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From Ranbir Kapoor in Jagga Jasoos, to Salman Khan in Tubelight, stars aren’t afraid to experiment

Editor’s note: With Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan and Salman Khan’s Tubelight not quite hitting the mark in terms of box office success, there are some crucial question we found ourselves thinking about. Is Bollywood’s male movie-star bound by his ‘image’? What happens when stars experiment, and give their fans something ‘new’? What happens when their experiments fail and how do the stars themselves react to this failure? This is part two of a three part analysis on this very idea — what is bigger, the star or the image of the star? 

Also read parts one and two of this series. 

In the just-released Jagga Jasoos, Ranbir Kapoor plays a Tintin-esque detective. The film itself is cast in the mould of a Broadway musical, not seen before in Bollywood, and includes 21 songs.

Ranbir’s played varied roles before — be it the coming-of-age Wake Up Sid or the everyman in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, and even Tamasha. Still, Jagga Jasoos is an ‘experiment’ for the actor.

What’s interesting that this ‘experimentation’ is being engaged in by actors across the spectrum in the Hindi film industry. Just a few weeks ago, we had Salman Khan playing a man with developmental difficulties in Tubelight. While that film flickered out at the box office, it was an attempt on Salman’s part to do a role different from his usual larger-than-life onscreen image. Meanwhile, his contemporary Shah Rukh Khan is also trying something different with Aanand L Rai’s next, in which he plays a dwarf; while Aamir Khan has — yet again — transformed himself entirely for his role in Thugs of Hindostan. Images of Aamir sporting long hair and a nosepin are already doing the rounds on social media.

A mere four years in the industry, and a Varun Dhawan can pull off a Badlapur, while a Sidharth Malhotra an work on an experimental thriller like Ittefaq.

Ranbir Kapor in Jagga Jasoos; Salman Khan in Tubelight. Images via Facebook, Twitter

Meanwhile, Ranveer Singh can charm viewers in an offbeat Lootera and play a rapper from the streets in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boys. And an ‘outsider’ like Sushant Singh rajput can break into the Bollywood big league with unconventional films like Kai Po Che, Shuddh Desi Romance and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! 

Forty years ago, this would have been unimaginable. One could hardly conceive of an Amitabh Bachchan or Dharmendra — at the height of their superstardom — playing differently-abled characters in a film that had no romantic angle. There would always be a song-and-dance routine with a Rekha in Ghazab, or the metamorphosis of dim-witted Kallu into dashing Kaalia. They would, undoubtedly, give the greatest of performances, but in conventional vehicles like Deewar, Pratigyaa and Chupke Chupke.

But playing a differently-abled character in a realistic drama… well, that kind of experimentation was best left to a Sanjeev Kumar, as in the 1970 release Khilona. It was up to a Balraj Sahni to play a landless labourer in a stark drama like Do Bigha Zameen, while a Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor — as great as they were — displayed their histrionics in larger-than-life films like Mughal-E-Azam and Awara. Or Naseeruddin Shah, who played a visually impaired man in Sparsh, while Vinod Khanna or Jeetendra bashed up baddies and romanced heroines in their films. But today, if Randeep Hooda or Nawazuddin Siddiqui are experimenting with their roles, so are the big stars like Salman, Shah Rukh.

It is not at all a coincidence that Aamir’s Lagaan, a film where a major Bollywood star experimented with both form as well as content, came within a decade of economic liberalisation, exposure to satellite television and invasion of the internet, followed by the multiplex revolution. The audience was changing and the stars were quick to realise it. Aamir tried to follow the same experimental route with Mangal Pandey — and though it proved less successful, he continued down that route.

Shah Rukh made the attempt with Swades, although it was Chak De India that proved to be his first major ‘experimental’ success. He continued walking off the beaten path with Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan and more recently, Yash Raj Films’ Fan. Salman may have started late, but he seems to be making up for lost time with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan and Tubelight. And if an Ajay Devgn has a Drishyam in his kitty, then Bollywood’s ultimate khiladi, Akshay Kumar has made it a point to pick unique subjects with films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman and Gold. 

