What is Salman Khan about?


unlike say Salman who was the romantic hero, the comedy star of Dhawan’s films, also the one who attempted masala even if unsuccessfully initially or at a smaller scale. Even then it was a challenge for him to remain relevant for most of the past decade. Salman though is in a way an interesting star. He seems to represent the ‘detritus’ of all other stars or a ‘home’ for that which cannot be incorporated under any other star signature. Salman depends on being other to whatever the established order is. He is the true Bollywood ‘joker in the pack’ or the ‘terrorist’ (which might be the same thing) of the system. Which is precisely why his off screen ‘bad behavior’ (ranging from some truly anti-social stuff to simpler examples of ‘bad manners’ where he says impolite things about other stars) is completely comprehensible and even ‘excused’ by everyone. Salman in short depends on never being the topmost star but always serving as a reaction to whatever happens at the top. And so note how when SRK was well embarked on the Yashraj path and Aamir was trying to reinvent himself as a meaningful star Salman had no plan as such except to be a kind of ‘id’ hero. This is what the Dhawan films represented and he never quite lost this persona (so for example he seems a little crazy even in HDDCS.. to make his appear ‘sane’ Barjatya had to almost render him mute in HSSH!) and was eventually able to recycle it into a certain picaresque mode of masala with the over the top hero. But the classic symptom of all this is actually Jab Pyar Kissise Hota Hai, a love story from the late 90s which follows the Yashraj model except for one crucial and quite subversive (for the times) difference — a love child suddenly turns up to haunt Salman’s romance! This is an old 60s/70s trope except that in the clinical, anodyne world of 90s romance/sexuality (but what sexuality?!) it became shocking!

Note how in the SRK/Yashraj dominant ideological system Aamir overcame it by superseding it and by going ‘prestige’. But Salman could also never be accounted by this ‘hegemony’ simply by being who he was! The whole idea that Salman has always been one of the biggest stars misses the point completely in one sense (if the box office is the guarantee of this Salman was nowhere for long stretches, if it was about critical success he was equally non-absent) but is right in a different way (the box office confirms the present hegemony, Salman as the other to this had to be less successful in a literal sense! Therefore it has been sort of received opinion on him, and him alone, to not confuse his stardom with the day to day box office score. It is not just his fans but ‘everyone’ who more or less accepts this. A luxury even SRK cannot afford!).

This is why Dabanng is dangerous for Salman. In terms of its great success it confirms Salman’s stardom but he precisely does not have to prove anything beyond this. Hence if he suddenly got more sensible about his career and if his upcoming films all started doing well he would lose his basic symbolic charge. Because then he would seem like other stars, riding the right Bollywood waves. When he did Dhawan in the 90s and became a kind of heir to Govinda in those films this was rather ‘strange’ given his own romantic past. But pulling off an Akshay in Bazmee’s comedies wouldn’t be very subversive at all. Similarly the better masala path for him is paradoxically Veer not Wanted! In short box office disappointment is built into the Salman narrative (recall how even the Dhawan stuff though it kept giving him successes was deconstructive for the MPK and HAHK chocolate hero) as his enabling factor. Having said that even the Wanted alternative is about being ‘other’ to the New Indian Bollywood that everyone else is following in most ways. In other words such a persona even in rather weak films could potentially argue ‘against’ the present and be seen as subverting New Indian mores to this degree.

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43 Responses to “What is Salman Khan about?”

  1. alex adams Says:

    Rarely has a star transformed as much in my opinion.
    He still continues to be an average actor, dancer, etc for me.
    BUt he does have charisma, style. On watching him on telly at close quarters in dus ka dum and specially on big boss, i knew him better.
    He is actually a much better person than initially thought of and appears misunderstood.
    The way he handled some of the big boss evictions, i was pleasantly surprised.
    and loved him in dabang—a cult performance.
    qand coming from someone who did not even consider him worth commenting on earlier—it says a lot.
    Having said that, dabang can also be his nemesis since i think his best film is already behind him and will dwarf/haunt anything he does from now on unless he reinvents in a big way (which appears a bit unlikely given his age and range of skills)
    but all the best—wish he does well

