Salman Khan in a candid chat with TOI
You seem to drive interviews pretty much on your own track, with the interviewer being a bystander.
At home, when I give interviews, I make sure that I don't say anything that is rude or offensive; I run it according to what the sense of humour (acceptable) in the family is. They shouldn't get offended, shouldn't think yeh badtameez hai, I run it that way. My father could not whistle in front of his father. Today my father gives me the right to have a drink with him. These are the guidelines I follow in interviews or in other things.
And then there are questions on things – on a song that has nothing to do with me, because the song's lyrics go "Character Dheela Hai". There are questions on and on about marriage – nobody knows when they will be born, when they'll die, what will things be like tomorrow, but I'm expected to declare when I'll be married. These are just questions to egg people on... There are hazaar ways of making interesting interviews. You don't need to cheapen it.
This has been happening quite a bit with the "Character Dheela" song. I have no contribution to the song. The music director has made the song; I thought the lyrics were funny. Now, I have to make up things. I am asked – haan toh bataiye, iss industry mein kiska character dheela hai? Now, do you seriously think someone like me will ever comment on that?
In an earlier interview, you spoke of people egging you on like kids teasing a lion in a zoo, to get a reaction.
Yes, but I tell them, I will give you something for your promo anyway if you simply ask me. Don't need to ask silly stuff. I am not boring because I will say what I believe, I say things which are very politically incorrect – which is the most correct thing to do. The whole world would be knowing something and still pretending that it doesn't happen – that's all bull****. I'll be honest.
In some questions the degree of honesty has to be restricted because on TV or in a paper there's no "A" certificate. If everyone who read or saw what I had to say was my age group, thought like me, I'd give a completely honest reply to all questions. But there are kids following us. Eventually everyone's gonna grow up, but it's good for them not to grow up before their time.
This is the same argument you have used when you were angry at someone clicking you with a cigarette?
Yes, it happened in Delhi itself. I said, why do you want to glamourise it with a cool photo? It's the worst thing ever. Once you think it's cool and start it, it's the most difficult thing to quit. Everyone says cancer, cancer – but everyone keeps on smoking. You know, a friend said this to me – the guy who's given you your first cigarette, you always hate that person for the rest of your life. The guy, and it's always a senior guy, who said "oh, come on, come on, just have one" – at that point, to fit in, people start. And then, it's with them for the rest of their life.
Do you disagree with this?
No, not really.
Two years back, in an interview to DT, you said you get tired of the same questions, about why you are 'misunderstood' and how the media has decided that you're the 'bad boy, but with a heart of gold'. Has anything changed?
Nothing. Nothing. Now it is, "Character Dheela Hai". When are you getting married? Sometimes you feel sad for those asking. I don't mind them, I see it as a timepass thing. There is no meaning to this. It is the same as the baba and bhoot stories on channels. Everybody knows it is bull but they still watch it.
I heard from a cine source that for all the branding Salman has got because of the black buck case, the reality is that in a group of people, all of whom were equally involved – or equally not involved – one guy chooses to say, I'll carry it all on my head, you can walk off.
(Silence for a minute)
I don't know the jungle. I am from Bombay. If you put me in a forest, or if you even put me in a street in Mumbai itself – Kandivili, Dharavi, Virar, Kolaba – I may not know how to get back. You're expecting me to go 30-40 km in the middle of the jungle, in the middle of the night, driving a Gypsy, with a searchlight in my hand, without a driver, without anybody. While driving, find the animal, chase the animal, shoot the animal, put it back. So it's night, I'm driving with one hand, I'm holding the searchlight with the other, and I'm shooting with which hand?
I don't even know the route back to the hotel if I am in the middle of the jungle. There is nobody to ask at midnight. And, in the middle of the same forest, they have some 370 witnesses. Come on... And it's sub judice for me. And for others, whatever information they want to spread, they can spread, true, false, anything.
How come you haven't got mainstream political offers?
I've got offers, but I'm not interested. I am very keen to take Being Human to a different level. I've friends in various political parties whom I have known for the longest time. If I know 15-20 people and they are doing good for their people in their own constituencies - it's more than enough.
