Salman Khan: Lazy At The Top

22 Jun,2018

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

September 10, 2010 marked the release of a film that would go on to shape the next decade in Hindi cinema in an unmistakable way, giving it a true superstar who will rule through that period. The film was the imaginatively-titled Dabangg.

 

Over these eight years, Salman Khan’s stardom has acquired a cult status that last seen with Amitabh Bachchan in the late 70s and the early 80s. There have been phasesin the 1985-2005 period when other stars have been firmly on top. But none of those stints have matched Khan’s current one, either on their tenure or on the sheer size of the fandom itself.

 

Salman Khan has given 13 releases in this period, from Dabangg to the recent Race 3. He has also hosted eight season of the immensely-popular Bigg Boss, has been through his share of controversies and court cases, and has been kept busy inhis philanthropy cum image makeover initiative, Being Human. He’s clearly not resting his stardom out.

 

Very few in the media industry truly understand his star power. In times of low attention spans and rapidly-changing tastes, to hold onto a fan base for nearly a decade is unimaginable. Three out of his 13 films have been box office failures of varying degrees (Jai Ho, Tubelight and now Race 3). But each of these have opened to big numbers and done business that even the biggest hit of many younger stars struggle to do. It’s almost as if Khan has created a world of his own, with his own benchmarks, and is running a one-horse race. And that can, sometimes, be a cause for concern.

 

With the exception Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan, Khan is used to being ridiculed by the critics for his choice of films and his ‘vanity project’ approach to them. He has been brazenly dismissive of this criticism, and his fans have supported him by delivering the numbers at the box office. Take for instance his last release before Race 3. Tiger Zinda Hai got poor reviews across the board but emerged a big success, sustaining for four weeks at the box office and doing 300+ Crore business in India.

 

But Race 3 could be a watershed for Khan. It is the first Khan film that even his fans seem to have disowned. Even with the tacky Jai Ho and the dull Tubelight, the fans found silver linings to hold on to. But not with Race 3. The film has been the target of social media jokes and memes, and Khan’s acting skills have come under severe criticism. The fans may not have spearheaded this attack, but they have not trolled those engaged in it. For the first time, it seems, they can see that their star needs to be told that he needs to take his work more seriously.

 

And that’s perhaps what the criticism is about, at its core:“That you are the biggest superstar of this country, have all the resources at your will, can get to work with people and on scripts that you want to, set the rules you want to work by. And yet, you choose this silly, spoof-ish film. Why would you do this to your fans?”

 

Contrary to what many would say, I don’t believe it’s arrogance at work, where one would tend to think that “anything I do will work anyway”. It’s a sense of laziness and mild complacence, of the type that one-horse races can often bring with them. It seems Khan’s hunger to achieve even higher success has died just a bit. It’s evident not just in Race 3 (through its promotions and then in the film itself), but also in his TV show 10 Ka Dum, which premiered three weeks ago on Sony. Khan looks only mildly interested in the show, going through the motions and failing to lift it to a new level with his magical star touch. That’s far cry from his efforts on Bigg Boss, where his hosting is generally of the highest level. He’s also not looking his best in the film and the show, and that never helps.

 

Race 3 would be a forgotten chapter when his next release Bharat comes our way. But the larger question will remain: How will the history of popular cinema remember Salman Khan? As a megsatar who set new trends, or as a megastar who created a certain type of cinema and limited himself to it, thereby squandering the opportunity to shape an industry he firmly ruled.

 

Khan is no rookie. Having worked for 30 long years, he would understand all of this. The real question is: Does he care enough?

 

 

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