As we sit down to talk to Salman Khan, he tells us he’s just returned from his shoot for Tiger. Apparently, the shooting in the dust caught up with him as he was down with a bad blowing cough and cold when we met. But he’s up for a chat and we settle down to speak about his upcoming film, Antim: The Final Truth, which is an adaptation of the 2018-Marathi crime drama, Mulshi Pattern.
Q What about Mulshi Pattern made you want to adapt it?
I’m a son of a writer, so when considering films, I look at the story’s plot. Antim is not a remake of the Marathi film; we’ve only considered its plot. I particularly liked the character of that police officer in the Marathi film although he only had 6–8 scenes in it. So we decided to develop that character. In fact, we first thought of shooting the film in Haryana and Punjab, but we knew it’d get difficult because of the lockdown.
Moreover, I believe this is a story that belongs to any village — people sell their land to get their kids married. Then, in that same land, they take up the job of the security guard or something else or they move to towns to make a living. So the plot of Mulshi Pattern seemed very appealing. In the film, I especially liked this police officer, who was a farmer, took one route while another farmer’s son took another route.
Q When you perform a community-based character, what precautions do you take to ensure that people’s emotions aren’t hurt?
I believe that when you play a character, you need to portray the culture of that character. When playing Sikh Sardar, we had to make him look like a king and righteous. As for his character, he’s a Punjabi sardar who speaks Marathi language because he has been brought up in Mumbai.
Q Theatres have been shut for a long time; Sooryavanshi has opened in a big way. What are your film’s expectations?
I don’t think theatres will ever close down because we don’t have any entertainment alternatives, unlike other countries, which have many entertainment options. When our families step out, they usually head to a theatre to enjoy a film. And I don’t think watching a film on a big screen with that kind of sound system can even be compared to watching it on hand-held devices.
Q What happened to the romantic song and the heroine who was cast?
Yes, there’s a romantic track. But when we shot the song and watched the rushes, we felt he had to be alone or else his character would be diluted. So we let the girl go and told her that we’ll do some other film later, which she took gracefully. This film has just two important characters. Ayush and Mahima have both done a brilliant job. I was shocked and happy that one of my family members, Ayush, has worked superbly with dedication and an intense maturity level.
Q Sooryavanshi tickets were expensive. How about those for “Antim”?
While multiplexes have increased their ticket rates, single-screen theatres haven’t. COVID ensured theatres did not earn and, god forbid, if the pandemic returns, the 50% occupancy may go down to 30%, resulting in theatre owners further suffering. All said and done, they’ve to pay salaries to their employees and maintain the theatres. Back in 2014, we’d tried to reduce the prices of the tickets for Jai Ho from Rs 650 to Rs 250. No one appreciated it and we were at a huge loss. So this time, I think we’ve left it to the theatre owners to decide.
Q Do you give creative inputs to the vision of the director?
I don’t interfere in the director’s vision. I have my own experience so I speak and discuss when the film is on the writing table. For this film, I let him know that this was the main and important character. Mahesh liked my intent. And though he’s calm and cool, he takes no orders from seniors and does what he wants to do.
Q We know your mum Salma also does paintings — what’s her latest artwork? Any plans to organise an exhibition of your paintings?
I’m planning an exhibition in Singapore and later in Abu Dhabi. While I didn’t get time during the pandemic to paint, I have around 35–36 paintings now. My mother had done a painting 25 years ago but it was incomplete; then, she started a painting 14–15 years ago and finally completed it recently....