I've also gone to canvass for elections for people whom I have known. If a wrong person for a 5-year term, the people suffer hugely. Even if I could bring in one extra vote, it's a social thing for me. For me to leave my house, take planes all over the country, go and stand with them – when I could instead spend that day at work and make loads of money for myself - I must believe in the person. And I think a candidate should be made to sign a legal document to make him commit that he will actually do all the things he promises to do.
So you'd rather do your own stuff than enter the political field full-time?
Ya, my projects. From watches and t-shirts, now we're starting off pens...
What's the structure of Being Human? People know it's to do with you, but there's a grey area about charities...
See, it's a charitable trust, which is the Being Human charitable trust, which is totally separate. Then there are the watches, the profits that come in from them comes into that account, then after tax is paid, whatever is there goes into that specific trust.
So from each type of activity that I do under this – I plan to open Being Human cafes, for example... My appeal is, you in any case will buy a t-shirt or a watch, so why not buy this? Instead of the money going to one guy, it goes back into helping someone. You can buy something and do charity at the same time.
People have this impression that Salman ke paas bahut paisa hai so we don't get too many donations directly for the charitable trust right now. Friends and all come in and put in money. I have put in a lot of my own money into it.
Apart from the impression that you already have the money, what hassles are you facing?
Even before we launch properly, there are fakes out in the market! In the interiors, when I go for shooting, I find people wearing fakes. I feel the biggest kameena out there is the one who is doing something like this – the money which should go to a trust, he is keeping it, which is not his idea, not his product, nothing. I get so angry when I see people selling fake tees on the road, I want to stop the car, take my lighter, thwack the hell out of them and burn all the t-shirts. But then, I say, what the...
"Dabangg" rocked, you're the star of the moment. Did the industry stand by when things were not so rocking for you?
Everybody's got their own lives to go back to. Eventually, from where I see it, it's often all about the votes. This guy is so popular...If you've actually done something, you deserve to go inside. But if you've not done anything, then what is the thing?
Two people tearing posters or fifty people tearing posters is shown as if the whole country has gone against you. But what about all the other people who are in support, who are praying for you? That's not taken in account.
You'd said to us you'd buy an IPL team if it came up. A team did come up, but you didn't even bid?
I was not interested by then. I was selfishly thinking of it as a Being Human activity. But then I realized I wouldn't be able to handle that business model.
Sohail has picked up a team, the Celebs League. They play serious cricket.
Cricket apart, you had become the ambassador for football in India. Phir kuch suna nahi uske baare mein. What happened?
Nothing, I don't know. But I believe in the next 5-6 years, football is going to be a huge sport in our country.
Arre, if you're keen on it, how come nobody's utilizing your services to promote it?
Abhi cricket-cricket itna hai ki if you go football-football, it won't have that hype, it'll just be a waste. There has to be the right time to get into it. Like we have so many stars in cricket right now, we don't have any in football.
" Wanted", "Veer", "Dabangg", now " Ready"...
Cinema like this keeps you fit, rather than doing romantic comedies.
I never thought these characters would turn out to be superheroes. I never thought that a Radhey Mohan or a Veer or even a Chulbul Pandey would be the character it finally became...
The typical Salman entry anywhere, hands in pocket, that stride, the shades - even when you're not posing, just stepping out at the airport, the pictures scream "star". Acquired or natural?
That's the way I always walk, even when I was in school...!
Do people write roles for you, the current action hero?
Everybody, when he comes to you for a film, is not going to say that I had offered this film first to so-and-so and he refused to do it so I came to you. He'll come to you and say, this is a script written just for you, and if you don't agree, we won't make it. I've tried that, ok, so I won't do it. Now you won't make it? And they are like, arre, sir, picture toh banani hi padegi. Sab bolne ki baatein hai. We are family, we are friends...
Who are your friends?
My family are my friends first. Sanju and me don't meet very much but we're still very close. Aamir, Monish Behl. We don't meet for months and months, but when we do, we connect hugely.
Your friends in their 20s, your gang – how differently do you see them, how do they see you, now that you're this big?
You know, when people make it, they say I had this instinct, I had this intuition, it's all humbug. Things don't happen just because you're sure it will happen. Nobody knows what the future holds.
Did your friends then think you would get this far?
Nobody believed it. Nobody believed I was going to make it. But today, when you speak to them, it will all be – 'oh, we knew he worked so hard, he was so dedicated, we always knew...' But I remember the conversations of that time!
