Eight minutes into our telephone conversation with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, the call gets disconnected. The timing is suspicious. My question before was about his take on the troubled political climate in India and how it may affect his new film ‘Dabbang 3’, out in the UAE this Thursday on December 19 and a day later in India.
After ringing him again, Khan — who plays a cheeky cop Chulbul Pandey in the movie — declares right away: “We are only going to speak about positive things.”
The 53-year-old star, who is idolised by millions of movie mad fans, is in no mood to be drawn into any political debate.
India has been witnessing widespread protests as a result of the country's parliament passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which many consider to be anti-Muslim. Khan joins a list of Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra Jonas who have withheld comment and want to remain apolitical as thousands take to the streets to protest the controversial act. Legendary actor Rajinikanth also adopted a similar no-stand stance in a recent film-related function.
But Khan doesn’t mind taking a stand when it comes to the issue of censorship on web platforms.
This bankable actor, who has famously rejected dark roles and avoids risque scenes in films, believes there should be stringent laws in place regarding what content is available online.
“I think there should be a censor board on that. A film like ‘Dabbang’ gets a U/A certificate [unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of 12] and my film like ‘Wanted’ gets an ‘A’ [restricted to adults] certificate because of all that action in it. In social media, anybody can go on and watch anything. There has to be a censor on that,” said Khan.
But doesn’t that curtail your freedom as an artist and your liberty to watch what you like as a viewer, we counter.
“It depends… If you have a 10-year-old daughter and she picks up your phone and stumbles upon some bad content, then what liberty is that?,” adds Khan.
He doesn’t have much faith in child-locks on phones or password protection either.
“What happens when she gets her own phone,” he counters.
Khan has no such fears when it comes to his own films. His reasons are painfully simple.
“‘Dabbang 3’ is a positive clean film which you and your whole family can watch without being embarrassed in front of your elders or children,” said Khan, who’s decidedly old-school.
Apparently, Khan single-handedly sanitised ‘Dabbang’ and its lovable lead hero in khakhi uniform. His motive is to thoroughly entertain his fans with vanilla content and have ‘fun’ in the process as an actor.
The highly lucrative ‘Dabbang’ series celebrates a lead hero who can sing, dance and rattle off bombastic dialogues about good vs evil without any difficulty and are an ode to larger-than-life Bollywood action adventures that were popular a few decades ago. Usual tropes such as a simpleton in a small town, a fetching village belle and a brute villain are all a part of the Dabbang grid.
“The original story when it came to me didn’t have any songs. It was a very dark film with a crude character. I liked the plot of the film, but I asked the director and writer at that point to add stuff till the hero became palatable to me,” said Khan.
His brief? Create a funny, quirky character who’s a “faithful husband” and a “thorough family man”.
“I wanted Dabbang to have action, romance and comedy. It has to have good Vs evil. Chulbul Pandey can be a slightly grey character, but not too dark. And these are the elements that I liked about him,” he said.
Khan — who has survived a checkered personal life filled with several brushes with the law — seems to inhabit an utopian world where he wants men in khakhi police uniforms to be a saviour or a superhero of sorts to the common man on the streets.
“We want somebody who is out there and willing to take you as his own. You want someone who will wash the crime off from the streets and who supports the good, while flushing out evil,” said Khan. While his take is an idealistic description of law-enforcement officers, the reality may be far different in India right now where there’s a perceived rise in police brutality as police officers allegedly unleash violence on unarmed students in Delhi. But Khan, like most actors, keeps himself insulated and isolated from the ground realities. He seems to have his designer blinkers on and all he wants to do is good work.
As 2019 comes to a close with Khan’s larger-than-life action adventure ‘Dabbang 3’ Khan hopes for a work-filled 2020.
“I am looking forward each and every single moment of my life. I want to live my life to the fullest and work the hardest. I want to work really hard. There was a time when I was 15 and I was modelling looking for work. So now I have work and so why shouldn’t I work? Even though 30 or 35 years have gone by in this profession, I have not forgotten what it is not to have work. There’s nothing better than work in this planet.”
He has a unique way of paying back for all that kindness and adulation that he has received over the decades. He’s on a mission to launch as many new faces in his films and inject new, young blood into Hindi cinema. In Dabbang 3, he launches seasoned actor Mahesh Manjrekar’s daughter, Saiee Manjrekar. He has also famously launched the careers of stars including Sonakshi Sinha, Katrina Kaif and Daisy Shah.
“The first film which is responsible for becoming who I am is ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ and that was my training ground. Before that, my training ground was home. If Sooraj Bharjatya [director of Maine Pyaar Kiya] could have launched me at a time where things were very difficult, I can do the same for someone else. He was young, I was very young and he took a chance on me. And now, I look at it as a chance of giving back to society,” said Khan.
Don’t Miss It!
‘Dabbang 3’ releases in the UAE on December 19. Watch the trailer below:
What’s 'Dabbang 3' about?
‘Dabangg 3’ is a prequel to how Chulbul Pandey came to be. It will take you back in time into Pandey’s past and what he was like before he became a firebrand cop. The ‘Dabangg’ series are invariably set in Uttar Pradesh and Chulbul Pandey is shown as this fearless cop who takes on baddies and is good-natured by heart. But he is also corrupt. He’s like the modern day Robin Hood who steals from the rich to feed the poor.
“So far I had a good run. The journey has been good. All the films by the grace of God have done well. So I try to do different stuff. My eventual motive is to entertain,” said Khan.