Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Dabangg and Salman Khan!

(Salman Khan and Sonakshi Sinha at the
Dabangg premiere.)

This might be just me talking out of my ass for a few hundred words or so but I want to discuss Salman Khan and
Dabangg. I think it is fantastic that Salman is hitting his 4th innings or so in Bollywood – this time as an action hero – at the age of 44 and I think it’s worth looking at the man and his career to see what it says about the state of Bollywood right now that this is the movie and man to step up and show Bollywood what’s what.

I didn’t always like Salman Khan. I was first introduced to him in late 1990s early 2000s films, which is when I first started watching Bollywood. Unlike many of my fellow non-desi Bollywood fans, I’m not really keen on the NRI romances that were all the rage at the time. While I did enjoy
KKHH and KKKG, the rest of the genre didn’t connect with me, certainly not as much as darker things like Dil Se or the more homespun Rangeela.

And Salman never seemed like a good fit in those films. As much as people might kill me for this, Salman isn’t “cool” like Saif Ali Khan or urbane like Shahrukh can be. He’s prickly, chauvinistic, and kind of a dick. I didn’t buy it at all when he got all lovey-dovey with Priyanka Chopra in
Muhjse Shaadi Karogi because that’s not who Salman is. He’s not lovey-dovey. And in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I’m ready to strangle Salman before the interval for how obnoxious he’s being. When mature, grown-up Ajay Devgn comes on the scene, I swoon with relief, which I always thought was kind of the point of the film.

Unlike other Bollywood actors, Salman doesn’t seem to care much about his public persona (a persona I’ll discuss a bit later) or acting, and that is refreshing. He chooses roles based on loyalty to family and friends more than anything else, leading to seriously phoned-in performances in ‘artsy’ films like
Yuuvraaj that have audiences cringing in horror and sweet performances like his brief turn in Heroes. You can go see an Aamir Khan film based on nothing more than the Aamir Khan name, but if you go see something just because Salman is in it, it’s a crapshoot.

He’s one of the The Three Khans but unlike Aamir and Shahrukh, Salman has never been a leader until now.

His latest rebirth was as a comedic hero with
Partner in 2007 but even that was overshadowed by Akshay Kumar’s Year Of Hits (which is how I like to think of 2007) but now with Wanted (2009) and Dabangg (2010) we have him providing the content that Bollywood’s populist base is so desperately craving. It’s pretty amazing and a testament to the tenacity of Salman Khan. Lesser men would have given up but he keeps plugging (pun!) along through the flops and the hits.

The latest incarnation of Salman Khan, HERO is as an occasionally 4th wall breaking, self-confident and competent man of the people. Akshay Kumar plays to this Hero-type, too, but Akshay tends towards incompetence and what the Japanese call
kawaii or “so pitiful it’s cute” in his roles (think Singh is Kinng). Akshay is a naïf; Salman gets things done. Aamir and Shahrukh are decidedly middle class while Saif , Abhi, and Hrithik are even more bourgeois. Shahid and Imran are chocolate boys and Ranbir is still finding his feet.

How long has it been since Bollywood has had a HERO people could really identify with and be powerful? Chubul Pandey is street smart, funny, does easy to copy dance moves, is always respectful to his parents, and remains unconcerned with looking ‘cool’ or catching babes other than the one he marries. In other words, he is a heightened version of a regular guy just like millions of other regular guys all across the Hindi-speaking world. Of course, this Hero persona is unconcerned with anything other than his personal life and local vendettas but maybe after the Global Outlook that everybody from Aamir to Saif to Hrithik has been trying to shove down our throats, concentrating on affairs at home is something people need.

