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The Other Khans

STAR vs ACTOR

“You can accuse me of anything but not acting,” Salman Khan told t2 recently. Whether tongue-in-cheek or plain truthful, it sums up Salman the star. He may have seen more downs than ups as a person and been panned for all those things he can’t do as an actor (and that’s quite a lot), but Salman’s popularity as Prem has remained steadfast, from when he was wooing Bhagyashree in 1989 to when he is flirting with Katrina in 2008.

For two decades, his fans have forgiven and forgotten all his faults and stood by their man. He’s added a few signature moves to his persona — like going topless before you can say ‘action’ and making some bizarre facial contortions during song-and-dance — but it is still his ‘I am what you see’ attitude that wins him deep loyalties.

“Salman ko kuch kehna nahin padta hai... He comes on the sets and does his own thing,” says Partner director and old loyalist David Dhawan. When Shah Rukh Khan hosted him on a Kaun Banega Crorepati episode, SRK was the superstar but Salman was the rockstar, sparking near-hysteria among the audience.

A study in contrast, Aamir has taken great pains to be acknowledged, appreciated and applauded as an actor first. “See, throughout my career I have made off-beat film choices and my fans have supported me every time and now they expect me to do something new every time,” says Aamir, sounding like both the creator and the victim of his image. The actor before the star. The character before the icon.

And so more than Aamir Khan you remember Rangeela’s Munna, Lagaan’s Bhuvan, Dil Chahta Hai’s Aakash, Rang De Basanti’s DJ and Taare Zameen Par’s Nikumbh Sir…. Hailed as the only method actor among Bollywood biggies, Aamir never walks on to the sets without doing his homework that includes dotting the ‘i’ and crossing the ‘t’. “His approach to a scene is so meticulous; he has thought over it so many times,” marvels Sarfarosh director John Matthew Mathan.

That is not something you can accuse Sallumiyan of doing!

BRAWN vs BRAIN

For many, going to watch a Salman Khan film means waiting for The Moment. By that we mean when he yanks of that ganjee and struts his stuff. This Khan made the six pack his own a decade before Shah Rukh made it famous with Dard-e-disco. And he has never let go since. A chiselled face matched by a chiselled body make Salman real eye-candy (or in Madonnaspeak hard candy). Ask Ash or Kats… or Upasana!

“I go to lust after Salman... doesn’t matter which movie, which co-star,” gushes the last-named, a 21-year-old city college-goer. “What a body, what features, oooooohhhh!”

Aamir’s fans have rarely caught a glimpse of his bare body (apart from Mangal Pandey). It is the mind and the dedication to his craft they admire. And that includes co-actors. Says Kunal Kapoor: “You can hear his brain ticking... he is thinking all the time.”

And that ticking brain has served Aamir well, from QSQT to TZP, making him the thinking woman’s chosen Khan. They like the fact that he has “a normal body” with “an intense look”. “There is something about Aamir. Shah Rukh also comes across as bright and sharp, but he often does such mindless films. He probably realised that and did Aamir-like roles in Swades and Chak De!” reasons Debolina Ghosh, 25, who backs Aamir over Shah Rukh in the “mind over matter” game and who found Aamir “sexy” in Dil Chahta Hai and Sarfarosh.

DOER vs THINKER

Just do it. The slogan could have been invented for our Salman bhai. Friends feel that this Khan gets into trouble mainly because he does not think twice before he acts. “He is a very spur-of-the-moment guy. He goes by his instinct, his gut feel and never hits the pause button,” says a friend. That makes him simple and straight-from-the-heart at one level and reckless and trouble-prone at another. “He has his own world. He goes on holidays with friends and family, discusses poetry with his father and gives away watches and gifts to his staff members and securitymen JLT (just like that),” adds the friend.

If you accuse Salman of thinking too little, Aamir can be guilty of thinking too much. He is known to mull and chew over things for months before deciding. He sends for scripts weeks in advance even for a TV appearance.

“If you notice their characters in Andaz Apna Apna, Rajkumar Santoshi cast both of them the way they are in real life. While Salman’s Prem would just go ahead and do things, Aamir’s Amar would plan and plot his moves meticulously (though often with disastrous results)!” observes a film student.

CHOCOLATE BOY vs BAD BOY

Aamir may have come a long way, but for many he is still the Raj of QSQT, the oh-so-cute lover boy, righteous and earnest. The image of the chocolate cream soldier who can do no wrong has weathered many a storm — from a broken first marriage to the alleged child with Jessica Hines — especially among the girls who were teenagers back then in 1988. Now, Khan Uncle seems to have passed on that mantle to bhanja Imran and donned the director’s cap himself.

Salman, of course, has been one of the bad boys of Bollywood. From shooting a black buck to running over pedestrians to making 41 threat calls in one night to Viveik Oberoi to roughing up Aishwarya, he’s done it all. No wonder so many of his ‘hit’ characters in films have an edge to them. And no wonder so many women love to hate him while an equal number love to love him.

But...

All said and done, the more different these two Khans are the more they bond. All you have to do is take a look at the Aamir-Salman moments from the Dus Ka Dum show or the Jaane Tu… premiere to know how. It’s a friendship that goes back a long way and is still today just a phone call away.

What do they talk about when they get together?

Khan jaane!

AAMIR’s Biggest 5

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) — Raj

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) — Bhuvan

Dil Chahta Hai (2001) — Aakash

Rang De Basanti (2006) — ‘DJ’

Taare Zameen Par (2007) — Nikumbh Sir

Look forward to: A.R. Murugadoss’s Ghajini (2008); Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots

SALMAN’s biggest 5

Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) — Prem

Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (1994) — Prem

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) — Sameer

Tere Naam (2003) — Radhe Mohan

Partner (2007) — Prem ‘Love Guru’

Look forward to: Prabhu Deva’s Wanted Dead and Alive; Rumi Jaffery’s God Tussi Great Ho; Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraaj; Prem Soni’s Main Aur Mrs Khanna; Anil Sharma’s Veer; Vipul Shah’s London Dreams

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