These are definitely good times to be a Bollywood (film) viewer. We are fortunate to watch our favourite actors in unusual and experimental roles in an image-obsessed industry. As horizons have expanded, and tastes have evolved, it’s no longer a stretch for viewers to see their favourite stars go from playing the typical romantic/action hero to ageing wrestlers — or dwarves.

Tubelight: How much Salman Khan will earn from the film (whether or not it’s a hit)

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that after the Dangal and Baahubali mania, the next film to do justice to the term “most-awaited” would be Salman Khan and Kabir Khan’s Tubelight.

There’s been much buzz about the film. In Tubelight, set against the backdrop of the Indo-China war of 1962, Salman plays a do-gooder who is very close to his brother. He’s a little slow, and is therefore called a Tubelight by everyone. The film also stars Chinese actress Zhu Zhu and Sohail Khan. The film is a remake of Little Boy.

Given the massive success of two big Bollywood films globally, Dangal and Baahubali, it is being touted that bigger opportunities have opened for future Bollywood films globally.

DNA reports that Salman is planning a grand release in China and premier for Tubelight, and since the film already has a Chinese connect (it has multiple Chinese actors), the box office collections are expected to sky rocket. With Zhu Zhu being a big name, trade experts are predicting 700-800 crore collections from China itself.

And so, the big question on everyone’s mind is, how much of this profit will Salman Khan be pocketing for himself?

A source from the crew of Tubelight has revealed that the film has been made at a budget of Rs 170 crore, and Salman Khan has taken a signing amount of Rs 60 crore. This is due to the fact that all his films bag satellite rights worth Rs 60 crore, which is regardless of its box office fate.

It was further revealed that Salman will also be bagging half the profits of the film. This could also be because he is the producer on the film, as Tubelight is jointly produced by Kabir Khan Films and Salman Khan Productions. (Please note that these figures are not verified by the makers of the film).

Salman Khan acquitted in Jodhpur for Arms Act case: The actor has paid his dues ‘deerly’ let it go now

It would have been dead of old age by now.

That Salman and company shot the deer 18 years ago is pretty much an accepted truism.

Salman Khan. Image courtesy News18

The Jodhpur court ruling that Khan be given the benefit of doubt makes one wonder where the doubt is? Unless the chinkara died of fear or was so overwhelmed by the star’s presence the bullet wound in his body would have wiped out any doubt that it was slain by gunfire. Bullets have a funny way of leaving the barrel of a weapon and striking the target they were meant for. The slug can also be traced back to the weapon and through its rifling and the groove marks be 100 percent identified as to which weapon it was chambered into.

It took eighteen years to get to this point and underscore the doubt. Says very little for our justice system but in a nation where ‘shikar’ not so long ago was an accepted practice of the royals, the zamindars, the nawabs, the armed forces and the landed gentry and sundry VIPs the harassment and mental agony of 18 years certainly serves as a severe and undeserved penalty and punishment for this actor. Just the pressure of never knowing if you are going to be locked up and being shunted from town to town makes the dues paid for his crime paid in full and with pernicious interest.

We go into depression if a bank calls about an overdue credit card payment by a day. A missed EMI sends us into a panic.

For 18 years we hounded this man just to let him off the hook with timid dispensation.

The hypocrisy is astounding. And widespread. On the way to Shimla you pass a town called Solan. On one of the U turns one used to get the finest venison and partridge pickle in the world. It probably still is available even though to the chosen few.

The armed forces regularly shot down sambhars and cheetals for a bara khana (feast) for the brigade commander and they often used semi-automatic weapons fired into the herd. Plump black or brown partridge may be officially banned but are probably trapped and still served on executive and government officials’ tables. If fish was on the menu the use of a 90 grenade in a pond would stun a few dozen freshwater fish in a balloon of water caused by the explosion and also destroy the eco-system of that pond which probably took years to form.

