Tug Of War
It was inevitable. But for how long can one sit quiet, not getting hurt when someone else has been taking pot shots? Shahrukh Khan has retaliated and fired back the deadly salvo, and is quoted to have said: “If I’m King Khan, I have to behave like one … I was first offered the film Salman is doing for Yashraj (Ek Tha Tiger) to be directed by Kabir Khan. When people ask me if I feel disturbed about them signing Salman, my answer is that I don’t feel anything. I don’t want to sound pompous but in the stage and age I am in, what matters to me is what I do, not what others do.”
It does sound a fitting reply to Salman’s oft-repeated statements that if he had done Baazigar and Chak De! India (films that were first offered to him), “there would have been no ‘Mannat’”. The tug of war between the two that started on Katrina Kaif’s birthday night some years ago, when reportedly Shahrukh spoke in a demeaning manner about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Ever since Salman hasn’t missed an opportunity to have unending provocative digs at his more illustrious colleague—a case of friends-turned-foes like in a typical masala Bollywood movie, complete with warring gangs. It is just a matter of coincidence that both the stars have had loyal camps to back up. So Salman was never a part of Yashraj or Karan Johar movies, and producers backing him up never approached Shahrukh.
But being diplomatic or otherwise, Kabir Khan denies he ever had Shahrukh in mind for the role, as none but Salman fitted the bill. According to him: “This guy is very real, but also larger than life. With Salman I won’t have to spend screen time establishing his character, his personality fits in beautifully. Had he refused, I might have had to rewrite the screenplay that Neelesh (Mishra) and I have been working on, for the last six months.” Reportedly, it is a love story with a lot of action and Salman is playing a secret agent on a mission. It seems plausible, considering the kind of hits Salman has given recently, playing a tough guy—Wanted, Dabangg which will be leading to Ready, Bodyguard, Dabangg 2.
To quote Kabir Khan again: “It’s a masala movie with social and political undertones. We had an extended six-hour story narration with Salman. He was excited and throwing up ideas of his own.” Besides, with Katrina Kaif playing his love interest in this espionage drama, Salman will also be trying to prove a point or two about his relationship with his supposedly ex. Ek Tha Tiger is supposedly an espionage thriller on the lines of X-Men, where Salman plays an undercover agent who also has special traits unknown to others.
While Salman has really been freaking out with his tough hero successes, Shahrukh has been quietly concentrating on his sci-fi home production, Ra.One with Kareena Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2 opposite Priyanka Chopra, the two top-leading Bollywood divas (on the other hand, Salman has been promoting new or down-under heroines such as Ayesha Takia, Sonakshi Sinha, Asin, Zarine Khan), both slated for release later in the year. According to Shahrukh: “I’m making a movie that’s technically the most superior this country has ever seen. (Investing over Rs 150 crore, if one believes the grapevine). I told my wife, Gauri, how much we will lose on Ra.One, even if the movie is a flop. She said: ‘Divide what you’ve got from this industry by 20 and compare … even if we lose twice as much, it’ll still be worth it.’ If I don’t have the capacity to fail, I won’t be half the star people think I am. Ra.One, for me, is a case of putting my money where my mouth is. If I’m King Khan, I have to behave like one.” Salman with his new-found success behind him retorted: “I won’t do a film in which I have to wear my underwear on the outside.” When provoked for an answer, Shahrukh reportedly said: “I have a sense of humour and will take it as a good joke.”
One must say to his credit that Shahrukh tried to let bygones be bygones on more than one occasion, including on the television show “Koffee with Karan”, where he publically apologised to all friends “who were hurt because of his actions in the past”. But Salman’s reported reaction was that Shahrukh should have apologised by either calling him or paying a visit to his house, where as a struggler he would come not only for the famous mutton biryani but also to seek blessings from his father, Salim Khan. So it is obvious that he is in no mood to forgive arch rival and allow the tug of war to its logical conclusion. It is also rumoured that both keep tabs on the box office collections of each other’s movies, which seems far-fetched because Shahrukh had no new release for now over a year since My Name is Khan, which supposedly raked in great mullah overseas, while it was labelled a flop in the domestic market.
The glitzy world of Bollywood, like probably any other high-profile profession at home or abroad, thrives on chamchas, hanger-ons with vested interest keep the fires of enmity burning by carrying unsavoury tales of fabricated stories. Unfortunately, bloated egos mar whatever chances there might be of a truce through an accidental meet or one or the other taking the hand of his pocket and stretch it towards the other for old time’s sake. But unending digs from Salman indicate that he is in no hurry to forgive and forget, or to be friends with the other superstar again—unless destiny intervenes, as it does in almost every other Bollywood masala movie.
By Suresh Kohli