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    • I’ve never been a fan, in his entire filmography there are probably half a dozen or so films that I can sit through and/or enjoy at the most. But I do appreciate his masala turn and beyond this I actually do enjoy watching him in Dabanng. In this sense the importance of this film cannot be understated. It is impossible, irrespective of one’s earlier position on Salman, to not like him in Dabanng. This very rarely happens with a star as advanced in the game as Salman is. In other words to not just have a box office triumph (Sunny had an even bigger one in Gadar) but to become so utterly ‘cool’ all of a sudden. And yes this is certainly his most charismatic performance. I would call it possibly his only truly charismatic performance with a Wanted perhaps on the way there. And so while I don’t have the highest opinion of Dabanng the film I take Salman very seriously here as should others who have any masala ambitions. This is the way it’s done in these ‘bad times’ (for masala). In this sense Salman offers more of a path forward (I said this with Wanted too) than Aamir in Ghajini (whose attempts always run the risk of seeming sui generis but even otherwise Ghajini had more of a narrative arc and the Memento framework and so on). But for all the reasons I’ve mentioned in this piece his peers at any level are not likely to follow it. It will be assimilated to the ‘quintessentially Salman’ paradigm. The DMD model is much more likely where within the right ‘cutting edge’ film you perhaps embed a somewhat masala character.

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  2. alex adams Says:

    yes—Salman in Dabang and sunny in gadar are AS BIG lead hero masala perfromances in indian cinema history of all time!!!
    A film and hero cannot be accepted in such a way otherwise.
    Lets get the old style kickass macho hero back—enuf of wimps and cross dressers and guys with stammer and learning difficulties……………..lol
    If not, lets give satyam a break as a lead hero…….hahahaha
    waiting for budddhhhaaa………..

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    • Salman is bigger than Sunny though in that comparison. He’s been liked across the board, his character has become iconic. With Gadar it was just the film that succeeded in major metros. It was of course a legend in small centers but in bigger A centers Sunny hardly became hot after this.

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  3. alex adams Says:

    Sunnys larger than life screechathons like gadar, ghayal, ghatak, border etc have overpowered his somewhat sensitive performances in arju and a few others.
    IMO Sunny also has some range although not as much as salmans.
    I feel Sunny lost motivation and drive and never had the burning ambition to be no1
    Also the deols have not been manipulative and all said and done have been relatively uncomplicated people—hence the “spin” and “projection” havent been there.
    Dharmendra has been the ONLY co-actor who shared screen with amitabh (at his peak) and not only matched him but also outdid him in some points—again he suffered from a lack of ambition and poise needed to be the numer uno.
    BUt dharmendras comic timing was easily one of the best in bollywood.
    It was a telling commment when tushar kapoot (of all people) declared that the most surprising recent hit for him was YPD!!!

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    • @ Alex – spot on. Sunny never cared to be the number1 and neither does Salman. Salman will always be near the top coz it’s his persona/charisma more than his acting which attracts the audience.

      @ sayam – I’m not old enough to remember the early 90’s but from family and friends I hear Salman was huge. Your article makes it sound like the guy has never been a big star. If Salman takes himself more seriously in regards to his profession then he will deliver many DABANGGS (and that is not wishful thinking)

      P. S kiran rao was asked her fav Salman performance and she said NO ENTRY. seriously a very good performance (even if it was short). A little gem

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  4. alex adams Says:

    gadar succeeded not only in major metros but in single screens as well throughout.
    Remember that both gadar and lagaan released at the same time and both became gr8 successes.
    But if one dissect the numbers, gadar made atleast 2-3 times the lagaan gross.
    Althouigh this is not surprising given the jingoism element in gadar.
    Some of the anti pak rhetoric was avoidable and some of the “style” wasnt my sensibility,
    But within all this meshwork of jingoism and rhetoric was a taut storyline, screenplay, good performances, soulful music and a “soul” missing in many “big films”.
    Also reminds me about the curious case if amisha Patel who actually was quite goodlooking (in those days) although an average actgress. Nobopdy seems to remember now that she starred in 2 Alltime blockbusters in KNPH and gadar.
    Seeing her career now makes one surprised…

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    • Alex – agree on Ameesha Patel. Extremely pretty but a poor actress to be fair.

