Relaxing in a camping chair outside his vanity van at Mehboob Studio in Bandra, Mumbai, on a sultry Saturday afternoon, Salman Khan decides to pow-wow with t2 about Dabangg 2, that powers into cinemas today.
Since Dabangg was a huge hit, did you feel any pressure making the sequel?
I think we have managed to make an entertaining film. If it does better business at the box-office than Dabangg, I would think ki picture achchhi bani hai… mehnat ki hai sabne. This is a much bigger film than the earlier one... a happier one.
Viewers have loved you as Prem (in Maine Pyar Kiya, Andaz Apna Apna, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Biwi No.1, No Entry, Ready...) but they have also embraced Inspector Chulbul Pandey. What is he like in the sequel?
We decided not to make the character very different. Chulbul only had to evolve. We’ve not tried to make him a superhero, he is still Chulbul Pandey. Dabangg 2 is not similar to the first film but it’s not something out of the world. We have made this film keeping audience expectations in mind. Dabangg was based in a small town (Lalganj), while this one is set in Kanpur. So, Dabangg 2 is bigger than Dabangg. Action achchha hai, gaane achchhe hain, humour achchha hai, emotions hain, har cheez hai.
Were you upset when Abhinav Kashyap decided not to direct the sequel?
No. If someone doesn’t want to work with us, we request him once, twice and even thrice but after that one has to move on. If Abhinav had done the second film with us, he would have also been a part of the third. Obviously, that’s not going to happen now.
What would you say are your brother Arbaaz’s plus points as director?
He is very clear in his head about what he wants and where the story needs to go. He worked really hard on the script and he believes in the story that he is telling.
No actor enjoys the kind of fan loyalty like you do.
I do not think about these things. My goal is to give a little more to viewers with each film I do. Ticket prices are rising every year and I feel viewers should get more if they are paying more. I’m happy viewers are enjoying these films.
The industry believes that as long as Salman’s in a film nothing else matters.
No, no! Viewers go to the cinema to be entertained… not to listen to speeches. For a family or a group watching a film, it’s like going on a picnic. If what you are saying was true, all my films would have been hits. Par aisa toh hai nahin.
You are now called Hero No. 1 in the industry.
It’s just a job. You work 9-to-5 with competent people and you try and do your best. Yusufsaab (Dilip Kumar), I think, is the number one actor.
Is it true that you now want to do one film at a time?
Haan. I want to concentrate on one film at a time. Finish shooting, release it and take a chhutti before moving to the next film. Warna it will be like Ek Tha Tiger and Dabangg 2 or Veer and Wanted… they overlapped. I shot the climax of Dabangg 2 and then of Ek Tha Tiger. I wore my hair long in two-three song sequences of Wanted because the shoot was pushed back and I was growing my hair for Veer. I want to take at least a month or two ka break between films, nahin toh saala break milta hi nahin. Thankfully, I got a month off between Dabangg 2 and (younger brother) Sohail’s film.
Have you also become more choosy while signing films?
I am not going to do a film that doesn’t interest me. It’s not because I am scared of flops but… I am making an effort to say no. In the past, I agreed to some films because I was put under emotional pressure. But I have realised ki agar script pasand nahin ho toh you don’t give that film your best. Well, you don’t do anybody a favour by doing films you aren’t interested in.
There’s a buzz that you are ghost-directing your films.
What is this ghost-directing business? If I want to direct, I will. But I don’t want to right now. Yes, I am involved with my films… beyond just acting. Pehle ke tarah nahin hai where I just turned up on the set for my scene and left soon after. Now I get involved with the other departments, like music and stunts. It’s my face that people see, so I’m responsible for my film. The final edit has to get my approval. After Veer I am very particular about this.
There are reports that you no longer want to be called Sallu or Bhai.
Ya. Sallu or Bhai are not my names. I know people call me these out of love and affection but they are not my names. Sallu isn’t even a pet name that my family members use at home. The only people who call me Bhai are my brothers, sisters and some of Sohail’s friends. Now I find that seniors call me Sallu Bhai and that just sounds strange. What the hell is going on?! It sounds like they are sucking up to me and that doesn’t work.
Dabangg collected Rs 215 crore (worldwide) and a lot is expected of Dabangg 2. How do you look at this hype about the 100-crore club?
I don’t understand what the big deal is. It used to be Rs 10 crore, went up to 25 crore and then 50 crore. Tomorrow it will be Rs 300 or 500 crore… or even 1,000 crore. Now good films cross Rs 100 crore, very soon even pakao films will make more. This is the dastoor of this business.
After Dabangg 2, you’ll be directed by Sohail.
Yes. We don’t have a title for the film. But the script is locked and we’ll start shooting in January. There is also (Sajid) Nadiadwala’s Kick, the sequel to No Entry, and Rameshji’s (Taurani) film.