No one thought anything of these exercises. From Jhansi to Gwalior to Jabalpur to the forests of Rajasthan to the foothills of Kumaon, Jammu Tawi and Udhampur, from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh’s lush forests hunting was a sport.

You did not have to like it but it was a sport.

Even the laws are archaic. Shooting deer may be illegal but the nilgai which is now classified as vermin for the crops it destroys is running riot because of the security in its name. it is not bovine cattle, but belongs to the antelope family. In 2016 Bihar ordered wild boar and nilgai to be culled because of their nuisance. Woe betide anyone who might shoot a nilgai especially if it becomes a caste thing. Try explaining that National Geographic calls it an antelope when the lynch mob is stringing you up.

Certainly, a law was broken in Salman Khan’s case but you have to be particularly vindictive to think he should be punished further.

Eighteen years of harassment for suspected killing of a deer.

In a country where the walls of every lodge, every ‘bara sahib’ club, every armed forces ‘koi hai’ mess are covered with the heads and skins of wildlife this robbery of a man’s peace of mind is an injustice in itself.

Salman Khan and Kabir Khan are teaming up for a fourth film together after Tubelight

Salman Khan is fast becoming director Kabir Khan’s lucky mascot. Or should we say, vice versa?

The duo gave us two blockbusters in Ek Tha Tiger (2012) and Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), and the runaway success of these projects led them to join hands again for Tubelight, which is currently under production, first in Ladakh and now in Manali.

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Now, if recent reports are to be believed, Salman Khan and Kabir Khan will be teaming up again for Atul and Alvira Agnihotri’s home production.

Rajkumar Santoshi was to reportedly direct the movie but things did not fall into place. It was then Salman who recommended that Kabir take the project on.

DNA reports, “Salman has immense faith in Kabir as a filmmaker. When Atul and Alvira were looking out for a director to helm their next project, Salman suggested Kabir’s name. He has become like a family member to the Khans.”

The actor and the filmmaker are currently shooting the second schedule of Tubelight. After its completion, the director will move on to his next – a film, based on the 1983 Cricket World Cup victory of India, which will be produced by Phantom Films. The cricket drama is expected to go on floors later this year.

As for the actor, Yash Raj Films recently announced Tiger Zinda Hai, the sequel to Ek Tha Tiger, starring Khan and Katrina Kaif. The movie will be directed by Ali Abbas Zafar of Sultan fame and will hit the theatres on Christmas 2017.

Animal activists protest against Salman Khan’s acquittal in poaching case

Bikaner: Scores of activists from the Bishnoi community have protested against the acquittal of Bollywood actor Salman Khan by the Rajasthan High Court in two cases related to poaching of Chinkaras in Jodhpur in 1998.

Salman Khan. PTI

Bishnoi community members, who are known for their love of wild animals especially chinkaras and deers, held protests and burnt posters of the actor yesterday.

“We protested against the acquittal of Salman Khan in the cases and burnt his posters,” Vijay Delu, district president of Akhil Bhartiya Jeev Raksha Vishnoi Mahasabha said.

Bab Lal Jaju of animal welfare organization ‘People for Animals’ said the decision of the high court has disappointed animal lovers.

“Yesterday was a black day for animal lovers. We are disappointed and urge the state government to challenge the order in the Supreme court,” Jaju said on Tuesday.

The court had held that the pellets recovered from the Chinkaras were not fired from Khan’s licensed gun.

Everybody loves a bad boy like Salman Khan who makes a good ‘Sultan’

Then comes along a film magnificently titled Sultan, with him being both a good and a bad human, and the fans couldn’t care less about who the real Salman Khan is. What harm can it do to go spend a few hundred bucks to watch him in a langot, rub Bharat mata ki mitti with his hands to literally show what a great son of the soil can do. Except, he does this not for the country but for his love.

