Here’s the Problem With Salman Khan, Bollywood’s Biggest Star

Here’s the Problem With Salman Khan, Bollywood’s Biggest Star

Every day, on my way home, I pass two single-screen theaters. In India, these theaters are renowned for their cheap tickets and, to put it politely, outspoken atmosphere. And, every day since last Friday, I have been facing bottleneck traffic jams around the two theaters. The reason? The release of “Kick,” Salman Khan’s latest blockbuster.

Khan is one of the subcontinent’s biggest stars and arguably its most bankable one. While his international draw is not as strong as Shah Rukh Khan’s, in India he has led seven films into the billion-rupee club, all in the last five years. No other star comes even close. The list of the ten domestically highest grossing Bollywood movies contains five Salman Khan titles.

A huge reason for that sterling record is the festival of Eid. The month of Ramzan is usually a lean period for Bollywood; as Muslims all over the country fast, producers and distributors shy away from testing their products in the marketplace. However, the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of fasting and beginning of festivities.

This is a highly profitable corridor for Bollywood, and one that Salman Khan has virtually made his own. Before “Kick,” three of his billion-rupee grossers had hit screens over the Eid weekend and broken box-office records with unerring aim. Last year, he ceded the coveted spot to Shah Rukh Khan and “Chennai Express,” which went on to have Bollywood’s biggest opening weekend at the time. With “Kick,” he has come back into his element.

On the Monday after the release of “Kick”, the day of Eid, devout Muslims gathered in Bhopal, a city in central India, for namaaz. Their Maulvi had a specific warning for them in his sermon: “Every year [Salman’s] film is released on Eid and you go and watch it. It is my request that you do not watch any film today.” The Maulvi’s berating was too little, too late. “Kick” had already collected Rs. 840 million ($17 million) in its first three days, registering the year’s best opening weekend. That it didn’t shatter the billion-rupee barrier by Sunday itself can perhaps be attributed to the fact that a sizable portion of Khan’s fanbase was still fasting then. It also earned a healthy $1.1 million in the U.S., while racing into the billionaire club at home within five days. At the time of writing, it is the year’s top grosser and has an open field for at least one full week.

That “Kick” will be one of Bollywood’s highest grossers for a while is a fait accompli. This doesn’t say anything about its quality, though. Khan has had such jaw-dropping success recently because each of his films carefully and cleverly panders to his fans — not just with the release date. He has a larger-than-life persona attached to him now that is the biggest attraction of whatever he in turn attaches his name to. Affectionately called “Bhai” (big brother) by fans (and disdainfully so by skeptics), Khan gave up on inhabiting characters a long time ago. He now plays riffs on himself.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Who can remember the last time Tom Hanks didn’t play Tom Hanks…even when he was supposed to be playing Walt Disney? Khan’s recent characters, however, are built on a specific kind of machismo that’s quite disturbing upon further analysis. Violence is a laughing matter and/or completely justified; misogyny is paraded in the guise of chivalry and “heroism” is to be inferred from self-aggrandizing behavior. In general, it’s impossible to believe why any of the female characters in a Khan blockbuster fall in love with his character. In “Kick,” this stage is deemed so unimportant that it’s covered in just one scene as Jacqueline Fernandes’ character, Shaina Mehra, walks home and realizes she is in love. Fernandes, by the way, plays a psychiatrist, in casting that makes Denise Richards seem believable as a nuclear physicist.

The biggest problem with “Kick” is that it tries to be two things: a suave thriller along the lines of a Bond flick and a typical masala entertainer that Khan and his fans revels in. For the former, it cooks up a convoluted plot involving heists and car chases while globetrotting from Delhi to Poland. For the latter, it shoves in a romantic track, the corrupt “system” and that perennial Bollywood favorite: amnesia.

The mix doesn’t mesh. The plot is aggressively stupid. The action could be praised for matching Hollywood standards technically. But it’s also sterile and stale, unless you’ve never seen a toddler-wheeling mother get in the way of the hero’s vehicle. The 146-minute film could trim at least 20 minutes of flab. And then there’s various other flaws: the musical numbers are placed worse than arbitrary dream sequences, the Polish healthcare system doesn’t abide by any logic and it’s apparently acceptable for an Indian cop to converse with his European Interpol colleagues in Hindi.

For inspiration on how to do a film like “Kick” correctly, Khan need only look at his own “Dabangg,” a 2010 release that gave him a simple, archetypal plot to loosen himself and display his natural onscreen charisma, in the process birthing his first billion-rupee grosser and most iconic character ever. It’s just boring to see him attempt the same thing repeatedly and somehow get worse at it.

