the son of Salim Khan and that I am in this industry. If I hadn’t been born in my father’s house God knows what I would be doing today! I have not done anything to earn this title because I was born like this. It is God’s grace. So why should I take the credit for something for which I have not even had to move my little finger? I value the things which I have earned, however insignificant they may appear to others.

So when is one of the most handsome boys in the world going to tie the knot with his beautiful girlfriend?
Soon... very soon!

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