Happy Tubelight Week! Ek Tha Tiger, Kabir Khan and Salman

Happy Tubelight Monday!!!  Only 4 days left until the “real” Tubelight day.  Or maybe 3 if we are lucky and there is a last minute Thursday release in America.  So, let’s talk about Kabir Khan and Salman and their first collaboration, Ek Tha Tiger.

I was very surprised to discover that I enjoyed Ek Tha Tiger.  I only went in the first place because there was supposed to be a teaser for Jab Tak Hain Jaan attached to it.  And then I enjoyed it!

(If only the movie had been as good as the teaser.  Aditya, you and your brilliant editing skills tricked me again!)

See, I was dreading it because Salman was soooooooo old to be playing a super spy, and Katrina is not always the most entertaining co-lead, and it was promoted as this “Hollywood-style action” thing, and if I want to see Hollywood-style action, I will just watch a Hollywood action movie.

But turns out, Kabir Khan was somehow able to pull out something completely new from the Salman Khan onscreen persona.  New, but familiar.  It felt like another aspect of the man we all already knew, not a reinvention exactly, but a refocusing.

This Salman is still a superhero and a superstar.  But he is a little sad at the center of it all.  Lonely.  Spending his life serving others instead of thinking about himself.  Sure, all the neighbor ladies have a crush on him, but that doesn’t do him any good, he doesn’t even notice it.

This is the Salman we all kind of knew from public appearances and interviews, only he had never been brought forth so perfectly before.  Hardworking, enormously successful, beloved by all, and yet with nothing just for himself.  He always serves others, his fans, his friends, his family, could never bring himself to just be selfish.

And that’s the purpose of the fight scenes.  Not to make us all go “oooo, Hollywood level effects!”  But to make us appreciate how “special” Salman is, how competent in his chosen field.  Almost into a superman.  And then, immediately, we are reminded that under that “superman”, is just a “man”.  A kind of tired kind of sad middle-aged man who returns from his exciting adventures to a small sad apartment.

Of course in real life it’s not a small sad apartment, it’s a small happy crowded apartment, Salman has plenty of people in his life who love him just for him, not for the superman persona.  But an essential part of that love is the responsibility he feels in return.  Responsibility that comes not because he is a superstar, but just because he is the oldest son of the family, a family which went through a lot of turmoil when he was at just the right age to bear the brunt of it, and to get the habit of acting as a shield and supporter to his younger siblings.

Ek Tha Tiger isn’t about that at all, about a man with a lot of siblings who has to take care of them, really the only similarities with the “real” Salman and the film Salman are that he is an older bachelor.  And even that is very different, in “real” life, Salman is an older bachelor who has had a series of serious relationships that never panned out for whatever reason, and who has plenty of family even without a marriage thanks to his siblings and nieces and nephews.  Whereas the film Salman is an older bachelor who, it is implied, has never had any romantic relationships at all, and has no family either.

But somehow Kabir Khan hooked into the underlying tragedies of Salman’s life.  Instead of making him from a young age feel responsible for his family, and with a need to sacrifice his own happiness for theirs, Kabir makes Salman a character who dedicated himself to serving the nation at a young age, who constantly sacrificed his own happiness for the country.  The same grounded feeling of purpose that the “real” Salman gets from his family, the “reel” Salman gets from his service to the country.  He didn’t have 50 empty years, he had 50 full ones, doing something he loved for people he loved.  It’s only now, suddenly, that this isn’t enough.

And with this strong sense of Salman, lonely and sacrificing and unable to take anything for himself, comes a strong sense of what Katrina is, or could be, to whom.  And that brings along a sense of Katrina, a sense I have never gotten from any of her other movies.  This is my favorite role of hers, I think because it was built around what she could mean to someone else, rather than trying to start with her character on its own.  She isn’t just the pretty perfect ideal, she is a particular warm living person that is needed by Salman.

