There are controversies and controversies. Then there is Salman Khan — unfazed, untouched. He remains wanted as ever, finds Shailaja Tripathi

He looks fresh as dew. His skin glows and his eyes sparkle. The controversies — most recent being the ongoing war with the King of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan — don’t seem to have any effect on Salman Khan as he promotes his upcoming flick “Wanted” at Marwah Studios in Noida with the film’s director Prabhu Deva and music composers Sajid-Wajid.

When someone from the cheering crowd of students around him asks him to say a few dialogues from the film, Salman happily obliges. When an African student fan of his performs a rap song she has composed for him, he hugs her. And when he spots two over-enthusiastic girls, he asks them to come up on stage, and shakes a leg with them. The humour is intact but nothing over-the-top.

Clad in jeans and his philanthropic foundation’s T-shirt, ‘Being Human’, he is relaxed and content.

Maybe it’s the success of “Dus Ka Dum” Salman’s TV show on Sony which has got an extension to its second season, maybe it’s the new responsibility of becoming the brand ambassador of the Indian football team, or maybe he is still in the skin of the character of Radhe. In Boney Kapoor’s “Wanted”, Salman plays the role of Radhe, the tough serious cop who goes all out to finish the mafia. The remake of Telugu superhit “Pokkiri” will mark Salman’s return to action after a gap of five long years.

He donned a similar role in “Garv – Pride and Honour” released in 2004, but that, he says, didn’t have as much action as this one.

Return to action

“The return to action is painful. We haven’t used a body double. We haven’t even used the usual cable work that much, so it has been very difficult and I even pulled a hamstring during one of the running sequences, that took three months to heal,” he says.

“Yes, there is violence, arrogance and action. Everything happens in extremes here, but executed in a very different manner,” explains the superstar when asked if there is a negative streak to his character.

And though his character in “Tere Naam” — the 2003 blockbuster which brought him back in the league of superstars — was also called Radhe, Salman clarifies that this Radhe doesn’t share any similarities with him.

“If you have seen ‘Tere Naam’, there is a sequence in which Radhe’s head gets smashed by the villains. This Radhe can kill all those guys in five minutes. From a boy, Radhe has become a man,” he responds.

In this first directorial venture of ace choreographer Prabhu Deva in Hindi, which is slated for an Eid release, Salman stars opposite the young and bubbly Ayesha Takia, alongside Om Puri, Vinod Khanna and Arbaaz Khan.

Known for being open and encouraging to debutant directors, Salman didn’t have any apprehensions of working with Prabhu Deva, who had choreographed for the actor way back in 1993 for “Chandramukhi”.

“The only fear I had was that he will make me work very hard. He is technically very sound and he doesn’t have a single bone in his body,” smiles Salman, who has even strained his vocal chords for the film’s special promotional track, which contains lot of dialogues.

Sajid-Wajid reveal that the actor has even penned a few lines himself, one of which goes like this: “mitti ke seene se ek hook si uthti hai”.

Rediscovery mode

Trying out new things, giving up the old ones, Salman appears to be in rediscovery mode these days. The actor is “trying to quit smoking”.

“But when you write it you should say, I have quit. People usually start off to fit into a group. It’s the world’s most disgusting habit. With alcohol, the craving stops when the particular hours are over, but with smoking there is no time. With morning coffee, alcohol, when you are happy or depressed, you crave for it. It’s difficult to quit, so I have a lot of respect for people who just leave it at one go,” explains Salman in great detail for the sake of each and every youngster listening.

Now, the man is also nurturing a dream to acquire an IPL team. “If we follow the correct procedures of betting and other required procedures, we will get it. Football team ka brand ambassador to bana hi diya hai,” the sports lover declares.

At a glance

Salman Khan is waiting for a hit as “Yuvraaj” and “Heroes” fared miserably at the box office and his guest appearance in “Hello” couldn’t draw crowds.

Salman is returning to action roles after a long time. After “Wanted”, his home-production “Veer”, a period drama, will also see him riding horses and indulging in sword fights.

In between he is keeping his romantic image intact with “Main Aur Mrs. Khanna”, where he is paired with Kareena Kapoor, and “London Dreams”, where he shares screen space with Ajay Devgan and Asin.

Suddenly he has evinced interest in sports. He is supporting the Indian football team and has plans to bid for an IPL team.

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