A lot of celebs seem to take to rather fancy models of stress management, breaks, and so on. You still sleep for just 3-4 hours a day?
Ya, that's the amount of sleep I get. And I don't understand this – people study or work their a** off to succeed, to become what they have to become, and when they make it, and suddenly they go, 'Oh, man, so much work, so much stress.' What is the other side of it? No work. How would you handle that stress? So if you're doing something you like, you shouldn't be stressed about that.
How has the body handled the stress and the ageing, from the day you first did that one-handed push-up on screen in " Maine Pyaar Kiya"?
I've done that again in "Ready". After "MPK" the first time I tried it was in "Ready", and I've done that in the movie.
How much effort does it take now?
A lot more; a lot more. You have a lot more energy in your twenties. You are more energetic, more agile. Now, every year, you're expected to compete with what you did one year earlier. That one year, very soon, for me has added up to twenty years – and I'm still expected to compete with that year, 20 years back. To do at 45 which you did at 25 is very difficult – but then, all the guys are managing it. There's Aamir, there's Shah Rukh, there's Akki, there's Sanju.
What's the industry's response to the Morani's name coming up in the 2G scam?
I've done a huge number of shows with them. In fact, all actors have done a lot of shows with them. They've been very good to everyone. If there is something, if there are documents or whatever, there should be an enquiry, and if they are innocent, their name should be cleared.
I've been to jail, Sanju's been to jail, many people in the industry have faced court cases, etc. Making money out of somebody's misery is the biggest profession right now. As soon as you are stuck, it just goes on, goes on. Even if you are innocent, people are scared to let you go. They say: If we let him go, the press will say they are big people, you must have taken money. Decisions about anyone should be made on facts, not under pressure.
You'd got some things installed in Jodhpur jail?
No, I wanted to do that, but I couldn't. I'd submitted details of what they needed, of what we could do. But they didn't want it. I offered to get solar heaters, to build bathrooms. Because I know the way people live inside. The human rights activists should go into jails to realize how people live inside.
And the tragedy is that I hear that in monsoons, poor people do petty crimes to be put in jail, because their life out of jail is worse, inside at least they have a roof and three meals a day. The conditions inside jails are the worst.
I'd even offered that people who are eligible for bail – for a bail amount of four, five thousand rupees, he can't afford it, so he is in jail – we could arrange those amounts. I asked, if the person is such a criminal, surely he can arrange that money? But he can't. And when we offer to, the argument is that, what if he he comes out and does something else? Arre!
This is the sort of thing I really want to do, but somewhere, I've not been able to pull it off. But there will be a time when I will do this, I will pull it off.
It's stayed on your mind.
Yes. I'm asked why do you want to do things only for jails? Why? Because I've been there. And while there are criminals, there are also a lot of innocent people in jails. There are guys who are in jail for 20, 30, 40 years, they don't know what to do if they come out! A jail official told me that 70% of the people behind bars are innocent. And the ones who are the real crooks – they say, we will go back and continue to do this, but why are these people in here, who have no idea what crime they committed? People are picked up as terrorists who have no idea what they are in for.
They should do a survey someday on how many people have given how many government officials – from judges to income-tax to police to others – how much amount of money. The masses do it to make their lives slightly easier, and now, the other side has got used to it.
Am assuming stuff about your relationships and your rivalries doesn't affect you – but when you speak on something like 26/11, and people begin to tear into you, surely that must be unnerving?
Yes, and all these things are raised at the time of the release. Obama came and he said the same things. Obama ko bhi jaa ke pakarte na. Who am I to give a clean chit to anybody, yaar? What I'd heard in the news, I was saying exactly that. If by me saying that I am sorry if I've hurt your sentiments, it helps, I will do it...
We live in India. Born, brought up, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. We are facing terrorism here. People there are also facing it. I am talking about the common man. I'm not talking about the politicians. If the politicians had the capability to sort it out, they'd have sorted it out a long time ago. I am talking about common people working from morning to night to support their families.
Would you keep quiet on things that impacted you, worried that it may lead to another controversy?
No, if it matters to me, I will speak out. I think people who do adulteration of food and drink should be hanged, I feel very strongly about that. And I think the press should be more worried about such things than the great national issues of when is Salman Khan getting married, Salman and another actor don't get along, Salman has broken up with his girlfriend. These things people know.