Kat, in this film, is cut off from her homeland, lonely, dedicated, never doing anything for herself or feeling like she has anything to call her own.  Salman finds in her someone who can make him the first person, someone who can sacrifice for and love him, instead of the other way around.  And Kat finds, in return, a whole world of love and support.

Which, from the outside, appears to be what attracted the two of them in real life.  Kat was looking for a family and found it in the warm and accepting Khan household.  Still has it there, still spends every birthday at the Khan family apartment, every holiday.  She was a teenager living in a strange country where she didn’t even know the language, and she also seems to be someone who is slow to open up in general.  But Salman, and his family, were able to break through her reserve and make her feel at home.  That is what attracts Katrina to Salman in this film.  Not that he is all handsome and action hero-y and stuff.  But that he is sweet, and listens to her stories about her dead father, and makes her feel safe and cared for.

Meanwhile, for Salman, he wanted someone who would put him first, with whom he could be silly and happy and irresponsible.  In real life, a teenage model with no connections to the film industry or anyone else Salman already knew, who probably didn’t even realize what a big deal he was when they first met, must have been a wonderful breath of fresh air.  To be able to be just a person, not Superstar Salman, and also not Big Brother and Pillar of the Family Salman.  That’s what we see here.  Salman, the super spy who never lets himself relax, coincidentally is thrown together with a carefree young grad student.  And gets to slowly learn how to be just a person again, just a regular happy person.

(Every time I watch this song, I just want them to get back together in real life and be this happy for real)

That’s what I am hoping we will see again in Tubelight, a story which seems totally unrelated to “real” Salman, but which is familiar on some deep level based on what we know of his life.  The fact that Sohail is cast as his co-star is a good sign for that.

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16 thoughts on “Happy Tubelight Week! Ek Tha Tiger, Kabir Khan and Salman

  1. Just a nitpick, but Salman was only 45 when he did ETT, not 50.

    I have to pass along this anecdote Salman shared in an interview some years ago, when he was still dating Katrina (a propos your point on how refreshing it must have been to be with someone who didn’t know who “Salman Khan” was): Katrina was watching a movie TV, with Salman out of the room, and after a while, she excitedly called him in, saying, “You have to come look at this guy! He looks just like you!” The movie on TV was Maine Pyar Kiya. 🙂

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    • I’ve heard the same kind of stories about Madhuri and Dr.Nene. I guess when you are that famous, you would want either someone who is equally famous and so isn’t star struck (Kajol-Ajay, Anushka-Virat, etc.), or you would want to find someone who had no idea who you were and didn’t know they were supposed to be starstruck. Well, star struck and knowing every detail of your life in advance. Can you imagine trying to start a relationship knowing nothing about the other person, and the other person knows every detail of your messy break-ups and your parents’ marriage and everything else?

      On Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 12:56 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • But the fact is none of us “know”anything about the celebrity despite knowing those facts about his/her life. As I once put it to myself, we know all the objective facts, but we don’t know the most important thing, namely, their subjective reactions. Do we know how Salman, his mother, Dharmendra’s wife and children, heck even Arjun Kapoor, really felt during the “turbulent times” of their lives? Despite what seems like the excessive amounts that Arjun Kapoor talks about his father and Sridevi, if you read his interviews, you’ll notice that he basically says the same carefully constructed statements in every interview. The same with Salman regarding any of the “noteworthy” episodes of his life. They have to handle it that way, of course — seem open and forthcoming, while carefully guarding their emotional health and sanity. It’s a delicate balance, and tough to pull off.

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        • It really is a hard balance! And a respect the way they manage to open up without really opening up. But then that makes me think, that would add another layer to all your personal interactions, right? You would be thinking “is this woman asking about my childhood because we just started dating and she wants to get to know me, or because she is a reporter and wants to get past my standard statements? Or is just a regular person who has read fan magazines and wants to get past the standard statements for her own curiosity and really doesn’t care about my personal pain at all?” The kind of things you might normally open up about on date 3 or 4 might not be something you want to talk about until date 10 or 20, because there is that higher level of privacy concern. And with Kat (or anyone else from outside the industry), you would also have the option of telling only a little bit of the truth, like “my parents are divorced” and just leaving it at that.