      Btw and correct me anyone if am wrong KNPH was a huge blockbuster but not ATBB

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      • very few films are all time blockbusters. Even the ones often identified by the media as such aren’t. Dabanng wouldn’t be an all-time blockbuster when adjusted for inflation. And the trending of this film reveals as much. Good for those mega numbers but it didn’t even match Ghajini on this score let alone 3I. HAHK or Gadar are true all time blockbusters. Not just the grosses which are massive of course but also the trending. They go on forever! Today this is less likely given everything but 3I still showed amazing trending. This is a fair standard to live upto if one aspires to all time blockbuster status.

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        • Agree Satyam many films are given ATBB tags. IMO since Gadar only 3I has been ATBB.

          DABANNG (no way) is one. Salman does have MPK and HAHK which were mega mega hits.

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          • vatikala Says:

            MPK AND HAHK are mainly heroine oriented films namely Madhuri(HAHK) and Bhagyashree(MPK). they are also musicals where music and songs(not item songs variety) played important parts. Old world charm. Hero’s presence was secondary. While Dabangg is hero oriented. A true blue Salman’s film where the heroine is secondary. Any heroine would have fitted in.

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          • @ vatikala – interesting thoughts.

            So I’m guessing you don’t consider those two as Salman films.

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    • yes I know that! Gadar was massive, one of the biggest hits of the industry. But Sunny’s character wasn’t like Salman’s in Dabanng, which is to say it wasn’t iconic in the metros.

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  5. alex adams Says:

    “If not, lets give satyam a break as a lead hero…….hahahaha”–Hope satyam is not getting ready for an audition/ screen test…lol

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  6. alex adams Says:

    yes naveed. Satyam on ANY day will be atleast better than abhishek (with due respect to both)
    Actually Ameesha patel at her “peak” was quite good although a below par actress….but then, how is her acting compared to the super successful katrina kaif.
    The FACT is that actresses have a different essential and desirable criteria

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    • Lol Alex every heroine is a better actress than our very own Kat. Heck even the pathetic Sonam can act better and I’m being deadly serious.

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      • I still think to this day that not only is Dia Mirza far sexier and more beautiful than ‘most’ and I really mean most other actresses but she’s a decent enough actress. She could easily do the Lafingey Parindey, Aishas or DDD roles better than our A star actresses.

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      • vatikala Says:

        Who wants to see Katrina for acting? One wants to be just charmed by her presence.

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  7. alex adams Says:

    Agree about no entry—i missed it.
    A hilarious performance by salman (something which one can personally identify with–lol)
    Infact, “no entry” is one of the best comedy i have seen in recent times along with “deewaana mastana”

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  8. alex adams Says:

    As for sheer looks, somehow, i prefer salman in his 40s–He looks more proprtioned , has a better scren presence and his steroid body habitus is relatively well concealed (with hair transplant et al)
    Liked him in the veer title song (sung by raahat fateh ali) apart from all dabang songs….

    A quite under rated song of salman and amisha which never got popular—
    One of the first few songs i noticed salmans undoubted charisma and screen presence –check out amisha btw
    also saw this shooting in glasgow capture some familiar places …..

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    • I consider this one of the underrated Dhawan films along with HKKN. These films involved a level of ‘meta-critique’ on Dhawan’s part for want of a better term. YHJ for examples offers a whacky send-off on Trishul.

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  9. alex adams Says:

    most of salman related stuff includig this song is a guilty pleasure.
    If sm is still around, she may get a convulsion seeing me post a song of salman of all people!!!hahahah

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    • @ Alex – I was going to recommend you YEH HAI JALWA but you got there before me. I thought the film was pretty good and had fantastic songs. Ameesha looked extremely hot and Salman complemented her. Oh lol didn’t know it was in Glasgow. I knew it was in the UK though.

