Lunching with Salman KhanNithya Ramani in Mumbai
How many people get the opportunity to have lunch with Salman Khan?
Well, I was one of the lucky ones, and as I discovered, this Khan is way better in person than his reputation in print.
I got lucky at a press event last week at Mumbai's Mehboob Studios, where the actor was promoting Mumbai's first Cyclothon, to be held on February 21.
Khan, obviously having a very busy day, got to open his tiffin only at 4:30 pm, way past lunch time for most of us. And it was quite a spread -- from chicken curry and fish fry to vegetarian fare like cabbage, flat green beans with potato and dal.
Despite this rich spread, Salman is high on health food too. He offers me a dish made especially for him -- tamarind pieces dipped in vinegar. This last dish is accompanied with a brief take on how healthy haldi is for the body.
The actor is obviously in a good mood. As he goes through the dishes, he says with a straight face, "Today's lunch was prepared by my nani (grandmother). Her tooth fell into one of the dishes while cooking." Then he bursts out laughing.
Image: Salman Khan
Video: Satish Bodas
'I don't take critics seriously'
The lunch, however, was not how my afternoon began with Salman Khan.
It started with Salman cycling, with great glee, in circles in Mehboob Studios. He even took a journalist for a ride after a bit.
Is the good mood, perhaps thanks to his escort for the day -- Veera, a Mastiff gifted to him by Zayed Khan? He plays with his happy little dog, and even lets journalists pet him while he watches contentedly.
Even the weak fate of his latest film Veer -- Veer only did well in single-theatres, not in multiplexes -- and media questions on that, will not get rid of his good mood. "People have loved the film. I don't think I should take critics seriously," he smiles.
His long locks for Veer are replaced by a short crop. Wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans, the actor looks beefy and H-O-T.
"Films are not made for a handful of people. At times, critics give bad ratings because of personal grudges, like if the film does not have a private screening or the hero didn't answer their questions properly or the producer didn't pay them money," Salman continues. "Rarely, their reviews match the business of the film. Kabhi kabhi tukka lag jata hai," he smiles.
Image: Salman Khan
'We have been putting in our own money into Being Human'
What's got him excited these days is the cyclothon later this month. When asked about it, he answers with a spark in his eyes. "It's a good thing, yaar," he says. "Cycling should be made popular everywhere. It's a simple answer to traffic problems, pollution, global warming and good health."
Salman plans to flag off the cyclothon himself. "I may not come first but I will definitely try and complete the cyclothon. Bachpan se cycling karta aaya hoon," he says.
So what motivated him to try out the cyclothon? "Money," he answers honestly. But it's not for himself, he adds. The proceeds will go to his charity foudation, Being Human.
"We (the charity) cannot sustain on our own," he says. "Though the foundation has a big name, we have been putting in our own money. Unfortunately, I don't have that much money to give everyone who is suffering."
The lunch comes to an end, and with it, a truly fun time with Salman. As the actor moves on to talk to another media group, I collect my memories and head to office.
Image: Salman Khan in Veer