#1 He, basically, owns Prem: Having played ‘Prem’ in all of 15 films, Salman owns the name more than any legit, living Prem ever could. It all started with Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). Everyone was wearing that ridiculous ‘FRIEND’ cap after Salman’s Prem made it popular. Some of us even tried talking to pigeons. The actor put it well: “I played Prem, but did Prem make us, or did we make Prem? We don’t know.”
#2 No one handles rejection better: If it weren’t for Salman, we wouldn’t know that love was all about letting go. In Saajan (1991), he taught us the first rule of the bro code—Baba comes before Bhai. As Aman in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), he did everything right, but what’s love if not sacrifice? Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) was a classic. The climax left him all alone, but it seems that’s how he likes it.
#3 He was our very own He-Man: When Salman had just started out, his father Salim Khan had told him that the days of lanky romantic heroes are usually numbered. Wanting to extend that expiry date, the actor hit the gym. He emerged from it with a blonde wig and a He-Man costume. Suryavsanshi (1992) had everything—betrayal, ghosts, past-life regression. The real rebirth, however, was Salman’s.
#4 No one makes better mischief: Several Indian families and films have popularised the notion that a devar (brother-in-law) is essentially a little deewana (crazy). But Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994) set an altogether impossible benchmark for a devar’s mischief. Bhai has perfect aim when taking out bad guys in his more action-oriented films, but the things he can do with a slingshot no one can (or should).
#5 He is (almost) the model son: Reema Lagoo was mother to much of Bollywood, but even she would have agreed that none of her sons were as doting as Salman. The actor perhaps takes to screen the affection he feels for his own parents. He says he loves his mother Salma most in the world. His father Salim Khan is his “hero”, and the writer is always the first to come to his defence. (That happens often.)
#6 He is the perfect brother: His brothers, Arbaaz and Sohail, have each been filmy enough to say they’d give up their lives for Salman. Arpita Khan, his youngest sister once posted this message for him: “My strength, my weakness, my pride, my joy, my life, my world.” There’s thankfully one thing Karan Arjun (1995) has taught us all—“Yeh bandhan toh pyar ka bandhan hai, janmon ka sangam hai.”
#7 Because Bhai ka haath sar pe hai: If Salman Khan is your BFF, he will not let you perish in obscurity. Bobby Deol once told him, “Let me climb on your back for support,” and a year later, he was cast in Race 3 (2018). Legend has it that Salman did Partner (2007) only to help Govinda out of a slump. He’s had the backs of Katrina Kaif and Jacqueline Fernandez for a while now. He is not our bae for nothing.
#8 He gets Bollywood in shape: Hrithik Roshan’s physique before Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (2000) would not have made anyone drool. Salman Khan changed all that. Those biceps were all Bhai’s doing. Arjun Kapoor, another member of the Sallu fit-for-film gym, had this to say, “Even my family did not notice my talent, but Salman Bhai saw the actor in me, and the very next day itself, he took me to the gym.”
#9 He is Bollywood’s most prolific talent scout: Music directors like Himesh Reshammiya and Sajid-Wajid would have faded into oblivion if Salman would not have hoisted them on his films. The actor is also ensuring his colleagues from the 90s have a legacy in Bollywood. It’s only because of Salman that the children of Aditya Pancholi, Suniel Shetty and Raza Murad now all have a workplace to turn up at.
#10 He is the director’s darling: Actors usually credit directors for having made something of their careers, but in the case of Salman Khan, this relationship usually works the other way. Were it not for the star’s support, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, for instance, would have had a more stunted innings in Bollywood. Salman’s brothers are both his directors too, but we don’t know who bullies whom there.
#11 He doesn’t need to act: As his brother and director, Sohail Khan made an interesting observation about Salman last year—”I think he has stopped acting long back, now he just reacts to the situation. His first spontaneous reaction is actually the reaction that he feels as an individual.” Bhai has himself confessed, “There is no actor in me, at all.” He probably wasn’t being ironic. That’d be too much acting.
#12 No one does shirtless better: Hairy and in most parts flabby, the male torso was altogether unappetising until Salman Khan took his shirt off. Wearing only jeans and a guitar, the actor set a gold standard with ‘O O Jaane Jaana’. Bollywood’s actors were suddenly making a beeline for the gym and the waxing studio after Sallu Bhai made it clear that one’s abdomen muscles can be counted in packs.
#13 Only he can pull off that Tere Naam hairstyle: Even in 2003, we were all agreed on the fact that the star’s Tere Naam hairstyle was unarguably the worst. This, however, didn’t stop entire battalions of his fans from growing their hair and parting it down the middle. It’s also a miracle that the oversized firozi bracelet Salman wore in the film has still not slipped off his wrist or off those of his diehard fans.
#14 He knows which joke to crack: Making Salman laugh is no easy business. He says he hasn’t done a comedy in a while because no script has cracked him up. There was a time, however, when the actor was not so serious. In films like Andaz Apna Apna (1994) and Judwaa (1997), he made even the most ridiculous one-liner seem hilarious—”Dr Prem Khurana, is dhandhe mein bahut purana.” How LOL, no?
#15 He is Dabangg: Salman Khan said it right in Dabangg (2010). The name ‘Chulbul Pandey’ does suit his personality. While it’s still baffling to think that he had landed so many kicks and punches in a police uniform that tight, the actor’s off-screen largesse did help make him the perfect ‘Robin Hood’. We’re eagerly awaiting the third instalment because “there izz always a first time, always a next time”.
