A detailed analysis of Salman Khan’s filmography on the Indicine website reveals one thing – the 48-year-old star’s most successful films came between 2010-2013. Except an occasional Hum Aapke Hain Kaun or Tere Naam, Khan’s 25-year career had seen a considerable number of flops in the past.
Though the business done by his films in the ’90s can’t be compared with the blockbusters he’s delivered in this decade thanks to changing economic indices, the fact remains that Salman Khan is in the prime of his career now. The proof of this is the whopping price at which distributors have acquired the rights of his latest film Kick.
Box Office India reports that Kick has fetched Rs 8.50 crore from Rajasthan – just one crore less than what the multi-starrer Dhoom 3 from YashRaj Films managed to get. In West Bengal, the film’s rights have been bought for Rs 6.11 crores. In most cases, the website notes, Kick’s valuation has been close to Dhoom 3′s and more than that of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer, Chennai Express.
A still from Kick. Image courtesy: Facebook page of film. A still from Kick. Image courtesy: Facebook page of film.
The article on Indicine shows that except Jai Ho, his last release, five back-to-back releases did spectacular business. Dabangg (2010) made Rs 140.1 crore, Ready (2011) did business worth Rs 121.5 crore, Bodyguard (2011) made Rs 143 crore. In 2012, Ek Tha Tiger made Rs 199.6 core and Dabangg 2 made Rs 154 crore.
However, for an average film-watcher these films are much like the rest of the action-driven entertainers that the industry churns out. Khan the cop in Dabangg and Khan the RAW agent in Ek Tha Tiger are basically the same character – romancing a woman half his age and beating men to pulp. The template of the films are also exactly identical – get Khan rough up people in various different ways and in different places; pepper with a few one liners. All that changes is the location. So if he is not jumping off rooftops in Iraq, he is punching someone in Mumbai.
Does that mean Salman Khan is now some sort of a Bollywood cult – not something critics appreciate, but the masses love? If the amount of money his formulaic, repetitive films make is any proof, yes. It doesn’t hurt that Khan embodies the stereotype of machismo that millions of Indian men idolise and secretly (or not-so-secretly) aspire to become.
The characters played by him in his recent spate of blockbusters also make a strong case for a class argument. Unlike say the fluffy romances of our times with characters from upper middle class backgrounds, Khan’s characters in his recent hits are decidedly middle class or lower-middle class. At times, his characters are not even urban. In Dabangg, he plays a corrupt cop who speaks the Hindi of India’s working classes. In Bodyguard, he is just that – a bodyguard, who obviously doesn’t come from the social strata of jet-setters.
Compare that to the Spain-hopping trio of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Ranbir Kapoor’s globe-trotting avatar in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Clearly, Khan, in his biggest hits, speaks the language of millions of Indians outside the mall-hopping, iPhone-flaunting set. He also manages to flaunt a larger-than-life, overtly masculine slant to the banality. Sure, he’s hyperbolic, cheesy and often vulgar, but the combination as clicked with audiences. And how!
While critics and those of delicate sensibilities may shudder with distaste, the fact of the matter is Khan is right on track to become Bollywood’s Rajinikanth. This sets up a cycle of sorts. When his films becoming increasingly expensive for both producers and distributors, everyone stands to gain if the film is a hit and the losses are catastrophic if it doesn’t work at the box office. At the moment though, if the money distributors are willing to pay is any indication, it seems as though Kick is all set to break a few records.

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