Bajrangi Bhaijaan is among the rare movies of Salman Khan which elicited rave reviews from film critics, along with raking in moolah in spades. It has become only the second film in the annals of Bollywood, after PK, to hoover up 300 crore nett in India. The movie has been applauded by one and all across the globe. Handful of films in last few years has garnered such universal acclaim with searing box-office success in tow.
Whipping out a blockbuster is not an anomaly for Salman who has churned out seven veritable blockbusters in last 5 years. However, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a delectable detour for the Blockbuster Khan in many ways. Despite ruling the roost from last 25 years, the actor hasn’t really been the blue-eyed boy of critics; neither have most of his movies appealed to ‘cerebral’ audience. But Bajrangi Bhaijaan could well be the inflexion point for him if he prudently heeds the subtext which is conspicuously couched in the critical and commercial success of the movie.
Work with proficient and perceptive Directors
In cinematic parlance, the common refrain is, “Director is the captain of the Ship.” But the collective consensus in the industry is that this maxim is a misnomer as a far as Salman Khan’s movies are concerned. Industry people often joke that Salman’s films become blockbusters not because of directors, but in spite of directors. Ram Gopal Varma famously said, “Salman Khan has smashed the auteur theory forever by proving that a director is irrelevant to the success of a film.” It might sound pejorative and demeaning towards the directors of his films, but if one looks at the outstanding box-office success of his last few films despite obscure directors and ordinary content, RGV is not off the mark.
Movies like Dabangg, Bodyguard, and Kick rode solely on the clinquant charisma and sprightly stardom of Salman and went on to become massive hits. Incoherent script, patchy screenplay, and run-of-the-mill direction – nothing could deter audience from thronging to the cinema halls and cheering rapturously for their favourite star. Salman took the centre stage and walked away with all the credit while directors of these movies were relegated to the background.
But Bajrangi Bhaijaan has demonstrated that a competent director adds a lot of value to a Salman Khan film, both aesthetically and commercially. While it is true that Salman’s films would make heaps of money anyway, a skilled and sapient director would propel a film to an exalted pedestal. Bajrangi Bhaijaan would have been a blockbuster even without Kabir Khan, but the film would not have fetched phenomenal plaudit that it has. Kabir’s expertise and finesse has made it arguably the best film of Salman’s career with an enduring and endearing appeal. Overall, the whole positivity and euphoria surrounding the film have also pushed up box-office collections too to an extent.
Kabir dexterously channelized the scorching stardom of Salman yet extracted an earnest and beatific performance from him. He did not let his stardom lord over the prismatic premise of the film. To conclude, Bajrangi Bhaijaan would not have been such a mega blockbuster without the presence of Salman but at the same time, it wouldn’t have been a mellifluously memorable and masterful film without Kabir. It is a syncretically symbiotic relationship.
An adroit director of cinematic acuity would bring exquisite goodwill, encomium, and universal acclaim along with the pretty penny. Hence Salman fans would have the best of both worlds – Bhai’s corybantic histrionics skillfully woven into top-flight narrative.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Although Salman has been a part of diverse range of films – from family dramas and love stories to rib-tickling comedies and action-packed potboilers – in his career spanning three decades, he had largely stuck with action genre since Wanted (2009) till Bajrangi Bhaijaan happened. Wanted infused zing and vigour in his career which was tottering after a disastrous 2008 when he delivered a string of box-office bummers. So Salman assumed, perhaps rightly, that his fans want to see him only in action films portraying larger-than-life characters.
The stupendous success of films like Dabangg (2010), Bodyguard (2011), Ek Tha Tiger (2012), and Kick (2014) reinforced this perception. Dabangg, Bodyguard, and Ek Tha Tiger were the highest grosser of 2010, 2011, and 2012 respectively, but only Dabangg drew adulation from non-Salman fans.
Salman has a steadfastly loyal fan base which flock to theatres to see his movies irrespective of the merits. But even his most fierce fans would admit that since Wanted his movies had become extremely repetitive and a sense of fatigue seemed to have set in. His suave and urbane fans craved to see him in the movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Biwi no.1, Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Tere Naam, Hum Saath Saath Hain, et al – the kind of films he had done in 1990s till mid-2000s.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan came as a whiff of fresh air for his scores of fans who wanted him to cut the clutter and do performance-oriented films with rich content. This evocative and ethereal film has smashed a slew of myths to smithereens. It is unlike any film which Salman has done in the recent past yet it has turned out to be the biggest blockbuster of Salman’s career after Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Maine Pyaar Kiya. After a long time, Salman flexed his acting chops instead of bulging biceps.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan is an eloquent testimony to the fact that people want to see Salman doing films which strike a bodacious balance between his flamboyance and cinematic finesse. Family audience, which patronized Salman throughout the 1990s, has warmed up to him again after many moons.
This is not to say that Salman must completely eschew potboilers. After all, potboilers has been instrumental in establishing him as the reigning superstar, but he must realize his potential as an actor and also keep in mind that viewers want him to act in films of diverse genres – the more, the merrier.
A superstar endorsing high-content films of iridescent contours is just the kind of tonic Indian cinema needs to make a mark at an international landscape. It would also cement his reputation as a stellar and versatile actor.
Salman Khan has shaped up career of many people in Bollywood. Himesh Reshammiya, Katrina Kaif, Sajid Wajid, etc. owe their careers to the generosity and unswerving succor of Salman. In the same vein, Salman has munificently helped his lesser-successful brothers like Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan, and also his brother-in-law Atul Agnihotri. While one appreciates that Salman has been instrumental in helping a host of talented artists find their moorings, what sometimes gets the goat is he relentlessly endorsing his family members often at the altar of his own career.
Arbaaz and Atul started their careers as actors but didn’t cut the mustard. Naturally Salman bhai came to their rescue and lent a helping hand. Dabangg and Bodyguard were produced by Arbaaz and Atul respectively and both the films earned pots of money. One can still make peace with Salman acting in the films produced by his family members, but letting them direct his films shoddily is a sacrilege. It is tantamount to breaching the trust of his devout fans who cough up money to buy tickets of his movies.
Sohail directed Salman in duds like Hello Brother and Jai Ho, while Atul directed a dreck called Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha. All these films disappointed his millions of fans. Though Dabangg 2 directed by Arbaaz was a runaway blockbuster, it wasn’t a patch on the original Dabangg. Moreover, these films (whether produced or directed by his family members) smacked of rank opportunism as their production values and look were shabby in comparison with movies of Salman helmed by other producers. One can see a marked difference in the production values of Ek Tha Tiger and Kick in comparison with Jai Ho, Bodyguard and Dabangg 2.
To put it bluntly, it seems that his family members are only keen to bank upon the stardom of Salman while cutting corners (whether budget or merits) in the making of films. The news is doing the rounds that Salman has given nod to next ventures of Arbaaz and Atul. One can only hope that they would restrict themselves to producing the films, and would sign directors with gleaming wherewithal and credentials.
But the buck stops with Salman. He has already stopped doing gratuitous guest roles (which he did in droves during 2001-2009), now the time is ripe for him to give a wide berth to nepotism. Doesn’t he owe such small mercies to his hordes of ardent fans, and audience at large, who have made him the superstar that he is today?