Thirty years ago, on August 22, 1988, Salman Khan set foot, so to speak, on the marquee with a second lead or supporting role in Biwi Ho To Aisi. He was teamed opposite Renu Arya, a face that was never seen again. Ironically, she can be called the first of many new faces who were introduced opposite him! Rekha and Farouque Shaikh were in the leads, and no song was filmed on this man, who had been a model.
Salman played the role of Farouque’s younger brother in the movie and was introduced with a back view of him dancing to loud music in his room. During his TV show Dus Ka Dum recently, the actor revealed how and why he was cast in it.
“I met the film’s director and co-writer J.K. Bihari some year’s back and asked him why I was chosen,” recalled the superstar. And he was told that after the secondary role was rejected by many actors, Bihari was completely frustrated. When one fine day, he was at his garage- turned-office, Bihari told his team that the next idiot to walk in would bag the film.
“And it was me!” laughed Salman, who, however, had entered the garage in style, and was convinced that he was signed because of his personality!
The film was “taken” to a Silver Jubilee (a 25 week run), but the trade was unanimous in calling it a flop. However, today its repeat run on television, which can hardly be ascribed to Salman’s tiny role, shows a fair degree of popularity.
But this was actually Salman Khan’s second break, though his first in cinema.
The first break: modeling
Born December 27, 1965, Salman Khan had actually done his first ad in 1980, for a then-leading soft drink brand called Campa Cola. The ad featured Aarti Gupta Surendranath and Ayesha Shroff, wife of Jackie Shroff, with whom Salman as a star went on to do three films, Bandhan, Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye and Kyon Ki… . Interestingly, as a superstar, Salman later went on to endorse Thums Up from the same (Coca-Cola Company), Limca and Mountain Dew besides a myriad other products.
As a struggler, Salman never ever told people that he was the son of top writer Salim Khan, of the Salim-Javed team. But the acting genes must have come from there, for Salim had acted in several films in the 1960s, mainly in small and supporting roles. He slogged his way up slow and steady.
He struck a bond with actor Kumar Gaurav, then a big star, and Kumar would give him his old jeans or occasionally, his car to impress a girl with whom he had a date! Suniel Shetty, owner of the boutique Mischief and not yet an actor, once presented Salman a set of jeans that were unaffordable for him when he had visited his shop just to explore things he could not afford then!
Salman also recalled Govinda as a huge star shooting in the same studio where Salman was waiting as a model for a shoot. After a shot, Govinda saw Salman watching him and asked “Was my shot good?”
All these incidents made a mark on his psyche and Salman never forgot that he had to keep himself always grounded and also use his position to help those who needed everything from money and comfort to a break in films! His long list of protégés is headed by Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Himesh Reshammiya, Sajid-Wajid and now a whole list of newbies, including bro-in-law Aayush Sharma.
The third break: Maine Pyar Kiya
It was on December 22, 1989 (online sites insist it was December 29, but we remember that it was the penultimate Friday) that Maine Pyar Kiya hit the screens and a superstar was born. The film simply proved to be the biggest hit of the entire decade, overthrowing both the ‘Ram’s—Ram Teri Ganga Maili from the top spot in the entire 1980s position, and Ram Lakhan from the ‘Biggest hit of 1989’ slot!
Later dubbed or remade in many languages, with its music trans-created in English and becoming a rage as one of the decade’s top three selling albums, it marked the debut of Sooraj R. Barjatya as writer-director, and Barjatya admitted that he had turned down Khan the first time as he found him “too small”. Vindoo Dara Singh, Deepak Tijori and (believe it or not) Piyush Mishra were in the running for this role, and there was buzz that Vikas Bhalla was a strong possibility as well!
The fourth break: Television
By 2008, Salman Khan was easily in the third place among the three Khans, his personal image sullied by numerous controversies, brushes with the law and foolhardy acts. It was the Sony Entertainment Television show 10 Ka Dum (as it was billed then) that got people to meet the real Salman Khan. Buzz is that Khan himself was unwilling but was goaded by his father to take up the show for the very purpose of reconnecting with the common man.
And Salman Khan recalls that people forgot everything about him and his clashes with people and the law, and all his screen characters, and was identified all over now as the man behind the hit show. More seasons of Dus Ka Dum (its present name) have followed, and for many years now, Salman and Bigg Boss are also synonymous.
The fifth break: The Mega-Star
How many actors achieve their biggest phase 21 years after they started out, while remaining superstars even earlier? Salman Khan’s Eid connection began with his 2009 hit Wanted, in which he also made his debut as a lyricist with the theme track ‘Wanted’ which he also sang and was composed by Sajid-Wajid.
But the real humdinger was Dabangg in 2010. Inside sources say that this film was a four-hour confused behemoth when shot, and that Salman and a well-known editor friend clipped it to a crisp 2.10 hour narrative. Everything about it was perfectly in sync, from the action, script, music and Sonakshi. And from then on, among lead films, Salman Khan has released nothing but (a minimum) 100 crore-grossing films, at latest count, 11 more of them!
The man for all vocations
In his 30 years in cinema, Salman Khan has also written the story (Chandramukhi) of a film, officially and through family members co-produced several movies. His first official production was the 2011 Chillar Party (into which he came in as a co-producer after it was complete!) which won him his first National award as producer (before Bajrangi Bhaijaan) as well as an international honour. He has also sung in multiple films, beginning with ‘Chandi Ki Daal’ in Hello Brother under Himesh Reshammiya all the way to his last release, Race 3.