Salman Khan's bluntness and sarcastic humour can have you blinking at times, but if you know how to roll with the punches, and look beyond that, you will relish his candour. In a freewheeling interview the actor takes up cudgels for his Yuvvraaj director Subhash Ghai, discusses Katrina's look alike and of course his dost turned dushman, Shahrukh Khan.
First time experience of working with Subhash Ghai?
Good. I love the way he speaks English! Subhashji is very talented. His last three films have not done well. Whatever the reason but you can't negate his body of work. I see the way people are with Subhashji nowadays, it's not how they were earlier, and it just because his three films were not hits. Arre three films didn't do well but 33 films of his did well na from Vishwanath, to Kallicharan, Hero, Vidhaata and Yudh so the man knows his job. You cannot keep giving hit after hit. With Yuvvraaj he has gone back to his kind of cinema. He's come back to making the films he used to but slightly more subdued, a lot classier. No one can touch him where music and drama is concerned.
The way he portrays his heroines, heroes and the manner in which he takes small characters and makes big films out of them is unbelievable! We shot for Yuvvraaj for 30 days in Innsbruck. You see the making of the film it looks like he must have spent Rs 200 crore on it but I don't think he spent that much money. He knows exactly like a technician what to put up, how much of it to put up, what shot to take, where he's going to edit it.
Was Yuvvraaj the first script Ghai offered to you?
No. I had heard two three scripts before this. The scripts were good but I couldn't play those characters. I wanted him to make Hero with me but Subhashji said we would make it later. Then he came up with Yuvvraaj. I liked this script as it was about three brothers I have two brothers. Anil is very close to Boney and Sanjay, Zayed is close to Fardeen so we all know about brotherly bonding. I found the script fantastic and wanted to do it. I play Deven Yuvvraaj, a musician-singer who's in love with Katrina. Her father wants her to marry someone big. My family throws me out because I am rude to my older brother (Anil Kapoor). My character is jealous and possessive because he never gets the love that his older brother does. And Anil Kapoor is adha-saada and adha-paagal.
Is it based on The Rainman?
No. Anil Kapoor's character is more like Eeshwar. He's not autistic like Dustin Hoffman is in The Rainman. Because he's been beaten up in his childhood and he knows everyone is negative around him he prefers to be around children. He's very childlike. After our father dies, I come to take the share of the property and find out that there's another brother (Zayed Khan) there who is a bigger shaana and then Anil and I team up together. I love the negativity in my character but I am not ruthless. I am justified for the way I behave justified in frustrations, suspicions, anger, and hating father. And then he eventually realises that this brother is like my God to me.
Would you ever play an autistic character?
Pehle jo simple characters play karta hoon usko barabar karne do uske baad! If I would get a comedy film like that I would definitely do it, but if I get a serious film no way. If you want to give a message the theatres have to be full. And only commercial films run to full houses. So if I have to play larger than life characters, I will do them easily as everybody relates to them. Apparently you loved the scene where Katrina plays the cello so much that you painted her. I didn't paint that. An artist called Rouble Nagi has done it. She took the picture and painted Katrina with the cello. I have the whole set of paintings. Katrina is looking outstanding in the film. The cinematographer Kabir Lal has shot it nicely.
Name three of your all time romantic favourites.
Love (with Revathi), Tere Naam and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
Is there any Hollywood or Indian intensely romantic film that you would like to do?
Not now. I have just written Veer so I am happy with that.
Youe TV reality show was successful...
I know... I know... how sad is that (sarcastically)!
Because it was a huge success and some people didn't like that. Forgive me please (sarcastically) but that is my connect with people and my personality.
Did it surprise you that the show did well?
No, but it surprised a lot of people. I am 43 years old, and since the age of five I started understanding myself and I knew this is something I could do. Because I connect with the real people. Now when real people connect with real people the reality show becomes a lot larger-than-life and a real big success. How sad! For all the people who thought it wouldn't be...
Would you do a repeat if the channel (Sony) asked you to?
Yes, of course! I am looking forward 100 per cent to doing much more season 1, 2, 3, 4 10, season 20! There is nothing better than that. It's very hard work because we have to react, not act. In films, we are not ourselves. But on a show, you get to be yourself. Why would anyone want to lose that opportunity? People come out and discuss their family problems with me because they have seen my films in their living room so they feel I am one of them.