None of this prepares the viewer for the stunningly bile-inducing finale. The plot takes a nosedive for schmaltziness, as ill and handicapped children invade the screen. A character wonders if all the hijinks have been for their aid. Khan grins and replies that he’s not doing it for them but for himself, to get an adrenaline rush. (Cue applause, I guess.) In the last scene, a key supporting character looks at Khan and, out of nowhere, addresses him as “Bhai.” Khan then breaks the fourth wall as he delivers his punchline, but the barrier has already been broken and the message is clear.

This is not a film about any characters; it’s a monument Khan has had constructed for himself.

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Comments

Schiller

Why the f**k are you so worried and constipated about?? So what if Salman plays himself and his movies make millions?? Whats your d**m point i just dont get it..if he can with his meare presence make millions of rs then the entire credit goes to him..he has fans all over this world and for most bhai is the ultimate star and he has earned that spot..if people like him its for a reason..so u better shut the f**k up before fans of bhai give a beating dabbang style..

Moher

The Khan actors give all muslim a bad name.

Vishal

The rise of any actor is inspiring, indeed. Khan and others who rise on the corruption of the soul and mockery of goodness will be rich, but not regarded. How many respectable families in India will dine with him in their home?

Vinod Rai

Violence is a laughing matter and/or completely justified – The same happens in Tom&Jerry, Popeye,… you don’t say anything then. I think Salman Khan movies are just like the Popeye TV Show. Entertaining.

Vids

So, what’s your problem? Even Amitabh Bachchan movies were designed for fans. Only people with fan following can do this. Media stars like srk can’t. And srk has been using an even more profitable corridor of Diwali for many years. What about that? Nobody ever talked about that.

Sweeny Gonsalves

Laud# Why dnt u make a fim urself? u skinny moron..worth a piece of shit…fart face..chin##

Kathleen

All my life, I’ve watched Indian movies and despite not being Indian myself, I’ve always adore the Bollywood cinema for its exaggerated take on chivalry, heroism and love. And the comedies are so fun to watch. But action flicks have become redundant these days. Not only does violence seem like a gratuitous act to fill in the movie to attract viewers, but violence is made to seem ridiculously easy and the solution to all dilemmas. I’ve been a fan of SRK for a long time but I must say Salman Khan was a great actor too. Today, he is all about flashing muscles, beating and killing guys in the noisiest fashion ever and making it seem so ridiculously unreal. His acting seems to have stalled. While before viewers would be delighted by his onscreen charisma, his loveable roles, these days I just snort at whatever he does in a movie. Everything about him screams fake and is beyond exaggeration. I watched Kick and I’d go as far as saying half the movie could have been cut out. I cannot understand the buzz around Kick. Dabangg was so nice compared to Kick. It is sad to say all tools that can attract the sympathy or the need for entertainment in viewers are being used to such despicable ends to make money, by those who make movies as Kick.

I am glad to read such a good analysis on IndieWire about the Bollywood cinema!

Rocky

These so-called critics think the best way to get some attention – lemme bash Bhai’s movie. Or any popular movie for that matter. Well guess what Mr. Pseudo-critic: NO. ONE. CARES.

Rex Sean

Being Human is a charitable and non-profit organization, connected with lives of underprivileged and handicapped one. No matter how many contributions this organization has ever made, it is still moving forward and continuing its philanthropic cause. To add love and peace for each and every one of them with capacity is real humanity and it deserves true appreciation for the all the sacrifices the Salman Khan & his team has made on keeping the same pace of sincerity & devotion. Love Salman for his generosity in noble cause and wish him great successes in his Bollywood career. Each blockbuster movies success is just a silent and sweet revenge to critics without harming all of their egoistic complex in person. Point to be noted this success would mean a lot to the production unit & their crew at large who are entertaining the audience behind the scene as invisible entity, whatsoever every efforts deserves respect and regards and guys please keep entertaining us. Love you all !!

lava maheshwari .problem salman mai nai tere mai hai. woh lost nai hua tu hogaya la lost article likhne main better hv a luck next time

kisi pe point out karna asan hai . par apne andar dekhna muskil hai. problem salman mai nai tere mai hai better hv aluck next time . tu movie banake kam kar phir tuje pata chalega. aarticle likhna asan hai dusro pe ungli easily uth thi hai … aj tune salman pe ugli uthai kal teri ugli tere pe uthegi tab pata chalega …

Pathikrit

Laya.
I totally agree with you man. There cannot be a doubt, that he’s gone overboard into thinking that acting is self-representation in grandiose methods. Well, lots of action stars try to do that. But none before has seen a complete refusal of accepting to play a character. It seems he hardly has to act. As you rightly pointed out, he is playing himself! He doesn’t need to act.
While, that does disappoint people wanting to see acting, I doubt they’d ever go to a Salman Khan movie for that. Oh well. It was with Dabangg that my faith in blockbuster Indian cinema crumpled and I tucked it away, and have only gone to movies after the 4th week, or by recommendations of others.
Thank you, Salman Khan.

