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    Default Ghai, Boney turned down Salman's Veer

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    There are many Bollywood stars I would like to interview by candlelight, but Salman Khan is not one of them. Yet there we were at his place late

    on Wednesday night, myself struggling to take down notes, the candle flickering; he in jeans and tee having shed the armour of Veer, smooth muscles rippling in the dark shadows, glass in hand, cigarette in the mouth.

    While his new 25-day-old French Mastiff pup, just finding its feet, snapped at my ankles and domestic helps, electricians, and the security men of Galaxy Apartments struggled to bring back the lights. It was high drama! He had just got back from doing interviews at Mehboob Studios. And waiting for him was a young choreographer to lead him through the steps of a dance he was doing at some awards function last night. At least, the choreographer was prancing around, Salman watched with a frown. “The next step is Bang-Bang,” the choreographer was saying. “Bang-Bang,” Salman said incredulously, “Woh kya hota hai?” Then to me he turned and said, “Ask!” That’s when the house plunged into darkness.

    Much, much later, electricity partially restored, he talked to me about Veer, his new big film for Eros International Media Ltd. produced by Vijay Galani and directed by Anil Sharma that’s releasing on January 22. “It has the authenticity of Mughal-e-Azam and the spirit of Dharam-Veer,” Salman said. “But till it doesn’t release and I don’t hear the audience’s reaction, I can’t form an opinion. Humne poori jaan lagayee. If the audience is khush, hum khush, then we’ll go laughing to the bank! But there’s no formula for films. If the film is successful, the success will be attributed to just about anybody; but, God forbid, if it fails... I’ll be blamed, because I wrote it and acted in it. I’m okay with both situations. People see the 30-second promos, they expect the whole film to be like that.

    They see trials, and everybody likes the film. But when they have to pay for it, then the film has to be extraordinary, because people are only interested in what you’re showing them... not how expensive the film was and what problems you had on the sets while shooting it.”

    It is true that Salman has written the script for Veer. He did it over two nights I think 15-20 years ago inspired by the 1962 Tony Curtis-Yul Bryner Hollywood film Taras Bulba. “Five years later, I read the script again and tried to improvise it,” he said. “Then ten years after that, I couldn’t recognise my handwriting... so I went back to my thoughts, I kept going again and again.”

    And what he produced was the story of a father-son relationship that’s become Veer. “It’s not about heroes,” Salman said, “but about a father and son taking a stand and fighting for a cause. It’s the relationship between them that matters. Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots would not have run into controversy if in India today fathers and sons are friends. And the son is not scared of going and saying to his father, ‘I failed my exam!’ What’s the average age in India... 70, 80, people just don’t die here! And if a boy doesn’t complete his SSC at the age of 15, so what, he can do it by 17, 18... why does he have to kill himself at 15 for failing first time?”

    He offered the script to every filmmaker, from Subhash Ghai to Boney Kapoor, they all politely declined saying it was a “period film”. Then Salman told Vijay Galani about it and the producer said, “I want to do it.” They got in Anil Sharma, a director from the 1970s who had no concept of special effects, and who demanded crowd scenes of 10,000 people and 20,000 horses – well, almost. “We realised later that had we used special effects, we would have saved 35 crore, we needed just 20 horses to show 20,000... and we got 450 trucks full or horses, the line was over two kilometers long,” said Salman. But he’s satisfied with the film, he’s looking good and ripped in the action scenes; if Dharmendra showed his muscled thighs in Dharam-Veer, then Salman has come out with his six-pack in Veer. “If the action is backed with emotion, it turns out right,” he said. And now that the film is ready, and trials are being held, all those who turned it down earlier are said to be envious. His filmmaker brother Sohail Khan told Salman in amazement, “Bhai, you gave us such a bad narration!”

    There’s one more anecdote to Veer that deserves to be told. It’s about the debutante actress Zarine Khan who everybody uncharitably says is a Katrina Kaif lookalike. I didn’t ask Salman if he also thought so. But he was looking for a female lead, and there was a time when he considered casting Hollywood action star Jean Claude Van Damme’s daughter Bianca in the film, she was his first choice. “But she was too young,” Salman said.

    Then one day on the sets of Subhash Ghai’s Yuvraaj in Film City, Zarine turned up. Salman told me the story: “Twenty years in the industry, I’ve seen a lot... so if I do a double-take on seeing someone, that means she interests me. And if she interests me, she’ll interest the whole country.” But Zarine disappeared! He had her tracked down, got her photo-shoot done, and a screen test the next day. Veer got its heroine. “Everybody deserves a chance,” Salman said, “after that, it’s upto Zarine where she takes her career.” Much later he discovered that Subhash Ghai had called Zarine to the Yuvraaj sets to be Katrina’s double. “She even took Katrina’s autograph,” Salman said, shaking his head in amazement.


 

 

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