Did their show of open affection sometimes embarrass you?
Yes, sometimes I did get embarrassed. I am like that a kind of shy guy.
What's happening with your film with Shirish Kunder?
We have spoken about it but he's writing the script right now. So once the script is ready we will start. I would love to work with him. I loved Jaan-E-Mann a lot.
Has the global recession affected your films or your market price?
No not yet. I have just been hearing about it. When all the corporates came in they had a lot of money. So they gave lots of producers, directors and stars signing amounts and those films were not made. So that is not my fault. When I start a film, I complete it and that's got nothing to do with my price coming down or getting better. When my films start flopping and I don't get weekend opening, I would definitely drop my price but right now I will just complete them (smiles).
Everyone is working with newcomers Aamir with Asin, you with Zarine Khan, Shahrukh with Anushka. Where does that leave the established actresses?
What to do now? I am still working with most of them ya... I am still working with Preity (Zinta), Rani (Mukherjee) I have worked with this lot but we have to work with newcomers also. There are lots of new guys coming in too. From my side they are more than welcome to join the bandwagon. I will make sure that I go out of my way to promote their movies and to support them and to see that they become big stars. The same way women should also come into the industry but that's my thinking. I would rather have a Ranbir Kapoor, Harman Baweja or Imran Khan around. I won't try and discourage anybody or compete with them. I would share whatever I know with them because when I came in I was encouraged...
Myself. I remember what I went through when I was started out, and I will see to it that anyone I know does not go through the same thing. I will encourage him. Everyone is here to make their lives and support their families you can't take that away from them. I have the right to promote anyone but no right to demote anybody.
Your female lead in Veer is Zarine Khan Katrina's look alike. Why didn't you take Katrina?
No, she doesn't look like Katrina at all. By that definition, every fair and pretty girl looks like Katrina. We took Zarine because we needed a newcomer. Katrina is already working in Subhashji's film with me. To work again in Veer would be pakao yaar. Chalo aage bado naa and Katrina's got lots of big films so it doesn't matter.
Why are you delaying Boney Kapoor's Milenge Milenge?
That's the one you have to ask Shahid and Kareena. On the Rockstars world tour I had admitted that I didn't want to do the film. I am not part of that film. Ask Shahid Kapoor why the film is getting delayed.
Can we talk about SRK?
Whatever I had to speak on SRK, I said it then straight out. It's SRK's choice to say whatever sweet things he's saying now four months later.
You wouldn't like to add anything more?
Why would I want to? I am promoting Yuvvraaj.
Sanjay Dutt wants to play mediator between you and SRK. Are you okay with this?
No. I don't want anybody playing mediator.
Have you told your family to stay away from Shahrukh and his friends?
No I haven't told them that. If they want to participate in SRK's family events they are more than welcome to do that. But don't you think that it's a kind of a joke that from one side it's straight from the heart from one family and from one family it's straight from the brain? Oh yeh Salman ke behalf pe aa rahe hai so he (Salman) looks like a fool. Yeh sabko bulaya gaya, yeh sab aayenge, they are all here, so Salman must be wrong. Because my family is socialising at SRK's family events! SRK thinks that the fight was blown up by the media that you both would have sorted it out privately had you been given the choice.
The media blew it up?
As soon as Shahrukh left the party, he started calling up the media! I didn't speak till one week after the fight because he was trying to put me in the middle of something which is not cool from any angle! That is the time I stood up and started speaking. There is no reason for disrespect. Everybody messes up. I have messed up also not once but so many times, without any malice, any manipulation or agenda. If things go wrong between two buddies we say 'okay buddy let's hang out together and sort it out' but if you are going to mess up and disrespect me then forget it!
Are you a head or heart person?
The right side of my head is my heart. I will always do what is right. I am human man! I am trying to be human. I have lots of flaws but I am taking care of that. But there are some things I don't have jealousy, incompetence, insecurity and maliciousness. I don't have a temper either, though I may get angry. And if I am wrong, I have the courage to call up and apologise. Say sorry and I am fine. What I say is what I do. I don't say something and do something else and think of something totally different.