The celebration continues! I’ve done hair (very important) and film performances, now it’s time for film partnerships! One of the things I love about Salman is how he is willing to step back and let his co-stars shine if it is better for the narrative. And so he has helped to create one half of some all time great “jodi”s.
I can’t pick between these, so here are all my favorites in no particular order.
1.1. Bajrangi Bhaijaan: This is as much, if not more, Harshaali Malhotra’s movie as Salman’s, right? He doesn’t just stand back to let her shine, he actively helps her shine. Right from the start, I am sure Salman was part of script meetings (the big stars always are) and he must have okayed beginning with her story, and all the little touches that made us care about the little girl more than about the Big Man.
And then from the stories that came out from filming and the casting process, it sounds like he was right there keeping her comfortable in front of the camera, making sure she felt safe and happy and loved, and could give the best performance possible.
And in all their little scenes, his character’s focus, and the camera’s focus, was on Harshaali’s face, not his. Every moment of the movie was about him learning to love her, and teaching the audience to love her to, not about selfishly wanting us to love his character.
2. Hum Aapke Hain Koun: He co-starred with Madhuri a fair number of times, but there is something special about them together in this movie. You know that old saying about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, “He gave her class and she gave him sex”? I feel kind of the same way about Salman and Madhuri in this. Except it’s more “He gave her grounding, and she gave him power.”
Young Madhuri is just so stunning, my biggest problem with her in movies is that I have a hard time buying her as just a “normal person”. She is always so “Madhuri!!!”, so natural stunning and sparkling and charismatic, that I can’t believe her as just a “regular person”. But in this movie, Salman is so casual with her, so teasing and fearless and normal, that he convinces me she really is just a college girl who likes practical jokes and spending time with family, not “Madhuri!!!!”
And in contrast, Salman is introduced as just kind of a little kid, the younger brother of the household, the joker who isn’t really important. But seeing Madhuri, who is still so gorgeous and so sparkling, fall under his spell and slip into place in his “wife” role (waiting up to serve him food, calling him at the office), makes me take him seriously.
3. Hum Saath Saath Hain/Maine Pyar Kiya/Hum Aapke Hain Koun: Mohnish Behl! I loooooooove me some Mohnish! And I know he was friends with Salman before they were cast together in Maine Pyar Kiya, in fact I think Salman may have suggested him for the role. I wonder if they get along in real life like they do in films? Not just “friends” in general, but relating specifically like they do in movies.
Mohnish always gets to be kind of the cool above it all type (well, not so much in Maine Pyar Kiya, but still a little less boyish there than Salman’s character). And Salman is always the youthful lover type. But Salman’s youthful enthusiasm consistently bows to Mohnish’s mature authority. Which just makes Mohnish look way cooler, that this bundle of energy and love and emotions is controlled by one word from his mouth.
4. Dabangg: This is such an amazing launch film for Sonakshi. Not just because it was a big hit, but because it made her look so good. Similar to Bajrangi Bhaijaan, it wasn’t just that Salman was falling in love with her, it’s that the camera was falling in love with her at the same time, and therefore the audience was as well.
And, also like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, her character was written to be an interesting and fully-formed person. Even in such a “hero” film, where the heroine is usually relegated to just being a damsel in distress and a sex object, Sonakshi still had her dignity. One of my favorite moments is when Salman’s character goes to visit her and takes a moment to sincerely admire the pottery figures she has made, showing that he doesn’t just see her as a pretty face, he also appreciates her talent. And showing that Sonakshi is responding not just to his flattery, but to his respect for her.
And that’s not even getting into the interesting cast power dynamic of the film, how it adds a different layer of strength and dignity to Sonakshi’s character and an extra layer of sincerity to Salman’s love for her. It’s her “dignity” that I think really makes her work well with Salman. That song where he is doing anything to make her laugh, that feels like a summary of their whole relationship, she has this natural calm about her and he has this natural madness, and the irresistible force meeting the immovable object makes their chemistry sing. It’s similar to his vibe with Anushka in Sultan, but I like it even better here with Sonakshi.
5. Biwi No.1/Jeet/Judwaa/Chal Mere Bhai/Andaz Apna Apna/etc. etc. etc.: Salman and Karisma really have something special, don’t they? She always feels strangely fragile to me onscreen. Like she has all this joy and spark inside of her, but it could so easily be knocked out of her.
Only with Salman, it’s like he is knocking more joy INTO her! Even in Jeet, when he supposed to be the one she doesn’t want to marry, I am still never worried about him hurting her or making her sad. If Sonakshi and Anushka give off more of a vibe of an immovable object meeting his irresistible force, then Karisma feels like a matching irresistible force getting merged into and surrounded and protected by his.
Which is why I still have my little fantasy that, maybe, someday they might get together in real life. So far as I know, they’ve never really been rumored to be dating, and she is with someone else now, but wouldn’t it be great? If 51 year old Salman decides to marry an almost-age appropriate divorcee with 2 kids? He’d be the perfect stepfather too, wouldn’t he?