I wanted to give just a few more words on Salman’s everyman persona. I think it’s really interesting how this man, who was born into every advantage and who has had run-ins with the law for rich guy reasons (hunting endangered species, callously running over poor people in his fancy car), has such a down-to-Earth onscreen persona. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t really have anything to prove or because growing up around
filmi folk he really just is at home on-screen…

So, I’m really looking forward to Salman’s next films and I hope that more people jump on this bandwagon and we can finally bury the NRI rom-com and it’s spiritual cousin, the urban elite rom-com, because I would much rather see Salman kicking bad-guy butt like it’s going out of style than see Imran Khan schmooping his way across the Bandra-Worli sea link trying desperately to be in style.


Amaluu said...

Interesting thoughts! However, there WAS a time when Salman Khan was a leader - when SRK was a nobody and Aamir was the chocolatey hero of QSQT. When Salman entered the scene with Maine Pyar Kiya, and followed it up with Baaghi, Saajan, Patthar Ke Phool, etc. he was IT. He WAS romantic and lovey-dovey. He WAS cool, suave, and urbane. He didn't even have an Indian accent when he spoke English in interviews!

Obviously this was in his hey-day, the early to mid 90s, and it's amazing that he's had so many overhauls since then. But he wasn't always "prickly, chauvinistic, and kind of a dick". He's mostly been all that post-Ash, if you ask me. :-)

But it was still fun reading your POV on his career arc! Great write-up!

Filmi Girl said...

@amaluu Thanks for the early-90s perspective! Like I said, I came into films late 90s, early 2000s (post-Aish!) so I guess I only have half the story. :)

Rum said...

Love this article! Salman like you said, seemed so uncomfy in the 90's NRI films but like Amaluu mentioned he was the bigger crowd-puller in the 90's I guess because of the usual shirtless scene!

But he is definitely having a renaissance moment in the Noughties, because he is able to play the common man who may have a smoking bod but is more in touch with his fan base than many other actors!
Though I'm sure he could attempt a rom-com that is more suited to his down-to-earth image!

martoufmarty said...

From what I've heard about Salman Khan I don't much like him as a person, and due to watching a couple of those 90s rom-coms he starred in I kind of avoided anything he starred in.

But Wanted looked so trashy I couldn't help but see it, and I agree with you - action star is where he belongs.

As long as he's kicking ass and NOT MUMBLING we can get along just fine...

Bluemay said...

Filmi girl, you are outdoing yourself this Sunday! Back in 1989 -1991, when Salman first came on the scene he was the heart throb and much more popular than SRK and Aamir. My friends had his posters on their walls, which were hard to find given that there were 2 Indian stores in Indianapolis in 1989. In the 90s, he was personable/friendly in his tv interviews.

His roles worked for him in 90s, maybe because he was likable on and off screen. I found him annoying in HDDCS and he's been that way ever since. Maybe it is the post-Aish, post 2002 killing a homeless person by driving over him, but this decade he has been horrible to watch. He quit making an effort to even try to act or dance. The roles that suit him now are Partner, Wanted and Dabanng.

I agree that in recent years, he comes off as chauvinistic and a complete prick in interviews. He's especially annoying when he won't even look at the camera or the interviewer, he just keeps moving his head like he's watching a tennis match and it's such a bother for him to even be there.

I've also noticed that American Desi shows (Namaste America and AVS) spend more time on SRK, Aamir, Hrithik, newer Bollywood stars (Ranbir, Deepika, etc) than they do on a Salman movie...even with Dabanng. They have written him off as not appealing to American desis and non-desis.

I wish him well in his new found niche (classic masala for the common man)especially since most other BW films are aimed at urbanites and NRIs. Kudos to him for doing so much charity work in India. I still find him to be a jerk in interviews and kind of creepy for dating girls so much younger than him and "mentoring" them ala Katrina. I also find Hollywood actors who do this creepy too.

Filmi Girl said...

@bluemay I spent all day on my couch with the kittens. :)

I'm so glad I wrote this because now I get the perspective of people who knew him when he first debuted! I really had no idea he was different back then - I'm really only familiar with him from late 90s, 2000s and was always really curious as to why he got so much attention when his movies were (in my opinion) not that great.