Osama Jamil

Stupid Review. Film is very good. They always criticize Salman Khan because he does not bribe media people. Salman is the best.

vid

This is a load of BS. Give the man his due. Hr is the most charismatic and the most popular star of bollywood. He is an equally big draw in overseas markets as well. It’s just that the content of his films is not always apealing to them. He doesn’t make those NRI movies. Yes, the film is stupid but he hasn’t written it. And giving the masses what they want is not such a crime.

Bahadur

Look at all these brain dead brain washed fools defending a man who can only make crap because of these brain dead idiots paying to watch him and making him richer, so much so that he can walk away with hit and run and stay out of jail by paying lawyers and police to shut them up using the same money you idiots pay to watch his braind dead films all you need to do is stamp salman khan and people will watch it doesnt matter if that stamp is on a poop or piss or semen. its because of people like you bollywood is on such low standards compared to the cinema of the world lowest of the low standard absolute shit movies come out

Faraz Razdan

*condemns misogyny, leads by example*

Why exactly is Denise Richards incapable of playing a convincing nuclear physicist? Or do beautiful blonde women only feature on the periphery as damsels in distress in your patriarchal imagination?!

Priya

I am glad that somebody finally came up with a scathing attack on the mindless blockbusters that get churned out year after year. Tired of seeing the khans playing machos and cute boys. GOD. These people need to stop prancing around girls half their ages. They don’t qualify as actors. Only entertainers.

Rav

I am sorry for Salman " Kick is Rickshaw chaap movie" and Salman performance not up to par. His age is catching up om him.

jaffar

People just know how to pin point mistakes lol any idea how much money and co-ordination it need to make a film lol first come up with your own film which would be perfect then we will understand your views how you show it on the Big Screen rather than just pointing out mistakes like typical Barati do in Marriages about food lol :P

Ozzy

You can say all you want but none of your words can tarnish ‘Bhai’! Salman Khan is the best so we can easily forget the rest! Ozzy from Pakistan.

Ozzy

You can say all you want but none can tarnish ‘Bhai’! Salman Khan is the best so we can easily for the rest. Ozzy from Pakistan.

sunny

Kuch bhi…..!!! I mean though you are very smart…. but keep your smartness with you…. and let people enjoy their life with Salman’s Movie….So Relax and write something sensible….. Because salman sbke dil me ata hai… Samajh me nahi…aur samjahne ki koshish bhi mat karna…..you’ll not understand…..

Shaman

I understand your point,it is fair to expect more from the ones you care,if you went through so much trouble to write an article on him,you must have a soft spot for him too. Sometimes it is hard to explain why a star click with their fans the way they do, I guess with Wanted & then Dabangg Salman somehow re-connected with the mass in a different way. It is pointless to dissect the attraction, if he gives you 1000 reason why you should hate him,he can give you another 1000 reason why you should love him,the choice is yours,and a large part of the moviegoers have already made their choice. So stop Kicking yourself,choose to get kicked instead with a little tough love from Bhai:)

Ankit Agarwal

Tell me one thing Mr Maya,what hav u done in your life that u r proud of. First go out do something so that people recognize you and then write ill about someone. Right now u cant even come close to Salman khan

roopam

yea right! haha….you critics complete Salman Khan. He has his fans, doesnt need the media. Go worship SRK

nr

I am glad people will read our comments..yippee..Madrasi..Kalu..gud..

nr

Bad..boy..with girly name..bad review.. with gud writing.. better hire ..sm1..with sound mind..

nr

Laya maheshwari..aka..Lara mangeshkar..I wud like to know your gender first..as you said kick is quite confusing to you. Your name and gender itself is a big suspense..I had to scroll to the top twice to check your a male with female name..I can keep on for next one hour..this is what have doing.on this blog.no

Rangika

He is making films to entertain people jackass not to earn money like other stars,,even u making money becoz of him writing bullshit about him..all are soo worried to write about him becoz he is far ahead than all stars and he is in our hearts so woh dill mai atha hai, woh pesa t mai nahin atha

Raj Kumar Yadav

Abhay DakkhanWari, tere ko kya problems hai, jab him fans log boora nahin maante….It is easy to find faults in others…Do something good on your own first…Salman is the ultimate hero onscreen and off screen. He is being human…

vinni

tereko itna heee problem tha to dekhi hee kyun, mann to bht kar raha hai but ek he bat bhai bola na rozi roti bhi to isi ke article se chalti hain, kyun

vineet

why do u care f…., i…, bull…… tere paise deke thode movie dekhte hain hum. la…!

bwunderlick

I just wanted to say I’m glad to read stuff on Bollywood in Indiewire and the fact the first comment form Sarifa proves the authors point is just beautiful.

Sarifa

You can bash him all you want you still can and will never accomplish what he has done on film or with his Being Human foundation so if you can’t say something good then keep quiet its easier to find fault that to say something good because your finding fault is a ploy to make yourself look good and someone else look bad

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