Tiger Zinda Hai, which releases this Friday, is a sequel to his hit espionage thriller Ek Tha Tiger. It has all the ingredients that go into a Dabangg Khan film — high-octane action sequences, romance, and emotion. Most importantly, the movie brings him back in his macho larger-than-life avatar, which is much-needed after his previous outing as the slow-witted man-child in Tubelight failed. Now, Salman vows that he is done with different kind of cinema. Interestingly, all his forthcoming films are sequels of tried-and-tested hits. Excerpts from our chat with the one-man industry...
Why did it take so long to come up with a sequel to Ek Tha Tiger?
The recall value of Ek Tha Tiger (ETT), Dabangg, and Wanted is so strong that it is easy to pull off a sequel, but that’s only if your script is better than the first one. Sequels should not be like proposals; they should have something definitive to convey. Until such time, you should not touch it. The sequel of ETT has taken five years, though it could have been made earlier. It’s not as if there were four-five scripts (and nothing happened), they came up with only one script and that was it. The first thing I heard about the sequel was its title. When they told me it was going to be called Tiger Zinda Hai (TZH), I said done!
Kabir Khan directed ETT, but Ali Abbas Zafar is helming TZH...
(Cuts in) Yes, the first thing I told Ali was that Kabir had invested a year-and-a-half and given two-and-a-half hours screen time to Ek Tha Tiger. He had set the characters so well — Tiger, Zoya, and Chinoy. All Ali had to do was to take it to the next level. He had to not only make a film completely different from Sultan, but also make Tiger bigger. I told him ‘you have to get the plot right, the mission right, everything else — romance, gaane-waane ho jayenge’. Everything has to be there and on a larger scale. He said, he has the best plot ever and everything fell into place.
You are reuniting with Katrina Kaif five years after Ek Tha Tiger. How is it working with her now?
Katrina is the most hard-working girl that I have come across. She is sincere, dedicated and sharp. Sometimes people are so beautiful that you don’t give them credit for their work. That’s what has happened with Katrina. Her beauty takes away from her work. While, sometimes with those who are not so great looking, you say, ‘kya kaam kiya hai’. People who are really good looking on screen, you say star hai. For this film, I don’t see anyone other than Katrina fitting in. She trained for her action sequences for four hours every single day.
Your last release Tubelight in which you played a man-child did not do well. Looks like your fans don’t appreciate you moving away from your image...
Yes, I got to know that in the last film. But I have known this earlier because of Kyun Ki and Tere Naam. However, when the script of this film (Tubelight) came to me, this was my reading of the film — I thought times have changed. People want to see me in something different — they say ‘you take your stardom seriously’. Now, I have realised that my fans want to see me in the same kind of cinema that I have been doing. So, that is exactly what they are going to get. Starting with Tiger Zinda Hai, Bharat, Race 3, Dabangg 3 and the Kick sequel, I will give my fans exactly what they expect of me. Frankly, even I like doing these kind of films. In fact, I like watching these kind of films. Films like Tubelight, I can watch on TV — badi emotional hai ruladeti hai. Main kyun jaaon theatre rone ke liye? Emotions will always be there — our films don’t work without them. But if the entire film is so emotional ki theatre ke bahar nikalte hi your eyes are swollen, I wouldn’t want to go there.
But Tere Naam did well..
Yes, the first half did well because the character was superb. So, they tried Kyun Ki after that, but I told them there was no emotion in this, ‘You are making a depressing film’, and that’s what happened. Similarly after Bajrangi Bhaijaan, they thought we should do something with emotions and Tubelight happened jaha pe bhai peet rahe hai. Woh accha nahi laga fans ko. But when you see these films on TV, you will like them. When Andaz Apna Apna released it didn’t do well, but when it is shown on TV nobody changes the channel, same thing with Hello Brother. These films still get high TRPS on TV. When you see Tubelight at home you will love it.
What went wrong with Tubelight according to you?
The release date was not right. On a festive release date (Eid) you should give a festive film only, and not make people cry in the theatre. My fans were trying to find moments where they can celebrate, throw coins and do dhamaal masti. But they didn’t get that! The film did well, but in my standards it was a disaster. Meri dua hai ke har ek ki aisi disaster ho!
Do you feel you can find a middle path and do films like Dear Zindagi and Secret Superstar where Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan respectively had small but strong roles?
I have not gotten any film like that. Earlier, in some films I have done guest appearance and all, but it didn’t work. My take on this is when the audience is spending Rs 650 or Rs 950 on a ticket, they should get to see what they are going to see. If the whole publicity is going to be in my name, and I am there only for 25 minutes, it doesn’t make any sense to me. If I am in a film I should be there the way people expect me to, otherwise don’t publicise it as my film!
You were to co-produce Kesari with Karan Johar, but you backed out. Why?
Karan has his home production and I have mine. He had come to me long back with the project, but he did all the work from casting to everything. I thought just adding my name was not right.
There are reports that your brother Sohail Khan wants to make a sequel to Partner. Is that happening?
I am not aware of it. We did talk about it some time ago, though. However, Sohail and I are working on another film, Sher Khan, next year. I have started working a little harder and more than I was earlier, now. Fans want to see more of you. Usually I do two films a year, plus I am seen on TV where they get to see their star free of cost hosting shows.
Will you be hosting 10 Ka Dum next year?
Yes. That’s where they will get to see the real me.
What about Bigg Boss. Will you be hosting that also?
There will be 10 Ka Dum, then Bigg Boss, then 10 Ka Dum (laughs).
Comedies are doing well lately, Golmaal Again was a huge hit. Will we see you doing a comedy any time soon?
Yes, the genre is doing very well and I would love to do a comedy, something like Ready. A family comedy where Anees Bazmee meets Sooraj Barjatya!