I think he is probably a jerk in real life but I do love his common man persona, so I hope he sticks with it!

Bluemay said...

I can relate. I have three cats the 3rd one from the animal shelter I volunteer at. Time to watch Chelsea open the VMAs, then switch over to True Blood.

Check out some of his 90s movies with Karisma Kapoor and also, Khamoshi with Manisha Koiroila.

Prateek said...

I have been a regular reader of your blogs but this has to be the best for me.Salman khan is a rock star,a Man who always knew his space and place in bollywood unlike SRK who always keeps on shouting he is the no.1.Amir khan very pointedly remarked on this saying he has never heard Lata Mangeshkar,Sachin Tendulkar,Amitabh bachhan or even Rajnikanth engage in this nonsense of numbers and we all who he was pointing out.
The point of the matter is that Salman khan's unique connect with the audience was established by the resounding sucess of DUS KA DAM where people found out that he is the very likeable brat of the family.Inarticulate,chauvinistic (u have said),dangerous,anti social at times but always the favourite brat or the son of the soil.
Dabangg is not just the defeat of the Dollar cinema but also the victory of comman man's cinema joining the likes of Sholay,Nadiya ke paar or Shree 420.We hail Chulbul Pandey aka Salman Khan.

Navneet Mundhra said...

Salman was the biggest draw in nineties. He delievered spate of hits incessantly. His list of hit movies and their business is much more monumental than other two khans.

1998 - Pyaar kiya to darna kya, Jab pyaar kisi se hota hai, Kuch kuch hota hai, Bandhan (Did great business in interiors)

1999 - Biwi no.1, Hum dil de chuke sanam, hum saath saath hai (All top 3 movies that year belonged to him)

During nineties, SAAJAN, HUM AAPKE HAI KAUN, KARAN ARJUN, JEET, JUDWAA, ANDAAZ APNA APNA etc. Ruled the roost. He was indisputed leader.

Even in 2000 decade, his box office record is superb barring years 2002, 2006 and 2008 due to his generous favours to his friends.

6ulhan hum le jayenge, Har dil jo pyar karega, chori chori chupke, tere naam, baghban, garv, mujhse shaadi karogi, maine pyaar kyun kiya, no entry etc.

His movies may not be the great piece of art but they were commercially extremely successful, the only barometre to gauge the success in showbiz.

He's not media friendly and refuses to bow down to the manipulation of media. Thats the reason, media never highlights his achievements. And SALMAN never feel the need to manipualte or flatter media ppl for his personal advantage and he doesnt feel the need to clarify what TRASH media writes about him.

In India, this man has got the biggest loyal fan base which is unparalleled. Ppl go berserk where he goes to catch a glimpse of his.

Though, i do believe that he must be more discreet in his choice of movies.

rihan said...

Nice Article....Am a Journalist and an observer of society. And let me be honest therz no bigger star than Salman in India. His popularity among the masses has to be seen to be believed. Nonparallel. He is the only actor whose flops have not affected him. And unlike his media image, he is one among the few people who supports the needy. Totally Charitable. You need to be in Mumbai to know this....Almost every sunday there is a traffic halt near his home....Thats Salman for you. The star of the masses.....

Kit said...

Salman is the real deal - what you see with him is what you get. Nothing fake nor manufactured. He's also a very underrated actor, IMHO - a lazy one though.

Here's an article that provides some insight about him:

ruggedboyz said...

To say Salman khan is no equal to Aamir khan and Shahrukh khan is really hitting below the belt, specially to his fans, who have more of an emotional connect with him then just being a fan who watches his movies, if their is someone in Bollywood who constantly makes it to the power list of filmfare and someone who has always and i ready always got more then what Akshay kumar does for a movie, it is Salman Khan
Any critic who critique his movies would swear if their is anyone who can sustain string of flops has to be Salman
I want to recall the release of Gharv, the repeated till it snapped story of an honest cop against corrupt system only saw a huge opinion in the north india it is only the power that Salman khan has

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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