The most famous celebrities are the most lonely people on this earth. The more they are talked about, the more they are seen around via various mediums, the more their private and public relationships are made into gossips, the more the people enjoy the secret lives and the popular lives of the celebrity stars and star celebrities, the more they remain enigmatic. There is always something about their lives that escapes our scrutiny or grip. Paparazzis wait at the airports and party venues to get a glimpse of the celebrity stars so that they could quench the anxiety of so many fans waiting out there in the nebulous world for the glimpses of their personalities. It has always been like that; from simple ‘star’ gazing to the frantic calls for the star’s attention, the desire of the fans for the attention of the stars varies from devotion to pure madness. The star gazing that amounts voyeurism has now migrated to the virtual space where eyeballs gather maximum where sex, food, fashion, money and stars are given a flash. A sign of any degenerating society, India too shares it with many other world societies/countries. However, stars remain elusive and nobody knows why they seek to know more about these elusive stars.
(Bodyguard with bodyguard, Salman accompanied by his personal body guard Shera)
Salman Khan is an elusive star; or so says the author Jasim Khan in the latest book on Salman Khan, titled ‘Being Salman’. One need not think twice to know from where the allusion for the title comes. It comes from the now famous global brand, ‘Being Human’ by the star himself. According to the author, Salman Khan is the most enigmatic Khan amongst the three Khans, namely Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, who rule the Bollywood film industry and the entertainment industry in general in our country. Published by Penguin Viking, this book is said to be the outcome of three year research conducted by the author who is a journalist with the ABP Television channel. Perhaps, this book does not claim the status of an official biography for Salman Khan, despite several attempts did not speak to the author during the researching and writing of this book. That should be one reason why the author says that this question of elusiveness or enigma is in every body’s mind about the star. May be true or may not be because I am not a hardcore fan of any kind of stars in the world and I never lose my sleep over thinking somebody’s enigma. If at all I have thought about the enigmatic nature of someone, it is that of a girlfriend who in fact walked up to me when I was in some other land, smiled at me, held my hands, listened to me with rapt attention and walked out into the rain. It took some time for me to realize that it was a dream. But I am still curious about that person who apparently exist somewhere in the world.
(Shah Rukh Khan in his early film Darr..filling the cultural void)
Star value is not always based on the kind of aesthetic finesse that the actors show in the field of their work; it is based on several other things. To me, star power is based on the vacuum in time, which I would perhaps qualify as temporal cultural vacuum. It is to this vacuum many aspiring actors come and those who fit the bill with all the qualities capable of filling the void become the stars. There can’t be too many; but there are some. The society as whole desires some cultural need, some kind of a narrative structure, or a vehicle that is often manifested as a human body, dynamic, persuasive and seductive, to fulfill it’s some inexplicable needs. These needs are like the disembodied itch which only a certain sensation can quell, not really by a physical intervention. Stars are such people they give this pleasure of ending an itch and beginning another one in a disembodied fashion. Born in that act of mediation, the stars leave that one part which remains still unfulfilled and the public’s desire to know more about them comes from this unfulfilled part. It is not the curiosity of knowing closer but it the curiosity of put an itch into rest, which these stars have generated in them. Being normal people but very cautioned about public incursions into their private domains, the stars in due course time become bit guarded about their lives and remain elusive. I do not think that there is some enigma in it.
(Govinda and Salman in David Dhawan's Partner. Children's favorite)
Salman Khan is tipped to be the rudest and most benevolent amongst the Khans. His reticence to speak to the public media or his ability to confuse it with wise cracks add to his enigmatic personality, says the author. And his star value is equally enhanced by the controversies that find him in regular intervals, the abundance of girl friends around him, the falling in and falling out with starlets who would later on become super heroines, the court cases, alleged homicide of pavement dweller as a result of his rash driving of which he was absolved recently, his spat with the other Khans, his charity works, his painting, his bad boy image etc. These things may be very natural to him and the kind of monetary power that he has amassed over the years also might have made him to believe in his own invincibility. The author seems to be a bit overawed by this enigmatic personality. But I would say, that this enigma is a carefully cultivated strategy to be always there in the market for the class and the crowd that endorse his works mostly are constituted by semi-rowdy, happy go lucky, care free people who belong the lower income groups or the groups that recently started earning for their own living and single with a girl friend or boyfriend. A lot of children like the nonsensical comedy and low level repartee which Salman Khan belts out in equally nonsensical fashion and they insist their parents to take them to the movie hall.
