Blood on stairs deepens mystery
Sacred and profane

Message is the man

Salman Khan’s latest was different from his usual template but still scored big at the box office

Iss picture mein Bhai,Bhai maafik nahin tha par kya farak padta hai. Bhai ka picture hain hum toh dekhenge na (In this movie,Bhai [Salman Khan is not like himself but that doesn’t matter. If he’s in a film,I’ll definitely watch it).” M,my faithful box office barometer outside Gaiety Galaxy shares this gyaan after having seen the latest tsunami hit of his favourite,Salman Khan,five times. He goes into raptures describing his favourite hero’s antics but reluctantly confesses that the film’s climax broke his heart. “Aise kaise Katrina ko plane udaane diya director ne. Bhai udata toh zyaada achcha hota. Bhai,hero hai after all (Why did the director let Katrina fly the plane? It would’ve been better if Bhai had done it,after all,he’s the hero),” he says. In M’s book,other than this uncool un-“Bhai maafik” action,Ek Tha Tiger is purrfect.

Since he found his mojo with Prabhudeva’s Wanted,Salman is scripting his own brand of Salman-specific movies. Having brought the formula back and with his star power currently at its zenith,he ensures that his film is a slave to the blockbuster. Ek Tha Tiger,however,is not the Bhai film that his fans typically go crazy over.

Ek Tha Tiger lacks that memorable commitment and ehsaan-type dialogue,that chartbuster song and that cool shirtless moment that makes the Salman template. As for the action,it’s slick,but when you can spot the stunt double doing the Salman moves — well,then it’s no fun. This one is for director Kabir Khan though — granted cinema is cheating,but it’s all about cheating well. That said,my Ek Tha Tiger money shot was when Salman stops a speeding tram with the help of his blazer,which he twirls quite nonchalantly around the wires. He hangs onto the cloth as the tram comes to a stop with not even a hint of a drop of sweat on his forehead. After the mission possible,he puts the blazer-cape back on and walks on casually. Phew. No wonder,the SMS joke goes: Hollywood has Spiderman,Batman,Superman,Ironman while we have Sal‘man’.

Ek Tha Tiger can safely be termed the most Un-Salman film in recent times. Yet it clicked. So much so that it is in the record books as the fastest and the second highest grosser ever. At the time of going to print,the film,at the end of its third week,has netted a total of Rs 194.13 crore (according to trade analyst Taran Adarsh). A mindboggling figure,especially when this is a film where Salman is not Salman. Producers Yash Raj Films went for the widest ever release when they carpet-bombed approximately 3300 screens in India and 1200 screens overseas.

It’s all about riding the wave. Salman is currently riding one just like Rajesh Khanna did at one time. They say the medium is the message; in Salman’s case the message is the man. People pay to watch him. They don’t care what he’s selling,they just want to buy. He can sell bananas in a film standing under a tree and it’ll be a hit. They really don’t pay attention,do they,these Salman fans? Take,for instance,the basic premise of Ek Tha Tiger and the timing of its release — both so glaringly at odds that it could have really boomeranged. The film released on Independence Day and is about an Indian secret agent who forsakes the country for his Pakistani lover. Did his fans notice? Did they even care to read the film? To quote M,“kya farak padta hai. Bhai ka picture hain hum toh dekhenge na (What difference does it make? If Bhai is in the movie I’ll watch it).”

The other big Bollywood story of the month was the controversy surrounding the release of Shirish Kunder’s Joker. Farah Khan’s husband’s much-touted sci-fi flick finally released last week and was declared DOA. Lead actor Akshay Kumar,who like Salman has had a dream run at the BO after two Rs 100 crore releases Housefull 2 and Rowdy Rathore,decided against promoting Joker. Sources close to Kumar say he felt “cheated” since Kunder had promised to make the film in 3D which didn’t happen. Kumar was unhappy with the final film and so he decided to stay away. Producers UTV also didn’t promote the film. Joker never really managed to create any buzz. Incidentally,Joker was the film Kunder wanted to make with Shah Rukh Khan,who turned it down,which led to Farah breaking away from her Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om star-producer. Farah then went on to direct her husband’s script (Tees Maar Khan) with Akshay. The tension between SRK and Kunder escalated last year when the latter tweeted,“I just heard a Rs 150 crore firework fizzle” the day Ra.One released. Earlier this year,SRK and Kunder got into a fight,where SRK punched him. A day later,they patched up and Farah announced that she will direct SRK in Happy New Year.

Wait,there’s more. While the Akshay Kumar-SRK connection with Farah Khan and Shirish Kunder is apparent,there is another superstar who is curiously linked to this: Tiger Khan. Salman was supposed to act in Kunder’s next,after Joker. The film,titled Kick,is produced by Sajid Nadiadwala but a couple of days before the release of Joker,it was announced that Nadiadwala,who happens to be Salman’s best friend,will now direct the project himself. The whispers said that the unflattering reports of Joker had led to Kunder’s ouster,but Salman came out in support of him and tweeted that he left the project to work on something else. Phew.

Controversies,mega successes,superstars tangled together — all that glitters about Bollywood. No wonder it’s so addictive.

harneet.singh@expressindia.com

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