Now you really need to be lucky to have a sunny day with 18 degrees in London in the month of mid October. Or should I simply say that Vipul Shah is too lucky? It's 1 pm in London and I get ready to visit Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan on the sets of London Dreams. I was given the deadline of 2pm but then there was no need to rush as both were going to be on the set one hour late. Bollywood timings you know? But the result was the opposite. Being stuck in the Underground train due to a signal failure, I reached the beautiful London Bridge location 20 minutes late. Ajay and Salman were seated in their tent with a couple of electronic guitars. Their co-star, MTV VJ Ranvijay walks in. Vipul is behind the camera as usual almost ready for the song sequence with extras getting their steps right. In walks the gorgeous Asin. Both Salman and Asin arm in arm get the shot right in three takes. Sallubhai walks in the tent again where I was chatting with Ajay. I ask Salman if he could give me an exclusive on Heroes. To my surprise, he grabs my hand and takes me on one side and says, "Lets do this dude". We sit on a flat concrete seating and just as I was about to take out my dictating machine, Salman says, "The Hero is here, start recording".
(Laughs) Nice way to start huh! But the ultimate hero is not me but Sohail Khan. Watch out for him.
Sohail has done really well for himself, hasn't he?
Yes. When Sohail did Maine Dil Tujhko Diya, he was appreciated in the film but the film didn't do really well. So somewhere down the line he got a bit demoralized. He was doing well as a director and with his production company. At that point of time he wanted to do action but the fact was that he was good at comedy. He is one of the few people who can do justice to action and comedy. But as a family we thought that he should concentrate on comic roles. That's when Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, God Tussi Great Ho, Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na, Hello and now Heroes happened.
Your absence was really missed at the premiere of your recently released Hello.
You're right. I truly missed the premiere. But I was here in London shooting for London Dreams. Also because the whole family was present at the premiere and it's the first time I've stayed away from my family on Id.
As you must be aware by now that Mr. Bachchan is in the hospital. Anything you'd like to convey to him or his well wishers through this interview?
Yeah of course. He is one of the senior most and talented actors we have in our industry today. It affects the industry big time. We all are worried for him. Abhishek is too close to Mr. Bachchan and vice versa. So we are confident that he will be fine and don't forget that Mr. Bachchan is a fighter and will come out as a winner. But something like this to happen on his birthday is quite depressing.
Is Heroes a tribute to the Indian jawans in a way?
Heroes isn't about the Indian jawans or the Indian soldiers or against Pakistan. It's about two guys who just want to have fun in life and then they get an exercise to find out whether joining the army is important or not. The jawans in Heroes played by Sunny, Bobby, Dino and myself can be Pakistani, American, Chinese or Japanese but you will find such guys anywhere. Infact, there is one of my dialogues in the film saying, "Yeh jung kab khatam hogi?" and my co-star replies, "Yeh jung thodi hain. Jung to tab hoti thi jab raja maharaja khud aage aate the ladne ke liye. Jis din woh neta jo yeh treaty sign karte hain, woh ladenge, tab yeh jung khatam hogi". It's a very meaningful film.
Vatsal Seth brought to my attention that you did not smoke a cigarette just because you were wearing a turban. Very touching I should say?
Yeah, that's true. That's the reason I am trying to quit smoking. I normally don't talk about smoking and I try not to smoke whenever possible.
Well, it means that you not only respect your country here in Heroes but also other cultures.
If you're going to respect somebody's religion and somebody's culture, I think they're going to respect your culture and your religion. I believe that all the religions are basically the same. They preach and teach the same things. It's just that they have different ways of doing it. But I don't understand this Hindu - Muslim rifts sometimes. Tell me one Hindu man or a girl who does not have a Muslim friend or the vice versa. This is just a card that the politicians play and some people do this for money too.
Do you think Vatsal Seth has a long and a bright future ahead of him?
He is the cute 'Tarzan' Boy. He is an adorable kid. Even though he is around 26 or 27, he looks 15 to 16 year old. He is training hard and trying to put on a bit of weight. And once he gets that, he will be an even better looking boy, not that he is not now. You know, those lover boy roles which Kumar Gaurav, Aamir Khan and I've done in the past don't work now. It's time for a change, a drastic change. Vatsal will have to change his image if he wants to survive in the industry. With this film, he will do justice to his role just as Riteish, Aftab and Arshad have done in their films. Two hero projects are good for him right now. I think he has already signed three to four films.
From a serious conversation to something not that serious - Preity Zinta. Let's talk about her.
