New Delhi: The baseball cap is gone, so is the pout. Bollywood's petulant Prem has grown into a role few actors would feel comfortable attempting. As he leaves the many controversies behind him, actor Salman Khan is finally fitting into an image carefully cultivated by his publicists who
have launched a charm offensive to market the middle-aged star to the masses.
We at IBNLive are dedicating this week to Salman Khan. Here's why.
While most actors his age are heading towards the city multiplexes to tap an urban audience, post the success of Dabangg, Salman has redefined his image as a star with pan-Indian appeal. Khan delivered last year's biggest hit, Dabangg, and his action comedy Ready was a global blockbuster as well.
Khan, whose film Maine Pyar Kiya achieved cult status and established him as a romantic hero, is secure in the knowledge that his bad cop romp Dabangg has helped him master a genre no other actor would feel comfortable attempting.
Bollywood's favourite "bad boy" has found a larger-than-life, goofy pop corn hero that is a hit with the masses.
Khan, who repeatedly appeared as the dreamy-eyed 'Prem' in many of his films in younger days, answers to Chulbul Pandey now, a tough cop who would rather bully a girl into submission than pine for her affection. He has taken the exaggerated comic style that actor Govinda complimented in his hit film Partner a notch higher to market it among the rural masses.
And the overall effect is not just acceptance from a large section of India's mega-movie-loving audiences but also spontaneous affection for an actor who knows how to endear himself to those yearning for good old comic action flicks.
No other actor has the kind of following that Khan has on social networking sites. While Aamir Khan is generally seen as an intense actor with penchant for socially relevant cinema, Shah Rukh a master of the romantic drama, Salman Khan is the one star who has nailed the big-budget comedy - hugely popular with the masses.
To the masses he is 'Sallu Bhai' who gyrates to his item numbers and cracks fart jokes. His Being Human charity T-shirts are spotted everywhere; stars wear them and they are promoted at film previews. Khan is keen to be seen as a regular guy who regularly gives to the needy.
The occasional fights with co-actors and the moody spats at celebrity birthday parties not withstanding, Khan has emerged as Bollywood's most bankable star and the only one who can pull a hit off a bad script.
His pocket move during dance steps in the film Ready is a reflection of the image he wants to create. The Dabangg moves have been copied and spoofed by his contemporaries and sometimes rivals at awards shows. People have lapped up his quirky dialogue in both Ready, a film panned by critics, and Dabangg, that recently won the National Award for wholesome entertainment.
Neither SRK, whose super hero flick Ra.One is in production, nor Aamir Khan who is preparing for the villain's role in Dhoom 3 can pull off a ridiculously goofy, psychedelic sunglasses the way Salman Khan can.
Ready, directed by Anees Bazmee, is indicative of the kind of film that Khan has come to be associated with - everything is black and white, the hero is a paragon of virtue, the heroine is coy, their love is pure, there are raunchy dialogues, catchy songs and the bad guys are dead in the end. The critics may be dismissive, but the masses love it.
Khan recently said in an interview to Reuters: "I missed seeing heroes on stage. Suddenly, we've (Bollywood) got into rom-coms and love stories and niche films. We started missing heroes."
The formula seems to be working -- both Dabangg and Ready are blockbusters, as was Khan's 2009 release Wanted. Even though he delivered three turkeys in between, no one seems to notice.
Before Wanted, Khan's fortunes weren't shining brightly -- most of his films, including Subhash Ghai's Yuvvraaj and God Tussi Great Ho tanked at the box-office.
Critics of the actor said he wasn't making the right choices, doing films for the wrong reasons. Khan admits they were right but says he couldn't do much about that phase of his life.
Like any rock star, Khan's public appearances are thronged by screaming fans and the actor is not worried that he is losing out on meaningful cinema, because ultimately it is the masses that he has to cater to. With additional information from Reuters.<iframe width="100%" height="442" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/9Y1V5up6ljw?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Shah Rukh Khan