Salman Khan is easily one of the most colorful personalities of the Indian film industry often making news because of his brattish, bad boy image, his repeated flashing of his torso on screen whether or not the role calls for it, his brushes with the law or his personal life. However, there are no two ways about it – he is a huge star and love him or hate him – you cannot ignore him. Such is his draw and fan following, particularly among women, that he has been at the helm of at least 5 films that have been the highest grossing films of those particular years. Along with Shah Rukh, Aamir and Akshay, he is the most stable actor as far as the box-office is concerned, both in India and overseas. And though never really taken seriously as an actor, even by himself, Salman has shown that he is a capable enough performer whenever the role calls for it in films like Khamoshi: The Musical (1996) or Baghban (2003).
Salman was born on December 27, 1965, the eldest son of Salim Khan, part of the famous writer duo, Salim-Javed. Compared to other star sons’ fancy launches, Salman’s debut as an actor was nothing to write home about. He played Farouque Shaikh’s younger brother in the Rekha dominated Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988), not making any impact whatsoever in his supporting role even if the film was a success at the box-office. However, noticing sparks in Salman, Sooraj R Barjatya cast him in the lead in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) opposite another newcomer, Bhagyashree. The rest as they (always) say is history. Maine Pyar Kiya, a cute and simple love story coming at the height of the action-wave in Bollywood was a super success at the box-office making Salman an instant heart-throb. Thanks to Maine Pyar Kiya, Salman not only won the Filmfare Award for Best Male debut but also a nomination for the Filmfare Best Actor Award.
Success followed success in Salman’s early career as his follow up films like Baaghi (1990), Patthar ke Phool (1991), Sanam Bewafa (1991), Qurbaan (1991) and Saajan (1991) all clicked. What’s more Salman’s strategy of being paired opposite new girls in these films (barring Madhuri in Saajan) be it Nagma in Baaghi, Ayesh Jhulka in Qurbaan, Chandni in Sanam Bewafa or Raveena Tandon in Patthar Ke Phool worked in his favor as he got all of the credit for the success of the films. he was hailed as a superstar.
What followed, however, was Salman’s worst phase in the film industry. His films started flopping one after another. One by one, every single release of his in 1992 and 1993 sank at the box-office. The same people who had built Salman up as a superstar wasted no time in dragging him down declaring him a flop star.
Fortunately for Salman, Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994) changed all that. Though dismissed by many as a loooong marriage video and nothing more, the film touched a very solid emotional chord in the Indian cinegoer’s psyche and went on to become one of the highest grossers ever in the history of Indian Cinema – in fact, it was the highest grosser till overtaken by Gadar – Ek Prem Katha (2001). HAHK proved to be a trend setter and extremely influential on subsequent mainstream Indian cinema as wedding songs and marriage rituals became a necessity in most Indian films thereafter. What’s more the film become a yardstick for defining Indian traditional values and its obvious affect on filmmakers like Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar cannot be denied. And leave alone films, many real life weddings in India began having the same functions and same games shown in HAHK with women copying Madhuri Dixit’s outfits in the film as well! And though Madhuri is the life of the film, Salman, re-uniting with Sooraj R Barjatya after Maine Pyar Kiya, is in fine form showing that there indeed could be an actor hiding inside Salman.
Post HAHK, there has been no looking back for Salman Khan. Though Andaz Apna Apna (1994) didn’t do as well as expected in its time, the film has since acquired a cult reputation and is one of the most popular films on the DVD circuit today and there have been the films that flopped like Sangdil Sanam (1994) and Veergati (1995). However, Karan Arjun (1995) co-starring Shah Rukh became the second highest grosser of the year after DDLJ with Salman perfectly playing the silent brooder Karan in the film as a perfect foil to Shah Rukh’s more extroverted Arjun and garnering a nomination for the Filmfare Best Actor Award.
Salman really showed his capacity as a performer in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Khamoshi: The Musical (1996). The film remains Bhansali’s most sensitive film to date and looks at the efforts of a young girl Annie (Manisha Koirala) to balance her life between her deaf and mute parents (Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas) and her boyfriend (Salman Khan) who encourages her to live her life the way she wants while pursuing her career as a singer. The film is full of small, memorable moments and sees career best performances from Salman Khan and Manisha Koirala. Just see Salman where he ‘interprets’ Annie’s speech and overcome by emotion, he breaks down. It is perhaps Salman’s finest moment as an actor.
