Q&A | Salman Khan
Actor Salman Khan races into the Bigg Boss house in Lonavala, Maharashtra, where he is shooting season 6 of the reality television show on Colors. He is on time for a 2.30pm interview, straight from canning the climax shot of his own film production Dabangg 2. He has lunch, with make-up still on, then hops on a bench in the outhouse in the garden of his little makeshift house on set and sits back on his haunches. Behind him are three kennels for his dogs. Someone brings 1kg each of orange burfi and chocolate fudge. “I can’t eat them but at least you can,” he offers. He consumes a bowl of medicines and sips green tea as he speaks. Here, Khan talks about TRPs, privacy and his aneurysm. Edited excerpts:
You’ve been hosting this show for three years now...
Yes, surprising, isn’t it?
It’s interesting. There must be something that keeps you with the show.
It’s an easy format to do. It requires very few days. We are dealing with human beings. We are dealing with Indians put into one house. After some time, it is what we are that is seen there. So there is no acting involved, there’s no one superstar.
If you take one controversial guy or a girl, you feel this person is going to give us a lot of material, and that person turns out to be nothing like what the news had portrayed him to be. In fact, the reason why he was selected to be in the house—his claim to fame—and when you come in the house and you speak about that, it is just so endearing. They state this happened, it didn’t happen, aise hua, vaise hua (it happened like this and like that), and then you start falling in love with that person.
Some people are just the opposite. Very nice person, sweetheart, lovely—and you could be proven right, or that person is actually not that person she has portrayed to the media.
Because three months is a long time to pretend. You can’t keep pretending every given time with so many cameras around.
So it’s very brave of people to go into the house with limitations and say, “You know, this is what I am.” And everyone watching says, “You know, even we have these qualities.” You judge the person, you’re mean to the person, you don’t like the person, but when the person is in the house—for example, like Dolly Bindra—some people liked her, some people hated her. But then you get used to that personality, and you know achcha theek hai (okay, that’s fine), this is what the person is like, so we will see kaise handle karna hai (how to handle it).
The reality is in front of you. Some are boring, some are very sweet, some are obnoxious, but that is what human beings are.
That also seems to be something you are personally known for in the industry. You enjoy playing big brother to all?
I don’t care.
People say that he cares. But I don’t care. If I can be of some use to somebody, I don’t care about it. It’s no effort. I don’t care. What’s there to care? Isn’t this like a done thing? Everyday thing?
Is the show in a way an extension of your personality ?
That concept of the “host” has been changed. One guy wearing a suit and being very formal. The host is like... “come home”. You’ve got to be very hospitable.
So you do take the show very personally?
If you’re doing something, put “you” into it. Why would you want to do something in which you’re not there? With somebody prompting you what to do, what not to do. Writers are writing and you’re saying exactly what they are saying. If you feel strongly, you’re not the only one who has felt strongly about something. Now, are they playing a game, are they actually like this? What is actually happening? It came, it was said (refers to Khan’s unexpected intervention in Bigg Boss season 5 when participant Akashdeep Sehgal got into a brawl with Mahek Chahal), I think they understood inside I was happy to see that none of that happened again. You understand ki bhaiyya kaun se aise contestant tha jisne jhagda kiya tha aur jeeta (which contestant has fought and won)? Jeetega vahi na jo sabse achcha hoga (the nicest one will win, right)? You have to be real. Then you connect, otherwise there’s no connection, yeah?
You were quite upset with the nastiness last season.
It’s okay sometimes you lose your temper, you lose your mind. Sometimes you just want to break and let it out—but once you’re done with that you should let it go.
Isn’t it a metaphor for your own life? You’ve lived in the box...
It’s all the same. I always say that my bedroom is my space, but my living room is the world’s. Right now, I am in my living room. The bigger you get, the smaller the world gets. You can’t go out, you can’t do anything, you can’t celebrate, you live your entire life at home. Sometimes you want to go out for dinner, and people click pictures when you’re eating. Those things are there.
Do you identify with the people in the house?
(nods) It’s difficult. After some time, human beings have the quality of adapting to anything. After some time, the cameras don’t exist for you. I’m okay if I’m shooting every day, but if I’ve not shot for a week, then you are startled by it. It takes time.
Has there been a time when you’ve hated the cameras?
I won’t say that. I’m here because of the camera. What it sees of me, what it projects of me. Sometimes I do get pissed off with the way people interpret what is projected of me. I may say something and the other person has taken it in a totally different manner. But that is not my taking. That is that person’s taking. It’s their personality.
So that distinction between what is conveyed and what is portrayed is what you aim to explain via the house?
Yes. You come to terms with it. I just tell myself whatever reason you are doing this for (referring to misinterpretation), it’s sad if you are turning a perfectly nice interview into something which is mean and making a simple line sound like a catchy caption or breaking news. You have your reasons for doing that. I hope your reasons are that important that you don’t look negative. That your loyalty to whoever you are doing this for—your newspaper or friends—would be that much greater that you don’t mind kicking somebody else’s butt for no rhyme or reason. For that, your connection somewhere else has to be justified in the whole negative sphere. Jiska emotion bada hai, vo sahi (he whose emotion is greatest is correct). For example, I see 10 people hitting one guy. I intervene on the side of the one guy. The 10 guys say this guy raped my sister. I say please proceed. So the whole equation changes. Everything is not what it seems from the outside. It’s understanding the situation. Jiska emotion saras bada hai, he’s right.
