Salman Khan is enjoying the cool ocean breeze in his garden. Looking super-relaxed after a yummy home-cooked lunch, he talks him about his next production LoveYatri, a film in which he introduces two newcomers, Aayush Sharma and Warina Hussain.
Sipping on his black coffee as we drink our ginger tea, the actor-producer takes us through his role as a mentor to several upcoming newbies.
You seem committed to launching new talent; the latest being Aayush Sharma and Warina Hussain.
Back in the day, I was a newcomer looking for that magical break. I was fortunate that the makers of Biwi Ho Toh Aisi (1988) and Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) gave me the opportunity. Today, I’m in a position to introduce youngsters. If a film is made within the right budget and the boy and the girl have a spark, it’s okay to produce it. Initially, there was a fear to back a newcomer because the money is yours and so is the responsibility. Earlier, everybody was more forgiving. Today, everything is put under a microscope. If you introduce talent, you need to invest in them and ensure that they put their best foot forward. Even before the film releases, someone has a problem with the title, there’s social media, some or the other story is coming out, so it’s difficult to keep up and ensure everything stays in place. Production-wise, if you can make the movie within the right budget, you will land safe. The satellite and digital rights fetch enough for you to cover the costs. However, what is important to me is to make a nice product and ensure that it’s a safe bet.
When did you first spot that spark in Aayush?
It was Sohail (Khan) who first mentioned Aayush to me, long before I had met him. We were planning a film called My Punjabi Nikaah. Sohail said that he had seen this boy at the gym. He didn’t know his name, but felt he was apt for the film. Cut to the point when Aayush came home to ask for Arpita’s hand in marriage. We were called to meet him and while we were standing, Sohail whispered that this was the same guy whom he had suggested for My Punjabi Nikaah. That’s how the whole thing started. I joked to myself saying, “Ab toh yeh picture free mein karega,” (laughs). That was it. He’s a hard-working boy, he spent four years with me and worked on Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Tubelight and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017). So being with me, he has seen how one works. He is into photography and is also a film buff. So, instead of someone else launching him, we felt it was best for us to give him a break under our banner. I know people will start a debate on — what’s so great about giving a break to someone from the family, etc. But honestly, I don’t give a damn about what people say. I’m of the view that he is our boy, our talent, if we don’t have the confidence to launch him, how can anyone else do the same?
You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Something like that. There were big guys who wanted to sign him, but we had a beautiful subject. I asked him to hear it and told him that if he liked it, we would be happy to produce it. In the interval itself, Aayush said that this was something up his alley. The movie is not about him fighting 10 guys, it’s got romantic scenes, it’s a contemporary subject, it’s got superb music, there’s no sex, vulgarity or double-meaning dialogues, it’s clean pure content.
How about Warina?
Both the boy and the girl are really good. The way they have danced, their chemistry on screen, the way Abhiraj K Minawala has shot the film, it’s great. Warina is a fabulous actress, she is a natural. She is superb even in the most difficult scenes.
You launched Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty in Hero (2015). You’ve also signed on newbies Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Behl.
It takes time to find and nurture new talent. You also need immense faith and patience. Sometimes, the boy and girl do not work in their first film. However, if you are committed to them, you cannot say, ‘Isko mat lo, yeh nahin chala, woh nahin chala.’ You can’t leave them.
You have a dedicated talent-management division, too.
Being Talented (our talent management company) has a slightly different way of working as compared to others. We support newcomers and since we also have a production house, we make films with them. At the same time, they can also do outside movies. We’re not fixated on numbers, it’s about finding newbies and nurturing them.
This is yet another facet to you. Besides, Salman the superstar, Salman the producer, you are now Salman the mentor, Godfather?
These guys are really good. Please, I am no Godfather. I’m their mentor. If someone comes to me, saying mujhe launch kar do, I’m not going to do it instantly. Till the time I don’t see the spark, dedication and devotion to their craft, I won’t think about it. These are the guys I have seen, they are hardworking. I’ve seen Zaheer preparing since Jai Ho (2014). There’s no angst or frustration about waiting. Aayush also has been ready for a long time. The way they have maintained their bodies and worked hard makes me proud. Zaheer was an assistant with me like Sooraj and Aayush. I was an AD for four films before I became an actor. There are no shortcuts; ki koi aapko launch kar de.
You believe in investing in them forever…
My job is to sign them and give them important films. Their job is to use the opportunity well and stay invested in themselves. I gave a break to a girl who was not doing too well in her career with one of my big films. It was a runaway hit, but instead of capitalizing on the success, she went ahead and got married. That becomes a waste. Marriage is a good thing. All girls and boys must marry. However, the point I am making is that if you fritter away a chance or if you don’t utilize an opportunity given to you to the fullest, it becomes slightly disappointing. Believe me, it’s hard to find a big break. There are hundreds of thousands who pray, leave everything behind and come looking for that break. If you are fortunate to get one, do not let it become a wasted opportunity. Please use it. That focus has to be there.
Do you think star kids are less focused than outsiders or say, sons of technicians like you who is a script-writer’s son or Ajay Devgan who is an action director’s son?
One cannot generalize. Star kids may get a break faster than others, but they also work hard to keep up. One must know that the real education in the industry doesn’t come from affluence. It comes from not looking at life through rose-tinted glasses.
Do you ever feel burdened while launching new talent?
No, on the contrary, I feel much lighter. There are so many films you want to do, but you can’t because you don’t have the dates. These guys will take up those movies. Earlier, we used to act in six-to-eight films a year. I don’t know how we managed, but today, even if we want to, we can’t.
So, you’re planning to stick to acting in three movies a year?
Three looks difficult. I manage to do two a year (smiles)