With Judwaa (1997), Salman proved that David Dhawan could create magic even without Govinda. Salman scores heavily in the film in a double role and what’s more seems totally at home in the comic situations the film offers. Judwaa led to a fruitful partnership between David and Salman through films like Biwi No 1 (1999), Dulhan Hum Le Jaayenge (2000), Chal Mere Bhai (2000), Yeh Hai Jalwa (2002), Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya (2005)and Partner (2007). In each of them Salman scores in the comic sequences, getting more and more uninhibited and more goofy and zany with each film. What’s more, he really seems to be enjoying himself in the films. This zany side to him has since been successfully exploited by other directors as well like Anees Bazmee in whose No Entry (2005), Salman effortlessly steals the film from the rest of the ensemble cast that includes Anil Kapoor, Fardeen Khan, Lara Dutta, Esha Deol and Bipasha Babu.
Meanwhile, Salman finally won an award for his acting when he was given the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for his extended cameo in Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). Salman is extremely likeable in the film and is perfect as Kajol’s fiance who realizes that she loves Shah Rukh Khan and lets her go gracefully. What’s more even in Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998) he matched an actress like Kajol scene for scene, again displaying impeccable comic timing.
When not being funny, Salman made an impact in films like Tere Naam (2003) and Baghban (2003) proving that he was improving as an actor with time. What’s more, his star power even ensured that weaker films of his like Garv: The Pride (2004) took good initials at the box office. During this period he was voted the 7th most good-looking man in the world and the best looking Indian man by People Magazine, USA.
The going then got tough for Salman. Big budget films like Jaan-E-Mann (2006), Baabul (2006), Salaam-E-Ishq (2007) and Marigold (2007), his first International venture, all fell by the wayside making Partner his solitary success in this period. And even in Partner, his thunder is admittedly stolen by Govinda. But there have been other compensations. On January 15 2008, he became the fourth Indian actor following Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan whose wax replica is displayed at the world-famous Madam Tussauds’ Wax Musuem in London.
Otherwise, 2008 was a bad year for Salman. His releases like God Tussi Great Ho, Heroes and Yuvvraaj all fared dismally at the box office as did London Dreams and Main aurr Mrs Khanna in 2009. Wanted (2009), however, was a super hit helping him to bounce back big time. 2010 was again been mixed but better with Veer at one end and the hugely successful Dabangg.
After Dabangg, it has been one hell of a journey for Salman. Every film he has done since then is a huge, huge blockbuster be it Ready or Bodyguard in 2011 and Ek Tha Tiger, Dabangg 2 or Kick (2014), the one comparative disappointment being Jai Ho (2014). The critics may have trashed these films but that has made no difference to their performance at the box-office.
On the personal side, Salman’s bad boy image has been built up on his volatile relationships with his women be it Sangeeta Bijlani, Somy Ali, Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif. Of these, his relationship with Aishwarya Rai ended particularly sourly with Aishwarya claiming that he kept hounding her after the break-up. She has hinted that he got physical with her as well and her parents even lodged a police complaint against Salman. It is said he went to the Chalte Chalte sets and created a scene and refused to leave even when Shah Rukh, whose home production it was, tried to intervene. Aishwarya was ultimately dropped from the film and replaced by Rani Mukerji. Even his last relationship with Katrina seemed to have its full share of ups and downs with media items reporting repeatedly that the couple were close to a split or how Salman and Shah Rukh faught at Katrina’s birthday party! But Salman finally went on record declaring his intention to settle down with Katrina in 2009. Katrina on her side always kept a firm and dignified no-comments attitude on the relationship and refused to discuss it with the press. However, they are no more together now.
Salman has the knack of getting into trouble with the law. In 2002, he got arrested for rash and negligent driving after his car crashed into a bakery in Mumbai killing one person who was asleep on the sidewalk and injuring three others. Salman fled the spot and there has been much speculation as to who was actually driving the vehicle when the accident happened. He faced charges of culpable homicide against him, but later these were dropped and he was found not guilty. However, he still has to stand trial for a series of lesser charges pertaining to the incident. Then in 2006, Salman was sentenced to a year in prison for hunting an endangered species, the Chinkara. The sentence was stayed by a higher court during appeal and later he was handed a five year jail term. He was remanded to Jodhpur jail, and remained there till he was granted bail. In 2007, the Jodhpur sessions court, upheld the 5 year jail term, turning down his appeal against the earlier judgement. He was placed under police arrest in Jodhpur before being released on bail from the Jodhpur Central jail after he spent six days in prison. But such is his draw and magnetism, that his fans not only stood by him through all his ordeals but his stock only went soaring higher, despite the incidents.
Films apart, Salman has also hosted the game show Dus Ka Dam on Sony Televison as well as Bigg Boss seasons 4-7 on Colors. He has also started an NGO, Being Human, for helping the underprivileged.