Not joking when I say Katrina deserves a National award: Salman Khan
Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif on stardom, the theme of familial bonding in Bharat, and their mutual admiration as co-stars
Probe Salman Khan on the transient nature of stardom and the 53-year-old actor waxes humble. “It will always fade away,” he says, matter-of-factly. Now ask him how long he thinks he can keep the old horse running and he pegs it at “another 30-35 years.” He’s joking. But he might as well not be.
A stark equivalence of Salman’s unmatched screen durability can be found in his upcoming release, Bharat. The film follows an ordinary man on an extraordinary life run, punctuated by specific eras and looks, just like fans have witnessed Salman’s rise from the lean dreamboat in Maine Pyar Kiya to the Bhaijaan he is of today. The rules of the game have certainly changed over the decades, and not one superstar has been spared the grilling and rejection of an ever-evolving audience makeup. Yet the waning of Salman Khan still seems a long way off, a distant lone cloud yet to register its threat. “Shah Rukh, myself, Aamir, Akki... we are the only ones who have been able to put it off for such a long time,” Salman says. “We’ll try our best to keep it going for another few years. And then, like all superstars, our box-office collections will dip to 8%, 10 %... But I don’t think that has started yet.”
There are other parallels, more personal ones, to be drawn between the Bharat on screen and off. A love for the family, a larger-than-life persona, Katrina Kaif — is all of that co-incidental? “The plot of the film is about a nine-year-old boy who is given the responsibility of taking care of his mother and three siblings. From his childhood to the age of 72, he does everything to see that they are together and they settle down,” Salman points out, adding, “In my case, it’s actually the ulta (opposite). I need the support of my family (laughs).”
Announced last year, Bharat was supposed to star Priyanka Chopra as the female lead. Salman and Priyanka were previously paired in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Salaam-E-Ishq and God Tussi Great Ho. As it turned out, Priyanka had to drop out of Bharat because of her wedding, a decision Salman commends as ‘brave, bold and amazing’. “She came home and spoke to me. I told her it’s a damn good thing that she is getting married. Why should I be upset? I think it’s an outstanding step she took.”
Katrina Kaif, who was roped in at the last minute to replace Priyanka, says the role of Kumud Raina is unlike anything she’s played before. The actor admits she’d expected the character to be a docile and traditional wife — quite the opposite of how director Ali Abbas Zafar had envisioned her. “When I read the script I realised she is a modern, self-made, strong woman in the 1970s. But at the same time, she’s feminine and wants to get married and have children. I liked that balance in the character,” she says.
Katrina shares she picked specific references to portray her part authentically. One major inspiration were the female Doordarshan news presenters of the ‘90s. “One of the scenes required me to read a long news script. There used to be no teleprompters in those days. Famous news readers like Salma Sultan would read from the paper in front of them. Also, the ladies of that time were a little more traditional, as Doordarshan was a conservative channel.”
Responding to Salman’s claim that she deserves a National award for Bharat, Katrina expounds, “We all know that when Salman speaks, he uses a lot of flair. I guess what he means by that statement is that I have worked hard on the character and made her as real as possible. As a co-star, you can always tell when someone has dug deep into a role.”
Salman, on the other hand, sticks to his word: “Katrina thinks I am joking. I am really not. I seriously think she deserves a National award and it will be a unanimous opinion once the film gets out.”
Bharat is slated for release on June 5 on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.