#16 He dances to his own tune: Let’s face it. Salman Khan is no Tiger Shroff. He has never been. But there are some dance moves, however, that the actor has trademarked for posterity. In ‘O O Jaane Jaana’, he did this thing with his legs that made you think he was (unsuccessfully) kickstarting a bike, and then came ‘Jeene Ke Hain Chaar Din’. The ‘towel step’ was so breathtaking, it defies all description.
#17 He can carry a paunch: The Salman Khan blockbuster can often be distilled to a neat formula, but Sultan (2016) was different. Not just was he forced to emote in the film, he was also made to gain weight for some of its scenes. Watching Salman stare at his 96 kilos in the mirror, we finally saw the star act his age. A typical Indian man in his 50s who had let himself go, he had never been more human.
#18 He is always Being Human: Salman has gone on record to say he’s the “worst businessman ever”. All the money that he earns from his Being Human apparel goes right back to the NGO. Bhai’s trousers, it seems, don’t come with a pocket. Started with the objective of providing education and healthcare to the underprivileged, Being Human is also manufacturing e-cycles to help commuters and the planet.
#19 He cycles around Bandra: The more cynical amongst us might dismiss it as a careful promotion, but there’s something a touch heartwarming about seeing one of Bollywood’s biggest stars cycle his way around Bandra. Passing Mannat this one time, Salman even hollered to his friend Shah Rukh Khan. In the immortal words of Bhai himself, “Tu Superman hai? Spiderman hai? Abhe tu common man hai.”
#20 Only he can repair Indo-Pak ties: If we were to walk on the footsteps of Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), the India-Pakistan border would have been a line drawn in the sand, not one that was set in stone. No other actor has promoted cross-border bonhomie with such conviction. In Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Salman, a RAW agent, even falls for an ISI spy. Bhai takes that ‘love thy neighbour’ thing very seriously.
#21 Because he won’t give up on Bigg Boss: An idea might be hackneyed. Nothing in the world could be more deathly or boring, but the show is not over until Salman Khan says it is. Bigg Boss, now in its 12th year, is proof that not just can Salman beat a dead horse, he can still somehow manage to ride it season after season. It’s been eight years, Bhai! Bigg Boss bhi chahte hain you finally give us that break.
#22 He just won’t get married: Salman Khan might be 52, but fans hanging outside Galaxy Apartments still want to be fed his shaadi’s ladoos. No woman, it seems, can tie the star down and make a man of him. An icon for single people all over, Salman has shown going it alone can have benefits. He’d said, “[Journalists] just want to chhapo that marriage thingy. For me, I think marriage is a waste of money!”
#23 He gives the best love advice: For a good few years now, Bhai, despite his bachelorhood, has been dishing out advice to his lovelorn fans. In Partner, he had said, “Propose karne mein itna pause lega, toh woh tujhe dispose karke chali jayegi.” Things did get murky in No Entry (2005), but then in Wanted (2009), he went and gave us this gem: “Don’t chase girls. Chase money. Girls will chase you instead!”
#24 Because he is always so positive: For Salman, films are something of a moral education. He once said that when an audience sees nobility projected by a hero, they feel inspired to emulate it: “This is one of the reasons why I haven’t ever played a negative character. Say if you have a character who earns a living through corrupt means, man, that puts me off.” So, Salman has only one shade, not fifty.
#25 The box office loves him most: Fresh off the success of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)—the film is estimated to have earned Rs400 crore—Sooraj Barjatya had stated the obvious: “Salman Bhai takes the whole film on his shoulders and his diehard fans, no matter what, always watch his films.” Salman Khan’s fans are an army. Every movie for them is a battle to be won for their General at the box office.
#26 Because he can also paint: His father Salim Khan says that Salman’s instinct to paint “comes in waves”. When the actor decides to get his hands dirty with acrylic and charcoal, however, he does do enough to justify his second talent. More than keeping Bhai out of trouble, Salman’s Buddhas, Christs and Shivas are used for greater good. Proceeds from his artworks are given to his Being Human NGO.
#27 He can overcome any adversity: Salman Khan is reputedly a man of few words, but when suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, a facial nerve disorder, he found he was literally speechless. It becomes so hard to bear the resultant pain of this disorder, doctors have taken to calling it the ‘suicide disease’. In 2017, Salman said the condition had on him a wholly opposite effect: “I started working really hard.”
#28 No one is more secular: For years now, Salman Khan has celebrated Eid and Diwali with equal fervour. He has repeatedly said that his Muslim father and Hindu mother ensured that he consider all religions equally. Bajrangi Bhaijaan director Kabir Khan had once said, “He feels very strongly about few issues, especially how secularism is perceived in India. Salman is a living example of secularism.”
#29 He makes being unpopular popular: Unpredictable, prickly, vague—the actor is every journalist’s nightmare. Bhai’s relationship with the media, however, hit rock-bottom after his security detail took to roughing up photographers in 2014. After they banned him, the actor tweeted, “The photographers are gonna lose out on work, but [they] have still taken a decision not to take my pics. Happy for them.”
#30 He is, basically, misunderstood: On more than one occasion, Salman Khan has said he hates big cars. To think that he was driving maniacally around Bandra on September 28, 2002, is a ludicrous idea. He was more likely to have been cycling to work. As for the blackbuck, it would just be fair to assume that the creature came in his way. When it comes to defending Salman, hum saath saath hain!