(Laughs) She is a serious actress but sometimes she is a complete brat. Can you believe it; she went to some acting classes to learn the Punjabi accent. So when she came and started talking in Punjabi, I was shocked. It was too good. I've worked with Preity in more than five films now. So we jell along well and have a good rapport.
Is it true that Heroes has nothing to do with war on the battle field?
Yes. Heroes has nothing to do with war, fights and violence. It has nothing in it. Sohail and Vatsal have to deliver three letters to the parents of the three shaheed jawans. Heroes is not a Gadar or a Border or Maa Tujhe Salaam. When you see this film, you'll come to know that it is a very entertaining film with an important message.
You play one of the jawans in Heroes. How did you make your character look rough and tough?
First of all, I did not put a fake beard. I wanted to grow my own beard and make it look very authentic. Then again, we are actors and we have to act. There is no way out. It's more about the convincing nature of the character you play. So even if I was thin, I can look tough. In addition, the post production, action coordinators, fight sequences, etc also helps build a tough guy. It is not physically possible to do the kind of stuff what Khalli or the Rock can do (laughs).
Brief us the experience of the 'Mannata' song with Preity. It's soothing to the ears.
Yes it is. Actually we were not getting the right lyrics for the song. I did hear the same song from Sajid - Wajid in Hindi and advised them to change it into Punjabi. So they had to re-work on the lyrics. 'Mannata' is an outstanding song and I love it. We shot the song in the fields of Punjab and it was fun. I can still remember the smell of the fresh fields and the sand.
Have you seen Heroes?
Yeah. I've seen the trial of the film and the rushes too. Heroes got tears in my eyes about six to seven times while watching it. That's the maximum I've cried while watching any film. Samir Karnik has done an outstanding job with Heroes. He is the true Hero. The film is also very well shot.
Both Nanhe Jaislamer and his debut film Kyun, Ho Gaya Na were not successful at the box office. Then why did you say Yes to Heroes?
First of all, I told Samir not to make Nanhe Jaisalmer but he wanted to do it. He did approach me for Nanhe Jaisalmer but I said No to it. Then he comes up with Heroes, to which I immediately said Yes. I think this film is going to be a sure shot hit. I mean, I will be surprised if Heroes did not do well. Plus Eros International is doing the marketing. I mean, their last Samir Karnik film did not work. So I hope they do justice to Heroes (laughs).
Your manager Vikas Kapoor has now turned producer with Heroes. He has formed his company Future Picture Productions along with Samir Karnik. You happy for him?
Of course yes. He is my manager and quite efficient with his work. He used to handle production side of things and then turned manager. But after sometime, you need to move on in life, which he did. He then started to handle Sohail Khan's work as a production manager. Then the title of executive producer was tagged on him and now he is the producer. Vikas has always gone a step further in his career and I'm very happy for him.
Hows the mid October sunny weather doing for you Salman?
(Laughs) I hope it stays like this for a few months till I am here. I am here till October 24. It is pretty strange because even when I was shooting for Salaam-E-Ishq it was summer time and it was cold. I don't know what is happening to our planet man! But a sunny season in October and people around me taking sun bath is a strange sight especially in London. Everything is becoming too unpredictable.
How much of Salman Khan off screen represents Balkar Singh of Heroes?
Every character I play or I've played is somewhere close to me. There is some personality in me, which has to have this resemblance. If I don't have that spark of the character, I cannot play it. I choose those roles which I think I can comfortably do it. My onscreen roles bring out some kind of Salman Khan, which is off-screen. Balkar Singh is tough, patriotic, loving and a good guy. I too am a good guy and not a bad one as many people think I am.
Where do you want the premiere of Heroes to take place?
I'm here till the October 24 and then going to Mumbai. Vikas and Samir are in Dubai on the October 22. So if they come here and do a special screening, nothing like it. I'd love Heroes to premiere in London on the October 23.
Why not go shopping during Diwali, why watch Heroes instead?
Wrong question dude! That's too brave of you to say that. But I would disagree with you. There are lots of reasons to go and watch a movie - 'Kya kar rahe ho aaj? Chalo picture dekhte hain', 'do ghante ki film hain, chal dekh kar aate hain', 'maine is film ke baare mein kaafi accha suna hain'. The publicity, the word of mouth, your favourite hero is in the film, it's a good story, etc. I think Heroes would be a combination of just about everything. Plus, there is no 'chechorapan' in the film at all. It's a meaningful film and it doesn't bore you. It's a fun film.