      Another under rated film of Dhawans is KYUNKI MAI JHOOT NAHI BOLTA. loved Govinda and Sush in the film.

      @ satyam – which film is HKKN

      Agree on surili akhiyon wale. I prefer Tere Mast Mast but I know many who prefer the other.

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  10. Btw check this out. Hope it’s true

    On twitter – taran_adarsh The reactions to the teaser poster of ‘Ready’ have been phenomenal. This movie will fetch a historic start, I am sure.
    about 6 hours ago

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  11. alex adams Says:

    Havent seen the film yeh hai jalwa. In those days, i never saw most salman khan films(even now).
    ust caught this song on telly and know these streets in glasgow “first hand” and have some “eventful memories” —lol
    To make the day of the few salman fans here—
    like to add this nice song —
    In places, check out salmans inppropriate aggressive look instead of looking forelorn lol—but suits his cool dude”attitude”
    Like his look here though,….

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  12. @ Satyam and Alex

    Have you guyz cared to view JANEMAAN?

    If so, your thoughts plz

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    • didn’t like it. It was interestingly initially in a spoof sort of sense but became rather regular and flat later on. That wasn’t a good weekend for me. I saw both this and Don and was bored to death each time!

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  13. alex adams Says:

    “but you got there before me.”—Thanx Naveed—I have heard that being said to me many times before (modestly)—hahahaha
    As for Jaaneman—A better film than thought of. Had weaknesses but a decent attempt. Think it did not deserve the “pounding” it supposedly/apparently got from srks don!!
    definitely much better than 30maar khan,
    Check out this salman song 00and dont tell me i got there before you—hahahah
    good emoting from salman…

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    • LMAO your a real character Alex (it’s a compliment). Hairan ki baat hey but I was going to talk about this amazing song by Sonu. Yeah I really like the film one of the better Salman performances.

      Shrish Kunder took ten steps back with Tees Mar Khan

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      • alex adams Says:

        “LMAO your a real character Alex (it’s a compliment). Hairan ki baat hey but I was going to talk about this amazing song by Sonu.”—-Thanks Naveed.
        (modestly again lol)–i have been told this umpteen times before and do have a knack of knowing not only what is being implied in that context but what the other person would prefer.
        Thanks—Am glad this “art” is still quite active—lol

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  14. alex adams Says:

    I am not a salman khan fan, but as said above, have softened to some aspects of his persona.
    If there is a CASE DEFINTION or case study of “what is a hindi film hero STAR as opposed to an ACTOR”, the three songs of salman illustrate the STAR quality and highlight difference appropriately!!

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  15. vatikala Says:

    I prefer Salman on TV to Salman on big screen. His wit, affability,charm comes out best on TV.

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  16. “What is Salman Khan about?”

    As long as he takes the shirt off…thats what he is all about. Keeping doing that and female viewership is guaranteed hai chulbul pandey ko!

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  17. Salman Khan-

    Screen Presence? imo ?

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  18. alex adams Says:

    “If there is a CASE DEFINTION or case study of “what is a hindi film hero STAR as opposed to an ACTOR”, the three songs of salman illustrate the STAR quality and highlight difference appropriately!!”
    Pick up just one movie of Amitabh and ANY sequence/ scene and the above quality can be seen in even much higher wholesome form
    Talking of stardom and screen presence—-
    THATS the Amitabh I love—-
    An ode to the biggest megastar

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  19. alex adams Says:

    Talking of Moriya—
    SRK does well in this song
    Brilliant reworking of thisby SHankar Ehsaan Loy who remain the brightest talents after ARR.
    Know that this song from SRKs don is not a major hit/popular song, but feeel that everything including srk clicks in this one….

    Like

  20. bachchan1 to 10 Says:

    You have to see this to believe, Though video is dated, but its seems like a private moment he had with friends. Haha, I guess this is what Salman is all about.

    Like

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