          It also makes me think about how so many people in the industry are close friends with childhood friends/other people in the industry. Arjun doesn’t have to tell Salman all the gory details of his childhood, because Salman was there at the time, you know? Everyone already knows everything about everyone, not just the gossip magazine version but the real version, because they grew up together. And that must be kind of a relief, if your other choice is to risk opening up to a stranger about stuff you know is worth millions to a reporter.

          On Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 1:11 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I meant to get back on this earlier, but are you implying that Salman’s parents are divorced? Because they are not.

    Anyway, what I really came for is to say that I have checked out Phantom from the library, and intend to watch it tonight or tomorrow. How about doing a post on that film as part of your lead up to Tubelight, to see how Kabir Khan handles such issues when he doesn’t have Salman staring in the film? From all accounts, the film itself was quite good, so I’m curious to see if I can figure out why it was such a flop.

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    • If I were Salman, on a first date, I wouldn’t want to get into the whole thing and might prefer to have the luxury of just saying “my stepmother” and leaving it that my parents were divorced. And then on date 10, talking about the whole complicated painful situation and what it was like to live through it and how they all get along now and so on.

      But of course if you are dating someone from India, you don’t have that luxury.

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      • I’d think Salman in that situation would be better off not referring to Helen at all, because the fact is that his parents are very much still married, and he is so devoted to his mother that it would actually impact his relationship with any potential girlfriend.

        No reaction about Phantom?

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        • And does anyone talk about their parents on the first date? Or even 3 or 4? I’d think that topic would only come up after the new relationship became at least semi-serious.

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          • Well, there’s the kind of “getting to know you” conversations, where did you grow up and what does your father do and all. It must be awful to be a big star and know that you are at an unfair disadvantage, you don’t know any of those things about the other person, but they know all of it about you. To be able to just say “My father is a writer and my mother is a housewife and my stepmother is an actress” would be so refreshing! As I imagine it.

            Heck, so long as we are just spitballing, I could see the same reasons being why Katrina is so beloved by the whole family. That she would come in without knowing Helen’s past or that Salim was Most Brilliant Writer of His Generation or any of that baggage, just meet them as really nice parents of her boyfriend. It sounds like, from the little I know, that the whole household prefers being treated like that, as just people with other people, not as megastars.

            On Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 8:18 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Oh, I forgot! I was hoping to be able to talk about Phantom, but I ran out of posts. I’m doing Veer instead. I really wanted to talk about the historical setting and Sohail/Salman as brothers.

          On Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 8:17 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Gosh, you must really like Veer! I do, too (or did when it released; haven’t revisited it since then), but the Sohail aspect was one of the big drawbacks of Veer for me, as well as Tubelight. I’d prefer not to think about it. 🙂

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          • Veer is such an odd movie! You will see in the post how I struggle with it. But I am really interested at the idea of the same kind of historical high concept idea but directed by Kabir Khan instead of Anil Sharma.

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  3. You know that Ek Tha Tiger was one of those movies that Shahrukh rejected and then Katrina suggested Salman’s name. I’m sure that they made changes once Salman entered but how do you think Ek Tha Tiger would have been different if Shahrukh had actually done the movie?

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    • It would have been a lot more meta. I mean, Shahrukh playing an action star who becomes a lover would be kind of this joke on the audience, since he is so famous as a lover in most of his films. And the Kat relationship would have felt completely different, a lot less sort of emotionally supportive and lonely people finding each other, and more kind of passionate love (I assume).

      On Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 3:23 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Actually both Kabir Khan and Adi Chopra have denied many times that ETT was ever offered to SRK. The potential that didn’t happen was supposedly some other film that Adi was talking to him about.

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