At some point during his career, which now spans more than 25 years, Indian superstar Salman Khan became untouchable. How else would you explain how, despite his recent series of mind-numbing films, four of them are in the Top 10 list of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all time? Or how, at 47, he is still one of the most bankable lead actors in an industry that churns out the most number of movies a year?
Khan these days hardly needs to act in his films. In the cinemas, his every strut is met with cat calls, his cheesy dialogue is lapped up with applause and every flinch of his muscle, more whistles.
It’s a formula he has perfected ever since his breakthrough role in the 1989 blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya (I fell in love): That cheeky lover boy, the every man who speaks to everyone, irrespective of age, sex or social class.
And it is that undying mass appeal that one Dubai brand is hoping to capitalise on.
Launching today, Khan will appear in a series of campaigns on multiple platforms for high street fashion brand Splash, some of which tabloid! can exclusively reveal. As the face of the brand, he will also star in a series of short films to launch across social media platforms.
“Salman is a brand in himself and his popularity spans generations, classes and nationalities, particularly with the Arabs and Arab expats which are a very large percentage of the Splash consumers across the region,” said CEO Raza Beig. “It was a strategic decision to rope in a brand ambassador whose popularity would not overshadow the brand but work in tandem [with its] image of a mass high street retailer and the celebrity’s mass appeal that connects instantly with varied audiences.
“With the launch of Being Human almost a year back we witnessed the mass appeal he has and not only that, even the sales of Being Human went up and we knew we can’t go wrong with Salman.”
Being Human Foundation is Khan’s charity which manufacturers fashion accessories for men and women to raise funds for underprivileged children in India. Beig’s company last year became the official distributor of the brand in the Middle East.
“I work with brands that I personally connect with, or personally use,” said Khan, in an exclusive interview. “For example, I was already driving the Suzuki Hayabusa long before I started endorsing Suzuki.
“[Splash and I] share a warm relationship as a channel for Being Human clothing and I see the [new] association as a reinforcement of that relationship.
“Also, in addition to royalties, [they] separately make a contribution and we appreciate the gesture and are grateful for their kindness.”
Shot in London, the first campaigns, called ‘Love Splash’ will feature Khan sporting looks from the autumn winter collection, which hit stores today.
Asked if he thought he was stylish, he had an almost uncharacteristically politically correct answer:
“Style is something very individual, very personal,” he said. “And in their own unique way, I believe everyone is stylish.”
Khan is also Splash’s first brand ambassador as it celebrates 20 years and CEO Beig is not concerned the star’s ongoing homicide trial will affect sales.
Khan was recently charged for his involvement in a fatal road accident in Mumbai more than 10 years ago where one man was killed and four people were injured when he drove his car into a group of homeless people sleeping on a sidewalk in September 2002.
A Mumbai court charged him with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and if convicted, he could face up to 10 years in jail. The trial began last week.
“One cannot accuse him till he is convicted. Salman lives in the hearts of people and what we have seen, noticed and felt, not many celebrities can claim that,” said Beig.
Khan meanwhile said he couldn’t comment because the case is ongoing, instead pointing to a website, salmankhanfiles.com, where he said the facts of the case are posted.
He was more than happy though, to speak about his foundation, Being Human, which he launched seven years ago.
“[It] is growing every year. But the more you do, the more there is to be done. Education and healthcare are vast areas and I respect every individual and company that devotes time and resources for the greater good,” he said, adding he would like to extend the foundation’s reach.
“I want to expand our efforts in preventable blindness, pediatric heart care and building a marrow registry in India.”
Khan will also be hoping Dubai proves lucky again for his next film, Mental, directed by his younger brother Sohail Khan, which was filmed in the city. Portions of his record-breaking 2010 hit Dabangg, were also filmed here.
“We had a fab shoot in Dubai and I would definitely like to come visit more often,” he said.
“[Mental] releases in January 2014. With every film, I try and give the audiences a little more than the previous film in terms of comedy, action, drama and so on. I hope that people enjoy watching it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.”
When asked if he thinks it’s fair he keeps being referred to as the ‘bad boy of Bollywood’, the famously single Khan had an answer only he can give: “I only know that my parents named me Salman. All other names, pet names, character names are the creation of [other] people.”