Chulbul key to Salman's rise

For nine years, he has lived as Chulbul Pandey in what he calls a "parallel existence".

If the maverick cop of planet Dabangg defines Salman Khan's superstardom more than any of his other screen avatars, the actor has now opted to become a part of the creative process driving Chulbul's mojo.

He has turned screenwriter for the lucrative franchise with Dabangg 3, which is releasing today.

"Working on a popular character and franchise is not that easy. Audiences have certain expectations from the franchise and it is imperative that the next instalment should meet the criteria," Salman told IANS.

Getting into the third Dabangg film happened with an obvious advantage.

"It is indeed a benefit that the material has been tested and approved by the audience in the form of appreciation over the past two instalments," explained the actor about the blockbuster series that has played a big role in taking his stature as a pop icon to an altogether different sphere.

If Chulbul has indeed come to share a parallel existence with him, turning writer for the series was in a way a form of self-expression.

"While playing any character on screen, I take 25 per cent of that character back home," said Salman.

"In the last nine years, with two successful instalments of the franchise, I have been living this character and seeing constant love from the audiences for the character Chulbul.

"There have been strong thoughts and curiosity in all our minds about the origin of Chulbul Pandey and his journey - of how a common man became Chulbul Pandey."

Dabangg 3, which traces the story of protagonist Chulbul, is directed by Prabhudeva.

While Sonakshi Sinha returns as Chulbul's wife Rajjo, Mahesh Manjrekar's daughter Saiee makes her debut as Chulbul's one-time romantic interest. Kannada superstar Kichcha Sudeep is the antagonist.

Prabhudeva has primarily worked in the Telugu circuit and Sudeep is a big draw in Karnataka.

So it is easy to see why Salman and his co-producers, brother Arbaaz Khan and Nikhil Dwivedi, came up with the brilliant idea of releasing Dabangg 3 in four languages.

Besides Salman's home language Hindi, the film will also open in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

Salman underplays the thought that a four-language release is a winning strategy against piracy.

"The franchise has received immense love from the audience and so I am not worried about piracy. I trust my fans," he said.

"They will definitely only prefer to experience this journey in the theatre. If the content is good, people across the country would want to watch regardless of language and culture.

"Hindi audiences have always shown immense love for South content. The South audiences will give the same kind of love for Hindi films."

At 53, Salman is at an interesting stage of his life and career. Some of his recent films, such as Tubelight, Race 3 and Bharat have not fared well at the box-office.

Yet, with every release - irrespective of the film's fate - his stardom only seems to grow, fiercely propped up by an ultra-loyal fan base that will brook no criticism of their hero.

Salman attributes his success to hard work and, importantly, a keen sense of the audience's taste.

"I am always intrigued by and aware of what the audience would like to see," he said.

"The amount of hard work I have done in my first few films is the same amount of hard work I have put in my recent releases, along with a little more experience and awareness. Of course there is competition from the newer lot of actors, but that's in a good way."

After almost three decades of hard work, he has become a box-office demigod. But it has also brought a few storms in its wake.

How has he learnt to deal with crises and controversies over the years? "Such is life," he said.

"Nothing about my life is hidden from people. They know about the challenges that have come in my life and they also know how I have dealt with them, and that perhaps has made me what I am today."

Radhe, his next release after Dabangg 3, has already started garnering a buzz, long before it is due for release next year.

The ongoing Bigg Boss season 13 has also generated abundant fireworks on the telly screen lately.

On Radhe, Salman is guarded. He won't reveal much beyond the fact that the film is still being shot and that the entire unit is "working hard to meet expectations".

On Bigg Boss, he is willing to open up more.

He has seen housemates grow more aggressive with each passing season. He finds a rationale behind the boorish way contestants often behave on the show.

"They (the contestants) live in another world for those few weeks and the situations they face are not easy to deal with on a regular basis," he reasoned.

"Every individual has his or her own reaction to any situation they are placed in."

What is his game plan for the future?

"There is no game plan, I go with my instinct," said Salman with characteristic candour.

Indo-Asian News Service

"The franchise has received immense love from the audience and so I am not worried about piracy. I trust my fans." - Actor Salman Khan


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