This son of the soil is an overgrown middle aged superstar playing a thirty something buffoon jumping across terraces and trees to chase kites (not skirts—brownie point). While at it, he crashes into a helmet covered girl on a bike and her tight slap makes him grin like an idiot and sit on a donkey. Because the grand dilwala is in love with a feisty girl (who is half his age).

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Then to woo her, he crashes into a wedding (but, of course what’s a blockbuster without weddings) and slaps his butt and sings, “baby ko bass pasand hai”.  All right, he’s got some moves there. Why doesn’t he just stick to just that?

But that’s not enough for the Haryanvi ‘baby’ who is a wrestling champion herself and wants someone worthy of her. Finally something makes sense here, but our nonsense man will have none of it.

He will do anything to win her over. Even take off his pants since he has to evolve from the shirtless Dabangg character he has been. He will bare his beefed up torso and his shapely waxed legs, get into a langot, and he will slap his muscled arm and thigh like a true blue desi, Haryanvi wrestler. Since he has never done much beyond driving a few tractors on his father’s farm, he’ll need some kind of a magic wand.

With love is in his mind and heart, and the precious soil on his hands, it takes barely a few weeks for him to become that champion and change the way the Haryanvi baby looks at him. He finally does get her, though. End of story.

Oh but wait. At one point in the film, Sultan alludes to the fact that he wasn’t knocking off big, strong wrestlers for Aarfa. He was wrestling with himself. We soon realise that it’s a story of Sultan vs. Sultan on screen, and a story of Salman vs Bhai, off screen.

But don’t the fans love both really? Somewhere, deep down everyone loves this bad boy who refuses to grow up as he constantly finds a way to redeem himself with his Being Human social work activities and the good son of the soil image on screen. The bad boy paves the way for the good boy on screen. Without one, there can’t be the other.

Salman, with his history of getting into trouble with cars and girlfriends and a few knocks in the court, may just be fighting his own spoilt, brash boy image, and may be constantly trying to fit into a real 50 year old self, the professional that delivers blockbusters after blockbusters. For all we know.

But maybe Salman’s character on screen and off screen needn’t fight. He is doing just fine, creating controversies and ringing in Eid with big box office numbers. It’s a unique duality, but one that is laughing all the way to the box office. Some soil-rubbing, a taut body and kushti/MMA fight scenesand a dance with a pat on the butt does the work for the most part.

Salman Khan rape remark row: Amid growing controversy, no apology from actor yet

Here’s the latest on the Salman Khan rape remark row.

Amid the controversy regarding his comments, Maharashtra State Commission for Women has asked Salman to appear for a hearing on 7 July.

The actor — who had been issued a summons by the National Commission for Women for 29 June, and had been asked to apologise for making a derogatory comment — has now responded to the NCW via his legal representatives.

Salman's lawyers responded to the NCW's notice to the actor over his 'rape' remark

News reports said that the NCW is now assessing Salman’s reply — which, apparently, does not contain an apology for the remark, through his lawyers.

Several TV channels have claimed that Salman has said that he is a victim of his celebrity status, and his comments have been misinterpreted.

Salman had said that the physically exhausting shoot schedule for his upcoming wrestling drama Sultan left him “feeling like a raped woman”.

He made the remark to a group of mediapersons who were interviewing him regarding Sultan.

However, he had immediately retracted his statement, admitting, “I should not have (said that)…”

The actor’s comment, however, triggered national outrage as his flippant remark was seen as the insidiousness of rape culture in our society.

Several fans of the actor rushed to his defence, even as his father Salim Khan issued a public apology on Twitter.

Salman himself has stayed silent silent on the issue, and only made a passing allusion to it at the just-concluded IIFA awards in Madrid, where he said, “Knowing me, the lesser I speak the better”.

At the time of publishing this report, it is not clear exactly what was contained in the reply Salman’s lawyers have made to the NCW’s notice.

Salman Khan just can’t seem to say sorry for his rape remark

Maybe Salman Khan should realise that the solution to the current predicament he is facing involves doing something very simple: saying sorry.

