Salman Khan talks about how Bollywood needs to up its game, now that South Indian films and Hollywood films are giving us a tough competition. And how destiny played big part in him being where he is. Excerpts of an interview
You seem to be making smart choices, films rich in content....
Actually, people are writing better and better. Writers come to me with better choices of script. Ones that I like, I pick it up. I am glad they choose to come to me, they could have gone to anyone.
I didn't have much of a choice earlier. If fifteen terrible scripts came to me, I had to choose the best among them. You choose the one you think has some potential and try to make the most of it.
Your personality seems to have mellowed down over the years. And maybe scripts are written to go with that....
This is how I am since I was in school. Then I changed a bit. This character has shades of me when I was growing up, Now I am like that again. It took a lot of digging into my memories, going back to childhood to play this character (in Tubelight). Now I remember all that we used to do, and what my brothers and friends used to do....Touch wood. I am blessed with good memory. I remember things I should remember (laughing) and forget things I shouldn't.
Selective memory? Is that possible?
Yes it is. I erase memories that are not worth keeping with me. When I was in school, given the education system that we have, there was a lot of mugging up to do. I would forget all that I mugged up as soon as I finished writing that paper. That must be the biggest mistake of my life. I used to think Maths is boring, Geography is boring, History is boring....but now they all coming back to me, and I need to know certain things. You need to, especially if you are in the movie business.
You have google for everything. That time we didn't have that luxury....
Yes, but at that time you would go into a library and check for things. That was lot more fun, and it made you remember longer because it took efforts. Ab kya hai. Google uncle pe jaao, aur sab nikaal lo. I don't know how to do that though. I ask someone else to google things for me, if I need some information. I am not good with technology, I am not good with phones. The maximum I do is call. I know how to receive calls, send and receive text messages and (laughing) oh yes, I know how to delete those messages.
You have no apps downloaded on your phone?
None, except my own. Being human.
As a producer of this film....
My mother is the producer. My mother's name should always stay up, so we try and give her the best. I want to make her proud of me.
Isn't she already proud of you?
(smiling) Only outside. Inside the home, I don't think so.
So as i was saying as a producer, has it become tougher for you guys, because the Hollywood films and South Indian films are doing far better business....
Hollywood films doing well is a good thing for us. They do well because they are good films. We need to up our game.
You think we have become too complacent?
I think so. More than that I think we are scared that itne me bikegi toh itne me hi picture banaana chahiye. Films are not supposed to be made like that. But then again, you make that one odd film with full conviction, not thinking about budget etc and God forbid,if it is a disaster, it affects everyone, the distributor, the producer, your partners. Everyone loses money. I think if theatres increase, budgets also will increase.
Yes, you have been saying this for a while now.
It is important. We have only about 8000 screens, China has about 40 thousand screens....
Having said that, there are films like Bahubali which make humungous profit, in spite of the limited screens. People go back to watch it again and again....
Yes, that's true. Look at movies like Sholay and Mughal-e-Azam. They went on for ten years. So if a movie is great, business is fantastic.
Do you think as a star, one needs to also try and be less complacent about the movies that you back?
It takes a lot of courage. You really need to believe in what you are making. I might be one of the few who doesn't care about paise haar jaayenge. That's the only way to do it. Earlier there were producers who used to do that...but now people are worried about losing money...When you like a script, there is something in you that has been touched by that script. Some portion of you believes that you could play this and if you believe, others will too.
You are known to be this large hearted, generous person. So, is it difficult for you to say no to loved ones, even if you want to?
Not really. I am not actually what people think I am. (Smiling) I can say No very easily. If there is something I don't want to do, something I don't believe in, I will say no, no matter who's asking. Sometime i know the intention behind the request is not good, then I won't do it. It might seem like they have come to me with a great intention, but I know that yeh bandaa kabhi bhi palat sakta hai, then I don't do it.
You always seemed like this person who never hankered after things. Probably that's the reason things came to you on their own.....
I don't know. I would say I have just lucked out. My timing has been good, I had a good support in my family and i got fans. I have no idea how I have reached here. If I tell people how to do it, they might not make it. This is somehow working. Till the time it is, let it. If it stops working, I wouldn't know what to do. And I have hankered after things in the beginning. Maine bahut maanga bhi hai logon se. I have no explanation to why i am here. I see people who are thousand times more talented than me, better looking than me, and with far better business acumen than me. People who take hardworking to another level and they are still struggling.
How do you explain this? How does a guy who's a writer's son make it? Look at Ajay Devgn, a fight master's son, Aamir Khan, a producer's son, Shah Rukh Khan, a TV actor, Akshay Kumar with no film background, how did each of us make it?
You think it's all only destiny?
I think so. I just pray that it goes on. We pay taxes. Actually we are not paying taxes where we need to. You are not paying rent to mother Earth. You need to give back to mother earth in whatever way you desire.
I never thought I could get this far, so it never goes to my head. I am never going to think oh this was my strategy, so things worked for me. I had no strategy, nothing. I had Biwi Ho Toh Aisi for God's sake. (laughing). Who has ever come out of a movie like that? I sucked in the film.
Taking off on your character in Tubelight, are there still things you are slow on the uptake about?
Everyone is. No matter how smart you think you are, every day you get to realise, what a fool i have been. it's an ongoing process. You keep on growing. You can't be too happy about things you have done ten years back. Climbing a ladder is easy, but what if kisi ne ladder sarkaa diya? Growing of tree takes lot of effort, but once the tree is grown and big, it does't budge even with lightening or anything. But then there are people who walk around with an axe, to cut you down at every point. Nobody sees how the bargat ka ped grew but once it's grown they want to cut it down.
We live in a scary time. Don't we?
It is a scary world. We all just wait and watch and by the time you want to take action, it's too late. You know earlier if a bad man's head came up, people would point out. 'Look at that bad man. Cut him down.' But now it's just the opposite. If there is a man doing some good deed, everyone is watching him. They all thinking, kuch achccha kar raha hai? Zaroor iska kuch game hai. A good deed is looked at with more suspicion than a bad deed.