I remember quite vividly the movie that made me fall for Salman Khan many moons ago.
It wasn't the widely acclaimed Hum Aapke Hain Koun or even Andaz Apna Apna though both are definitely up there among my top favorites. Even Raakhee's reassurance that "Mere Karan Arjun Ayenge" had me captivated, but not convinced.
|Salman Khan's said he 'felt like a raped woman' after shooting a sequence for his latest film Sultan.|
The movie that did it for me was the 1999 multi-starrer Hum Saath Saath Hain. Why, you ask? There was just something about that doe-eyed, boy-next-door, brazenly good looking Prem projecting that perfect, introvert-ish, good son persona that had me hooked.
Or maybe he was just my type, I told myself. Either way, Prem was winning hearts and he was only just getting started. So much so that Prem almost became a lucky charm of sorts for this upcoming heart throb and the name stuck on for many of his films.
I don't think I even realised just how quickly he transitioned from the demure poster boy Prem with an acting talent that he could at least unabashedly put in his resume to "Sallu Bhai" - the onscreen sensation that needed no talent - and sadly, it seems, it had been shed somewhere along the ascent to stardom.
And yet, Sallu Bhai - the name, the presence became enough to warrant a maddening crowd and a pulsating performance at the box office each time, raking in the biggest bucks.
While he was busy being the heartthrob of not just women, but also men in equal proportions on screen, Sallu Bhai had taken to "Being Human" off screen and on the streets with a watch here, or a lavishly and large-heartedly gifted car there and a house somewhere to friends and fans alike, and an impressive roster of charity accruing to his name.
Strumming on the heartstrings of reality TV fans back home that are glued to every season of Bigg Boss- less for the drama inside the house and more for the man outside it and his admirable honesty, lack of pretence and often refreshingly self-deprecating humour, this Prem didn't just earn his stripes in the form of "Dhan" and "Ratan", but also became one of the most loved human beings in the country and around the world.
And then irony decided it wanted the last laugh. Sallu bhai went from Being Human to Being inhuman faster than the crores Sultan has managed to rake in at the box office.
The movies progressively thrive at the box office, beating their own records while outside it, the legend has jilted his own image and Karma, as we know, is no one's friend, to put it mildly.
From blackbuck hunting and shooting (which ironically took place during the shooting of the very movie I fell for Hum Saath Saath Hain) to his car running itself over a man on the pavement (because, of course, Bhai didn't do it), infamous brawls at parties to mindless comments on rape and women, bhai's aggressively dabangg demeanor has got him in a pickle a few times, and it doesn't seem to be easing up any time soon.
Cut to many court dates, quick bails, cancelled jail times and oscillating court appeals, the Sultan rises from the fray again and boxes his way past the finish line once again, with yet another unprecedented bang.
But today, Salman Khan is no Prem. Today, I am a jilted fan who sees an actor breaking records at the box office and claps along, but feels nothing.
My "Prem" is long gone and some other man seems to have taken his place. It is almost like the man leads a double life - a revered star in front of the camera that feels like an illusion the moment the credits roll at the end of the show.
Khan's rise to fame is still admirable and his presence is still enough to make one want to jump to their feet but his journey there has left a bad aftertaste.
Salman Khan may be a Sultan today both on and off screen, but the hero I used to cheer for seems to have got lost in the crowds.