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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Salman no more a bad boy

Even as you read this, several projects are being tweaked to make room for the one star producers have put their monies on.

Boney Kapoor is turning his mutli-starrer No Entry sequel into a Salman Khan comedy. David Dhawan's Partner 2 has been shelved because Salman refused to do a multi-starrer and Atul Agnihotri's Bodyguard has gone through several changes to make it a film about Salman.

Enjoying what is undoubtedly the best phase of his professional life, Salman has turned a completely new leaf. The eternal struggle with the expanding waistline or multiplying chins apart, the 45-year-old has never looked more confident, sounded more assured and made so much money.

Producer Sajid Nadiadwala, his friend of 20 years, says it has a lot to do with the way the star has finally managed to rid himself of negative press and the bad boy image. In fact, the way Salman, known for his utter contempt for the media, has been working it, has fuelled speculations that his new image may have been sculpted by spin doctors. "There are no brains driving him, it is just Salman bhai all the way," says Sajid of Sajid-Wajid, who have been composing music for his films. Insiders say, Salman's turnaround came just before Dabangg, which was also the time Arbaaz had hit rock bottom in his career. "Salman wanted to make Dabangg work for Arbaaz," says Sajid. "And he took charge of the film like the dutiful elder brother." It also helped that there were no distractions (read women) in his life then.

Salman began with getting rid of some of the sycophants who surrounded him all the time. "When he got into TV Salman realised he needed better brains to drive a better deal for him," says a source. While negotiating for Dus ka Dum, Salman was allegedly unhappy with the way his finances were being handled. He hired business managers who took charge of his brand endorsements, television appearances and accounts. "All his peers were minting money on TV and Salman, who realised he had a fantastic connect with his TV audience, was determined to milk it," says a Salman watcher.

While Salman was paid Rs 80 lakh per episode of Dus ka Dum, for the second season, he demanded Rs 1.2 crore per episode, and got it.

With Bigg Boss, which came close on the heels Dabangg, Salman's impossibly lucky streak continued. Here too the star showed how serious he was about getting it right. He worked hard on the promos and made sure the TV channel made good the investments it had made in the star, which was Rs 24 crore. Along the way, he also assumed the role of a mentor for protégé Sonakshi and despite his breakup with Katrina, continued to be protective about her. Incidentally, post Bigg Boss, Salman has also signed three brand endorsements for Rs 15 crore.

Says Ashvini Yardi, programming head of the channel that hosts Bigg Boss, "Salman's persona appeals to both the classes and the masses. His unique sense of humour, spontaneity and ability to connect with everyone and his Dabangg attitude took Bigg Boss to new heights this season."

There is a pattern in Salman's choice of films. "He knows the audiences no longer accept him in soft, romantic roles," says an industry expert. "Tere Naam, Wanted, Dabangg have convinced him that the way to the box office is by picking up hit southern-style, male-oriented films and customise them according to his image," he says. It does not really matter who directs Salman's films, as long as he gets to call the shots.

It is a formula successfully tried out with Dabangg. Insiders says Salman is now concentrating only on projects driven by the motley crew at the Khan household, from Arbaaz to Alvira to Sohail, so that he has the last call on everything from the budget to the final product.

The new-found confidence is also attributed to his getting smart about money. With Matrix hired to manage his endorsements and finances, Salman is laying down the rules for every ramp he walks on, every ribbon he cuts. He has refused to attend awards shows unless he is given a live performance slot, for which he charges anything between Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 3 crore. For films, he is demanding something like Rs 30 crore. On several occasions he has also demanded that his remuneration be donated for his charity Being Human, which incidentally has ventured into branded retailing.

Everyone wants a piece of Salman and he is in no mood to give any. Story has it, Himesh Reshammiya, who had a famous fallout with the star from which his career never quite recovered, called him recently saying he was in the vicinity and wanted his audience for a few minutes. Salman kept him waiting for three hours, during which Himesh made several rounds of Galaxy apartments. Salman eventually met Himesh for 30 seconds, only to tell him that he had no time for him.

"For the first time in his life, Salman bhai is concentrating on himself," says Sajid. It shows, and how.

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