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Exclusive interview with Bollywood star Salman Khan talks about his new film Tubelight

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Bollywood superstar Salman Khan heads onto the big screen this weekend in Kabir Khan’s highly anticipated Tubelight. The film, set in 1962, revolves around two brothers torn apart by the Indo-Sino war.

Also starring Khan's real-life brother Sohail Khan, Chinese actress Zhu Zhu and late BAFTA award-winning actor Om Puri (East is East), Tubelight heads to Cineworld this weekend – and we were fortunate enough to talk to Khan about the film, his expectations of Tubelight and much more...

How did this Indo-Chinese film come about for you as an actor and one of the producers?

My mum, Salma Khan, is the producer of Tubelight and when her name is attached to a project, I make sure that it’s exceptional. Afterwards, it’s the audiences who decide. We just wanted to make a film that would be amazing for her. The backdrop of Tubelight is Indo-China. I did a film called Bajrangi Bhaijaan with a backdrop on the India-Pakistan relationship but this was much more than just that. Tubelight is set in the 1960’s where one of the brothers qualifies to join the army and fight for his nation. The other brother, played by myself, faces a lot of issues in his small village. He becomes frightened over whether his brother will ever return or not. My character knows that he won’t be able to live without his brother and that is portrayed beautifully. His faith is that the war should end and people should go back to their families. This is one of the most beautiful films that I have been a part of. I had tears in my eyes when it was first narrated to me. I knew that once the visuals, sounds and acting are put together, it would really move audiences. We seem to have lost positivity in this world and we’ve tried to bring a bit of it back with Tubelight.

You are known to provide input to directors for your movies to make them more commercial. Why is that? 

When I was a kid, we used to go the cinema and we would watch a film based on the trailer or poster we would have seen. After leaving the cinema, we would want to be the hero. Initially it used to be the action hero, then comedy, superhero and next the underdog hero who made it in life despite his struggles. I provide my input based on those experiences. It has to be a movie that I would want to see and those are the kind of movies that I am doing right now. I have been fortunate that my fans want to see the kind of movies that I am making. I have also been very lucky to have been approached to play great characters. 

Do you think the emotions in Tubelight will come across more realistic since your real-life brother Sohail Khan is playing your reel-life brother?

Absolutely. There is nothing better than two real-life brothers playing brothers on-screen. If it was another or a more established actor, it would have worked as well. However, my performance would have suffered and so would the film. Any of our leading actors in Bollywood would have happily played the part that Sohail is portraying. They are all friends and no one would have refused to dedicate 25 days to play the part. Economically, we may not get the box office figures that would have poured in if an A-list Bollywood star was playing my on-screen brother. But the film works, and when the film works with the right emotions, the end result is always much better.

Your last few films have been released on holidays such as Eid. Is that strategic?

My debut film released during Christmas and from then on we have tried to release movies on public or festive holidays. The reason is quite simply due to people being happy during such times and they do have a little bit more money as well. They like going to the cinema during holidays and we do get more footfall. I also try not to release my films during exam periods in India as a huge chunk of our audience is unable to take out time for movies.

Om Puri, known for East is East in the UK, passed away earlier this year and Tubelight will be his last on-screen appearance. How was your experience of working with him?

I worked with Om Puri in about 5-6 movies. He was more a friend than co-star to me and one of the most amazing human beings one can know. He was also a phenomenal actor. I was extremely saddened by his demise. It was very emotional for me to realise that we will never see him play another character again while I saw the rushes of Tubelight.

You are a Box Office king and people have certain expectations on how much your films will earn. Does that bother you?

No matter how many hits you have had or how many years you have been in the industry, one can never tell the outcome of an upcoming film. The audience decides the fate of a film. We can market and publicise our movies, but eventually the power lies within the people who buy tickets to watch them. We all want to have top grossers and blockbusters. However, for me it's really important that no one loses any investment. Numerous people invest a lot of creativity, money, hard work and time into one film and I always just want that to be paid off. 

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Tubelight releases at Cineworld today – click here to book your tickets!

Fun Fact: Salman Khan was a part of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, released in 1997. It was the top grossing film at Cineword Feltham, in south-west London, beating Titanic that year.

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Sunny Malik is a Bollywood Freelance Journalist who interviewed Salman Khan for Cineworld.