There is a comparison in the book between Salman Khan and Rajnikant, which I find a bit stretched. While Rajnikant shows the possibility of making it real (except for his anti-gravity fights) despite the nonsensical comedy and punch dialogues, Salman’s movies do not work out the character having a possibility of becoming real. The impeccable personal track record of Rajnikant cannot be compared with a controversy ridden life of Salman Khan. But what makes Salman click is that there is no archetype for his acting style; in fact Salman does not know how to act. What he knows is to follow the cue of the director, stunt choreographer and the choreographer and improvise upon it in his typical nonsensical way, that too within the limited possibilities of his allegedly well-built body. Salman’s inability to act or emote, makes a novice in everything what he does that imparts some kind of innocence to his ‘acting’ which is very unique and appealing. Each actor has an archetype in Bollywood; Shah Rukh Khan has Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bacchan’s dance had Bagwan Dada’s steps, Aamir Khan got a bit of Sanjeev Kumar in him, Akshay Kumar is a refined and macho version of Raj Kumar, needless to say that the Deol family has got all what Dharmendra has. Salman does not have anything to showcase in his body including that of his father, Salim Khan’s short lived acting career.
(Poster of Maine Pyar Kiya, Salman's debut film in lead role)
In Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Salman followed the director. In ‘Hum Aap Ke hai Kaun’ (1994) too he agreed to ‘act’. In other films that followed especially in the new millennium, we see a Salman Khan who is actually defying all logic of acting. He just does not act. He is just awkward when he faces the camera. But the assumed macho image is something that gives him confidence. Nowhere in Salman’s career we see he is praised for his acting talent except when he received the best supporting actor award for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1999). People will never say about him what Barry John had talked about Shah Rukh Khan: if one asks for one emoting response for a context, Shah Rukh will give hundred different responses sending the one who asked for it in confusion. But no acting talent helps Salman to be in the business because the people who watch him do not know acting in their own lives either; they are simpletons who seek justice or children who will laugh when Salman plays the role of a love Guru or throws his punch dialogue in Dabaang.
(Akshay Kumar in Rowdy Rathore)
There is a problem with this book. The author largely invests his energies in establishing the ‘Khan’ khandan (family/lineage/gene/hereditary etc) in Salman’s blood. The first quarter of the book is actually a justification for why Salman is like this because he has got a warrior’s blood in him, that too comes from the Afghan Pathans. Throughout the book, I was thinking of this folly of writing about stars as descendants of some famous king or tribe which actually gives them this ability to be ‘there’, which Akshay Kumar had to break his throat and sing in one of his films that ‘Na hum Amitabh, na Dilip Kumar, na kisi hero ke bacche, mein seedhe saadhe Akshay akshay’ ( I am not Amitabh Bacchan, I am not Dilip Kumar, I am not even the son of some hero, I am just a normal Akshay Kumar). Of course there should be a justification in any book that has a semblance of biography with the lineage of the person in question. But somehow, in the attempt to establish the enigmatic nature and also the boorishness of Salman, the author has to invest a lot of energy in bringing the story of almost five generations of Khan. I was at pains to come to terms with the story of Shah Rukh Khan recently when he was attacked by the right wing fundamentalists for his free opinion, there was a spate of postings in twitter and social media citing his father’s contributions to the Indian army, therefore in the Indian nation state. Does one need such a justification for the King of Indian entertainment?
(Salman as a Television program anchor)
In of the television interviews Salman Khan says: “I still dream a better car, a better house, an aeroplane. I want to come out of these torn jeans and Being Human T-Shirt. Right now, I am doing everything that is not being human. I have become a contradictory personality. I like to go out and party. I like a good life style. But I have another side of not being able to afford all these things.” (quoted from the book . page 183). The context is that he has to make a lot of money to do his charity work. That’s good so long as a lot of people get benefitted (though it is not an issue to be taken lightly in black and white but I am leaving it for the time being). But looking at this statement, I clearly believe that Salman Khan’s enigma, at the age of fifty (he turned 50 on 27th December 2015) is his inability to be resolved. He still needs a better car (you may ask why not, but why is the counter question, why should at all?). Charity is voluntary; it is not imposed upon him. He can reduce the amount of charity and be less focused on money. He says he is a contradictory of personality (we are about to believe it) but he says he wants to party but he cannot afford it. He sounds almost like an Indian artist who once said on record that he was a ‘communist capitalist’.
(Salman Khan as the brand ambassador of his own brand)
Should anti-social behavior be called enigma? Once he was absolved of the drunken drive case, suddenly we saw a lot of ‘bhai activities’ in the media. Bhai here means ‘Salman Khan’. He is suddenly a pro-human being and sensible human being. I agree with the fact that Salman also has the right to reform himself even if he is not expected to spoil his career by improving his acting skills, and become a good human being (which he must be), my doubt is why the poor people should pay the price for him being ‘human and enigmatic’. If Salman ever reads this essay, I would like him to know that the day he came out victorious in the homicide case, I decided to stop watching his movies because his films no longer gives me a ‘kick’ or entertainment because behind it, I see only blood of the innocent.