On Wednesday, Khan responded to the National Commission for Women (NCW) via his legal representatives over the controversy created after he had earlier said that the physically exhausting shoot schedule for his upcoming wrestling drama Sultan left him “feeling like a raped woman”.

News reports have said that the NCW is now assessing Khan’s reply — which, apparently, does not contain an apology for the rape remark.

Salman Khan has to apologise for his remark, which used rape as an analogy to describe exhaustion. AFP

In fact, India Today TV reported that in his response, Khan has said that the “NCW should not have taken suo motu cognizance (of this issue).”

Yet again, Khan blew all our minds with his amazing Bhai logic.

Because of course, “the apex national level organisation of India with the mandate of protecting and promoting the interests of women” should take absolutely no interest when an actor with a huge fan following trivialises rape by comparing the trauma faced by a rape victim to the exhaustion felt after an intense shoot.

Reports have also said that the Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) has also now summoned Khan for a hearing on the matter on 7 July.

Because of his stubborn refusal to apologise, Salman Khan is actually creating more troubles for himself. But despite all the media outrage, summons by a government body, an apology from his father and even Bollywood’s divided views on his rape remark, Salman Khan simply refuses to apologise.

This points out something very important: Either Khan actually believes that he did absolutely nothing wrong or he has such a big ego that an apology is simply not an option. Because after all, how can Bhai, the superstar, apologise?

Watch: The real star of ‘Sultan’ trailer is Salman Khan’s Haryanvi accent

There’s a dialogue in the much-awaited trailer of Salman Khan’s next film, Sultan, which goes something like this, “Asli pehlwaan ki pehchaan akhade mein nahin, zindagi mein hai (a fighter’s real identity is not found in the ring, but in life).”

This can be aptly said about Salman Khan’s life. In contrast to his larger-than-life, on-screen image is his personal life — full of controversies. Balancing between the two can be quite the fight. Ever since his legal battles have grabbed the country’s collective attention, we have seen Salman try to give us on-screen characters that are largely white in the black/white scale.

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However, after 25 years in the industry, it was finally with Bajrangi Bhaijaan that we saw something in Salman that we probably would not associate with him before: hard work. We saw a star who believed in his character and played it to a good degree of its potential.

In Yash Raj Films’ Sultan, Salman’s hardwork can be amply seen in the training he must have undergone to develop and maintain an impressive physique through the shooting of the film.

But that is Salman’s forte. What really takes you by surprise in the trailer is his Haryanvi accent. It’s not completely authentic, by any means, but it surprisingly works. It’s not the kind of accent you hear in a metro in Gurgaon, but it’s an accent that will remind you of a Haryanvi kushti player.

The trailer itself is quite telling of the sports drama that Sultan is going to be. It’s entertaining in places and holds your attention enough to let the goofy bits pass by.

Anushka Sharma, who has been breaking out of her bubbly girl phase with movies like Bombay Velvet and NH10, seems like a fitting co-actor for Salman. Her character of Aarfa, a female wrestler, is not the typical Hindi film heroine by a mile, but she retains the spark we have grown to love in her.

She’s our second favourite aspect about the Sultan trailer, after Salman’s accent. We love it because it finally shows us that he’s taking his movies seriously.

Sultan’ in legal trouble: Complaint filed against Salman Khan and director Ali Abbas Zafar

Salman Khan recently thanked the administration and general people of Muzaffarnagar after shooting for his upcoming film Sultan.

A certain Ehtesham Siddiq, however, does not seem to reciprocate the actor’s feelings. Ehtesham has filed a complaint in a local court against Salman Khan and Sultan director Ali Abbas Zafar alleging the movie was shot in Morna area of the district but the location was shown as Rewari in Haryana.

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According to the prosecution, the judicial magistrate has fixed May 3 for hearing the case. The complainant alleged that crew has been shooting in Morna area but the place was shown as Rewari. He also claimed the people of Muzaffarnagar are annoyed.

On April 29, Salman had tweeted about his shooting experience in the town claiming he had “2 much fun”.