Friday, January 11, 2013

Salman Khan and Salmaniyat: The formula for sure-fire hits revealed at last!


Quick: what's the easiest way to make a hit in Bollywood? If you think the answer is: cast Salman Khan, you'd be wrong! There is more to it than that. You need to cast Salman Khan in the role of Superstar Salman Khan! Why? Because everyone loves Salman Khan and his style -which we'll refer to as Salmaniyat.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the pictures in this post! These are real press photographs of major high level world hastis who walk around with a heart shaped Salman bubble hovering over their heads. Ok, I made that last part up, but you get the point right?

Not so long ago, Salman was both: a bankable star and a Bollywood bad boy. These days via an amazing transformation that would take a PhD thesis to explain, he has transformed himself into a bankable star and a super human being. Blockbusters come out of Salman's ears. How did this happen?

Well, let's start with what went wrong. When Salman was at his peak, he was part of the Holy Trinity of Khans - a triumvirate of the three biggest stars: Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman himself. All three had legions of fans but Salman's overseas popularity made him the biggest of the three.

After an initial flop (Biwi Ho To Aisi, 1988), Salman announced himself with big bang - from 1989 to 1991, he had seven movies. Five of them were hits (Maine Pyaar Kiya, Baaghi, Sajan, Kurbaan, Sanam Bewafaa). In this period, Salman's batting average was  an astounding 70%.

Reality set in the very next year. In 1992, Salman did four movies (Nishchaiy, Jaagruti, Ek Ladka Ek Ladki, Suryavanshi) - all of them flopped. The following year was no better as both Dil Tera Aashiq and Chandramukhi tanked.

But Salman was a bit of a playboy rebel and his girlfriends and lifestyle kept him the news (not to mention earned him tons of male fans who idolized him for his off screen antics). With his star power firmly established, Hum Apke Hain Kaun, which paired Salman with Madhuri, already a superstar, became a turning point in his career. Hum Apke Hain Kaun was a blockbuster. And just like that Salman rediscovered his winning ways at the box office.

The economic boom in India bought about some profound changes that were to affect Salman.

The rise of the multiplexes changed movie dynamics forever in India. Single screen cinemas - Salman's favorite hunting grounds - started delivering less revenue compared to multiplexes. Movies started catering to the multiplexes. The movie market got very crowded. Production values went up. Some of these spilled over - inevitably - to Television, ironically creating a competing market for movies. Audiences not only had a choice of multiple movies to choose from but they could stay at home, watch TV and save gobs of money.


Salman continued to make the movies he had always made: potboilers with action or comedies filled with silly jokes. As Indians grew in stature on the global platform, they adopted a sensibility not aligned with Salman's old jhatka matka ways. They flocked to see more diversity and Salman's box office collections dwindled.

If you look at Salman's career graph around that time (2000-2005), you'll see an unsettling hit or miss performance at the box office. There were some modest hits (Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, Tere Naam and Mujse Shaadi Karoge) sprinkled with painful flops (Yeh Hai Jalwa, Phir Milenge, Garv, Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa).

By the time the multiplex era took root, Salman had begun a dangerous slide. Between 2006 and 2009, 10 of Salman's 12 releases tanked at the box office. In a bit of a panic and not trusting the filmmakers around him, Salman assumed greater control of his next venture - Veer. Perhaps Salman knew best what his fans wanted. Afsos, the movie was rejected by audiences. It seemed Salman had begin a fatal downward spiral at the box office and his number might finally be up.

There was however one bright spot in all this carnage. Salman's buddy Boney Kapoor remade a Telugu blockbuster called Pokiri into a movie called Wanted. This movie was a throwback potboiler and it struck gold at the box office. Using this as a template, Salman's production team (mostly made up of members of his family) produced a movie called Dabangg. Enter life changing movie #2 in Salman's life. Dabangg portrayed Salman as a Rajikanth-type superstar and it shook the money tree at the box office. After Dabangg, Salman could do no wrong. Hit after hit followed (Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Dabangg 2). The storytelling and plots in the movie didn't seem to matter. Audiences lapped it all up.

Out of nowhere Salman was having the time of his life. How did he make this dhuwadaar mother of all comebacks, set the box office on fire and save Bollywood's flagging fortunes single-handedly? He did this with pure Salmaniyat. What would that be, you might ask? Here is the Salmaniyat formula - revealed at last!

