When Salman Khan `committed` to ‘Vishwaroopam’

Salman Khan may have a horde of crazed fans who worship every little thing he does. He also has detractors who pull him up for every little act, be it his story-less movies or his list of criminal offences buried behind his superstar persona.

I tend to belong to a moderate version of the latter. I wouldn’t be utterly honest if I said I’ve liked any of his movies this millennium and the success of the movie brand that is ‘Salman Khan’ makes me feel frustrated, primarily at how the Indian population has lapped up a series of pointless and inadequate movies like ‘Dabangg’ and ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ etc.

But there are times when I see glimpses of a side to his character that makes me not only respect him but also, hard as it may be for me to say this, admire him. A recent incident, concerning ‘Vishwaroopam’ is a case in point.

The cynical would call any good act made by a film-star a ‘desperate attempt to hog the limelight’ or a ‘pathetic publicity stunt’. The naïve journalist that I am, I’d like to attribute things at face-value unless I have evidence to support a conspiracy. Even so, when it comes to the distinctly popular Sallu bhai, I’m guarded and wary of all that he does. But, in the end, for the sake of objectivity and righteousness, I must jump to praise him with the same speed and vigour as I dare to write him off provocatively.

For those of you who are perplexed about my sudden pro-Salman stance, let me tell you what’s transpired over the last few days.

While the entire film fraternity came out in support of Kamal Haasan and spoke out against the ban on his latest movie ‘Vishwaroopam’, most of the comments and words, wonderfully supportive as they were, simply hit the headlines and were washed away with the next wave of news stories. Some, like super-legend Rajnikanth, even urged his fans to stand by his contemporary Haasan. But, to mis-quote a popular Boyzone song, ‘it was only words and words are all they had’ to lend him their support.

Salman Khan, though, is made from different elements than you and I and the rest of the film industry. Perhaps this is what lands him in trouble, makes him controversial, divides opinions and ends up making me wonder which side is he on amongst the myriad shades of grey. The superstar not only tweeted his support for Kamal Haasan and the movie, but backed up his words with action, much like we’re used to seeing him do on the big screen. Remember his very famous and oft used dialogue from the film ‘Wanted’ –‘Ek bar maine jo commitment kar di toh phir mai apni bhi nahi sunta’.

On January 31 he tweeted a series of tweets in support of the south Indian legend:

“Hope each n every fan of his supports him like I am doing n want all my fan to fully support him . Bhool gaye kya ek doojeh ke liyeh (sic)”

“Then go stand outside the cinema hall n insist on seing the film, its a movie dude , entertainment, wat law n order problem on a movie? (sic)”

“Go thr insist that u wanna c it , thr is a supreme court judgment after the film is censored no body can stop it (sic).”

“The south actors shld go to the cinema halls whr film was to b released in his support n insist that they wanna c the film (sic)”

“Different different theatres pe (sic)”

No pretense, no appearances, no quirky wit to show off (not that there’s anything wrong with that), no dazzling turn of phrase, Salman’s tweets betray an honest, simple and very heartfelt call for action. His support felt unadulterated, uninhibited and so palpably real that it was not only immensely refreshing in today’s PR-glazed world of showbiz, but also a statement that hit the public’s hearts.

But what he did after that was more creditable. He contacted the producers of ‘Vishwaroopam’ and held a private screening of the movie to demonstrate his support. He called for action and, when that didn’t materialize, decided to ‘do’ whatever little he could by himself. Words are easy, but taking the trouble and effort to act it out, that’s something I really appreciated about the big man.

There are other things too that add to the enigma that is the simple and larger-than-life Salman Khan, a contradiction of terms that keep me confused for opinions.

His ‘Being Human’ charity work, for instance, is commendable and is further proof of a heart that’s uncomplicated and a sleeve with emotions aplenty. At first skeptical of his organization, I’ve become steadily convinced it’s not only an honest sentiment on his behalf, but it’s also very much in keeping with his trend to act on what he says and say what he feels. It’s the same ‘lack of filter’ that makes me dislike him and admire him, strangely enough.

A sketchy past and a questionable choice of movies almost seem irrelevant when you see a movie star let his heart do the talking. And be it his support of Shah Rukh in an episode of ‘Bigg Boss’, or his immediate action to help Jagdish Mali in his moment of need even though he had nothing to do with it all, or his constant acts of generosity, even gifting a contestant in a talent show he was a guest on with his own motorcycle, it all percolates through to the firmest of his detractors.

If the Khan-dom in Bollywood have each a niche of their own, Aamir with his social causes and messages, Shah Rukh with his romantic charm and sparkling wit, then Salman would have to be the one with a heart so open and transparent that even as he lets you see all the good in him, the critical and fault-finding eye (like mine) chooses to look at the dark specs instead.

I’m still not going to watch his next action-masala flick, but as a sharp critic of the actor, I have at least realized that behind Salman – the in-your-face actor, there’s Salman – the heartwarmingly genuine person. And that, I do respect.