Salman Khan birthday: Post recent failures, another resurgence for 'Bhai' on the cards?

Written By: Kshitij Mohan Rawat | Updated: Dec 27, 2022, 01:01 PM IST

Salman Khan birthday: Bollywood star Salman Khan turns 57 today. Affectionately known as the 'Bhai' (brother in Hindi) among his fans, Salman has been a part of the film industry for more than three decades. Across his fairly wrong career, he has been a part of more than a hundred movies. His career can be divided neatly into a few phases: early career, the 'Prem' phase, the comedian phase, and finally the ongoing stoic, invincible hero who can take on and defeat multiple baddies. In his last few projects, it appears that the magic of Bhai's presence has tapered off a little. Admittedly, his "entrance" in movies still invites whoops and cheers. His films, as opposed to any of the other Khans, are guaranteed to lure millions to theatres. 

It has been a long time Salman did some actual acting

The trouble is, we cannot remember the last time he did some actual acting. Looking at the last couple of failures, perhaps it's time for him to undergo another reinvention. Perhaps it's time for Salman Khan to do some actual acting?


Early career

The son of legendary screenwriter Salim Khan and the one half of screenwriting duo Salim-Javed, Salman made his film debut in 1988 with a small role in 'Biwi Ho To Aisi'. 


Rise to fame

But it was not until the following year that he got his first big break opposite Bhagyashree in Sooraj Barjatya's 'Maine Pyar Kiya', in which he played the role of Prem. He later became one of Hindi film industry's biggest names with another Barjatya film, 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!' in 1994, in which also he played a character called Prem. In fact, Prem became a nickname of Salman, a lot like Vijay for Amitabh Bachchan. In the 90s Salman starred in mostly family and romantic movies and delivered numerous hits.


Failures and resurgence

In early 2000s, the star that was Salman was not shining as bright. He had delivered a series of flops, which was not helping his already damaged image thanks to allegations of harassment (by Aishwarya Rai), illegal hunting of the blackbuck, an endangered species, in Jodhpur, and a hit and run case. Salman's fortunes changed with 2003's romantic tragedy film 'Tere Naam', in which he played the role of a scorned lover. It was a huge hit and Salman's performance was singled out for praise. 


The current phase of Salman, and uncomplicated, one-man-army heroes

From 2008's 'Wanted' onwards, Salman has featured in roles that appear to be alt-universe versions of each other—they are so similar. These roles do not require much acting on Salman's part and are the reason of his fame. In 'Wanted' Salman was a cop who often took the law in his hand to defeat the corrupt elements in the society. He played basically the same character, albeit with added 'swag' in 2010's 'Dabangg', which was an even bigger hit. And with a string of hits, he became the top Bollywood stars. His name alone guaranteed a hit, or at least a huge opening weekend. 


Recent failures

Of late, though, the star of Salman has dimmed. 'Antim' and 'Radhe' were huge flops, and even 'Dabangg 3' was a disappointment. Since Salman films carry hefty price tag, commercial failures hurt his image more than most other Bollywood actors. In 2023, he has two important films lined up for release: 'Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan' and 'Tiger 3'. But analysts are not holding out much hope for either of them.


Time for another reinvention?

Salman Khan's career needs a shot in the arm, and that may come from him doing something unexpected as he nears 60. He should try some honest-to-goodness acting. This is not said unkindly. He has loads of charisma, has a muscular body, and even a considerable talent for poker-faced comedy. What we have not often seen from his is portrayals of complex characters—barring a few exceptions.


Content-based roles

In the age of web-series and streaming movies, film producers are learning to their dismay that audiences now are not limited to cinemas for their entertainment fix. On the internet, there is virtually limitless supply of Indian web-series and web-films and typically they are content-based, not centred around stars. Salman Khan is yet to make his web debut, but considering the sheer reach of international streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, it might be time for him to star in a series or film for either those or Indian streamers like ZEE5 and SonyLIV, and do some acting—something he has seemingly forgotten. He might even get a bigger international audience willing to watch an Indian action star.


Will he, though?

It is unlikely. Even now, after all that we have seen and contrary to the evidence, many Bollywood stars are unable to accept the web content as a bona fide place to find quality films and shows. And sure enough, nothing beats the experience of watching a movie on the big screen. But only if, the said movie was made for the big screen. Most Bollywood movies today, including Salman's, would feel about the same if seen on a decent-sized TV screen at home. There are no special visual or sound effects. So Salman would not actually lose anything if he were to transition to web.