Be patient - things will turn around
So what if multiplex audiences are rejecting you? Give them time. Pretty soon they'll start missing all their bad habits and come to watch throwaway entertainment. Can people afford to be intellectual all the time? No sir, they cannot! Besides they'll eventually have kids - who won't be as jaded about watching potboiler cinema. 

Invoke the inner goonda in your core audience
In Wanted and Dabangg, Salman walked the edge between a terrorist and a dil-ka-sachha romeo so dangerously that we all felt like we were watching something seminal - like Laila Majnu with Gulshan Grover in the lead. By playing goondas who were well meaning but misguided, Salman invoked the inner boisterousness in us all.

Protect your image carefully 
Look what happened to Salman's brothers in Holy Bollywood Trinity. Aamir Khan got all smartypants and started talking about issues and well rounded entertainment. Shahrukh embraced his middle age by becoming an increasingly benevolent maharaja. And those nutty jhagdas last year? Shudder! Lets not even go there. These two completely lost their edge. But what did Salman do? He stayed true to his bad boy roots and made waves in the media for his jhagdas and romantic lafdas. Sure when those movies were flopping there was time left to crank out some paintings and reveal an artistic side. But that was on the down low. In an entertainment world of shifting sands, Salman became the most reliable touchstone.

Recycle! Always make the same movie
Diversity is all well and good. But after a while you crave for ghar ka khaana. That home cooked meal is Salman Khan. Having the same daal roti sabzi each time is irrelevant. In fact, its sheer predictability is exactly why people gravitate towards it. In fact as homage to Salman, I've recycled this post from an old one. Clever, no?

Don't make a movie without a Signature Dance
See, there are three things you need to work out with the producer before you sign the movie. Reading the script might sound like one of those three things, but that is not for our man. Instead insist on having a signature dhamaaka song. Then put lots of "common people" in it. You know like policemen, chaiwalas, jhaaduwalas and neta types. This will allow the "common man" to feel like Salman cares for them. And the people who consider themselves uncommon will feel that this is a noble thing to do and watch also.

Salman has one huge, danceable hit in every movie. When people hear this song, they think of the movie and what a great time they had in it. This makes them miss Salman and anticipate his next. What an ingenious strategy!

Choreograph your dance so that anyone can do it
Dance steps must be simple. In Wanted, Salman jerked his collar. In Ready he put his hands in his pockets and dinged his you-know-what in time with the music. In Dabangg, he pumped his belt. In Dabangg 2, the belt pumped itself. When these songs get played, even the uncles and auntys and folks with left feet get on the dance floor and dance. This makes them associate Salman with personal moments of triumph like being able to dance.

Make all your co-actors irrelevant
In Dabanng Salman acted with a creamy, sexy heroine who glowered and threw him meaningful glances. No one even knew how to spell Sonakshi properly. Did it matter? No. In Dabangg 2, Sonakshi showed periodically to pose. Did we miss anything? No, sir. In Ready Salman acted with Asin, an overactor with lack of grace who was stuck with a bad stylist. Even when she danced it looked like she was practicing Jiu-jitsu. Did that make a difference? Nope. In Bodyguard Salman acted with Bollywood's No. 1 heroine Kareena. All these movies were hits!

A fundamental aspect of Salmaniyat is that Salman must be front and center of every scene. Salman struts around so much that every love song is a serenade to himself. Every fight is all about him outdoing himself. Every dialogue is in competition with his last movie to sound more dhaasu.

And in conclusion... Now that I've been kind enough to reveal how Salman managed to become Bollywood's biggest star all over again: mujh par ek ehsaan karna, ke mujh par koi ehsaan no karna! Please don't try this formula at home. The world isn't big enough for another Salman Khan.

Can't recognize some of the people in these pictures? Move your cursor over any of them and hold still for a few seconds

4 comments:

Mind Rush said...

I loved scrolling through the photos, and will now go back and read the text.
Mind Rush's heart and mind are "rushing" at the sight of Salman Khan! Please picture me in love bubbles too!!

Mind Rush said...

Mind Rush noting another bubble missing from this entertaining post: Drift saab gazing adoringly at Salman bhai!!

Kanan said...

Aspi, you do it again! How do you do it? ;)
Laila Majnu with Gulshan Grover had me in splits literally and what a way to break the Salmaniyat code. It's one of those things like the popcorn-soda- theater post(s). You read it and go WOW it blows our mind away... I have to go back and reread the post.

Vivek Ranga said...

hi.. i am vivek ranga - The Artist. I am doing Stage Shows or Events by singing Bhajans and Ghazals. you can view my profile