You feel very misunderstood, don’t you?
Stupid, stupid. The last 20 years people have been misunderstanding. I mean this is... I have been misunderstood, misunderstood, misunderstood... No. I have just been misquoted. Misunderstood becomes like “Hey wassup, how ya doing?” “How do you feel?” Misunderstood with me has that connotation. What was the thought behind Being Human? What is the USP of this movie? Normal sawals (questions) you would ask anybody... this misunderstood thing is about that...
Yet you’ve never used the Bollywood publicity machinery to correct your image. Then why is it important that the contestants be understood?
When intentions are misunderstood, that’s the time you feel like arre yaar ye to strange hai yaar (what’s happening is strange). Like for example... we were trying to get the Sarabjit thing done (Khan began an online campaign in June to free Sarabjit Singh, an Indian farmer incarcerated in Pakistan on allegations of being a terrorist) and it so happened Ek Tha Tiger... (Khan’s most recent film release) RAW agent, arre... (oh no) it looks like a publicity stunt.
But every six months a movie is going to come out. Now, do we stop doing things because people will misinterpret us? Sometimes I think: What will people think? Maybe it shouldn’t matter if it looks like a publicity stunt. Maybe for a few guys it will be that, but I don’t need this publicity. I don’t hold myself back but sometimes people make me do that. I tweeted about it, but I also didn’t want it to be like “oh this is a film thing”, so the whole thing is gone.
The seriousness goes out of something. Then if you pursue it the cause is gone, you look weird, and anybody could turn this around, even if the intention was very correct at that point. If he is not involved with the blast. If he was just a guy who crossed the border drunk, he should definitely be let go.
You have great sympathy for people who make mistakes, right?
I have made so many mistakes, yaar. I still make them. I’ve been doing them again and again, it’s so stupid. Today.. kaise boloon (how do I say it) without sounding weird?... like for example, my accident case. Salman was driving, Salman was driving, Salman was driving... nobody even bothered to find out ki kaun gaadi chala raha tha (who was driving). Itna ho gaya (so much happened), now Salman says I was not driving. At that time no one was interested in the driver was driving, correct? Salman was driving, it makes news. There was this polythene bag over a woman sleeping on the road, which is not supposed to be there. People are not supposed to sleep on benches, footpaths, vaghera, vaghera (etc., etc.). So she should have been taken to an old-age home, or people should have been taken from there. Somewhere we have failed as citizens, so human beings are sleeping outside on dividers, drains, footpaths, benches. It’s not a correct scenario at all. Now, the accident happened, nobody was ready to believe kaun gaadi chala raha tha. Now, we are fighting that in court: Was Salman driving, not driving, what happened, 304 part A, part B, culpable homicide amounting to murder, all that stuff, everybody else has the right to speak about it but the guy who is involved in it. People who know nothing about this, they will pass comment. From the earlier scenario that the press has concluded about: aisa hai, vaisa hai, rash hai, (it’s like that, like this, he’s rash) and generalize about the film industry, they are all like this. Now, as it is the judge is a human being, he reads all this, he must think bade baap ke bete hain, star hain (he is the son of a big man, he is a star), they can get away with this. You fight it, fight it, fight it. Now, this thing: Dabangg ke set se gaadi aa rahi thi (the car was coming from the sets of Dabangg: referring to an accident in July). Tumko kya lena dena kahaan se gaadi aa rahi thi? (how does it matter to you where the car was coming from?) Where was Salman? Was Sohail in the car? Kuch na kuch (something or the other) comes up. Now, if you drive sitting in the car, they will say aisa chalaya gaadi (he drove like that). You don’t want to sit and drive the car. Khuda na khasta kuch ho jaye (God forbid something happens). Yaar. Sad. Jokes bhi nikal aaye the beech mein (there were jokes doing the rounds), Salman now has God as his driver at the wheel. They don’t mean anything. They come around as SMS forwards. That is how you get stuck in an image in everyone else’s mind.
What has it been like for you at the receiving end of this?
I was just telling a friend today—you will not be able to write this word so write “darpok” (coward) instead—we’re basically g*****s. You can say “hum darpok hain”. We’re scared. Something has happened to you, you’re in trouble but I will not come and help you because the person who has put you in trouble is a very big man. Ki hum phas jayenge. Kahe ko? Apne pe na aa jaye. Jab apne pe baat aati hai, tab dekhenge apna. Ab apne pe baat aa gayi hai. Apan kuch nahi karte uske baare mein... (We will get stuck. Why? The blame should not fall on us. When it falls on us, then we’ll see. Now the blame is on us . We don’t do anything about it...). Backfoot, backfoot, backfoot. Ki ab kuch karenge hum, to ye aur bada ho jayega. Kyonki hum akele hain. Aur ye jo hamare peeche hain, voh poora government machinery leke pade hain (Because now if you do something, the incident will get bigger. Because we are alone. And those who are after us are doing so with the whole might of the government). So? Ye unka kaam hai (that is their job).
What do we do now? Kya hamara kaam chodke ye kaam pe aa jayen ? Chalte raho. Hum ek comment maarte hain to pachaas pachaas log aa jatein hain, ganna leke. Paanch sau log aaye the, ganna leke. Jab doosra marta hai, to uska kuch nahi hota hai (Should we leave our work for this? Keep going. If we make one comment, 50 people come after us with sticks. Five hundred people had come with sticks. When other people strike, nothing happens). When a political person is talking about somebody else from another political party, he is ripping that person apart. All you need is that press ka card to talk about something or you need to join a political party? A common man doesn’t have the right to have any opinion about somebody or something that he doesn’t quite like? Ki nanga hona padega? Taaki voh bolte hain na... ki nanga se khuda bhi darta hai (Will one have to be naked? For as they say, God himself fears a naked man)? No. Keep that dignity. Aur TV ke upar suddenly, (and suddenly on TV) 50 people are paid people from a political party who have that opinion. Who want to create a mudda (issue) out of it. They come and they talk. One channel carries it, then another channel carries it and suddenly you feel arre duniya against hai (the world is against you)....
Na na na.... duniya against nahi hai (no, no, no, the world is not against you).
Suddenly you get convinced, itne saare log bol rahe hain to ye sahi hi hoga (if so many are saying it, it must be true). But that is not correct.
So that’s why the show means so much to you.
Yes. Exactly. Just because 30 people say it about one person it doesn’t have to be true. You see you hate the person and suddenly think, arre (oh) how sweet yaar. Like Sid (Siddharth Bhardwaj, a contestant on Bigg Boss season 5), for example. He lost the plot but after that, Sid became the most loved person on the show. He just realized: Chodo yaar (let it be).
Within the industry, how do you define that big brother role?
I don’t buy my friendship with anybody. Isko achcha achcha hi boloonga to aur... (if I say only good things to him...) and nobody else has got to buy their friendship with me. I have my family, man, right there. They tell me straight up. Then these are the people who stand by you as well. If I lose these people, who is going to tell me? And whoever is telling me something, I don’t know what their intentions are. I know their (family’s) intentions: They are on my side. Even if out of 100 times, they are 81% right, that’s fine. You instinctively know this is right, this is wrong, sometimes you don’t. Then you realize you made a mistake and you should be able to say, “Yaar, sorry, galti ho gaya” (I’m sorry I made a mistake). I don’t feel the need to complicate things. You’re trying to do something, it doesn’t work out, sorry dude, try something else. It’s always about the intentions.
Only when it comes to Being Human (the charitable foundation Khan runs), it is not about the intentions. When it comes to doing charity, it is not about the intention any more: You do it to show what a great guy you are. You do it to cover your guilt. You do it to show off to a chick. You know? You do it because when you needed somebody, they should come and help you out. Don’t do it because you’re a great guy. You do it for any reason but that. Do it for any intention (ascribed to you), but do it—when it comes to getting involved with charities.
You hold a lot of anger within you...
Yes. A lot of anger. A lot of anger. My aneurysm is also because of my anger.
Is that something you live with on a daily basis? Has it changed you?
Yes. Many people live with it. Aneurysms of about 8.5(mm)—a friend of mine also has one of 8.5; he is getting it operated. But in my case, it’s in an inoperable area—it’s in my brain. It’s complicated. It’s fine. It’s not changed me. Just I get scared when I get angry.
Do you still get angry?
Yes. (laughs) Do you not see that? Anger doesn’t mean like picking up a bottle and smashing somebody over the head with it. That anger is equated with a big-shot temper or having BP issues or whatever that you lose it so fast. Anger is something that you feel “this is not right”. You want to do something about it and you are trying your best and you just can’t do anything about it. That. That is the main anger. You want to turn it right.
Is that why you’ve turned towards a family format in this season’s show?
Let’s see. TRPs were low last season. But you see other shows: Splitsvilla (a reality show on MTV) and Cheaters (a reality show on Big CBS; Khan also refers to an Indian version of the show, which he doesn’t name) and all that. Just imagine somebody like that comes to me, I would whack their head off. Kya adhikar hai ki tum camera lekar mere ghar mein aa gaye yaar? (what right have you to bring a camera into my home?) What is that?
I don’t even know how these people are even.. I saw some episodes and I want to whack them. Agar ye log mere saamne aa jayein.. to main to pagal hi ho jaoonga maar maarke (if I were to come face to face with these people, I’d go mad hitting them). What right does anyone have? It’s a private thing. How can a boyfriend call a camera to track if his girlfriend is cheating and put that on national television?
It (the changed format) is an attempt to reinstitute boundaries?
India has lost its mother.
What do you mean?
(stands up to leave) Mother tongue, motherland..? In sab mein se hamari “Ma” mar gayi hai (we’ve lost the “mother” in all of these). The mother is dead.