Despite his mega-star status, who else but Salman Khan will selflessly give back to the industry so much talent, including potential young competition to his own star innings? But this one-man army not only discovers or mentors new talent; he also helps out those he feels deserve a push.
His No Entry co-star Esha Deol, for example, was being re-launched by her mother Hema Malini with Tell Me O Kkhuda. A grateful Hema recalls, "Salman called and asked me if I needed any help, and so I took him on for a promo song with Esha."
The number of beneficiaries of Salman's help is legion: a whole parade of artistes, filmmakers, technicians and more. With his unlimited cameos, even if they did him no good, he obliged everyone from Dev Anand (Love At Times Square) and Ketan Desai (Deewana Mastana) to a Saawan Kumar in Saawan – The Love Season.
Salman thinks nothing of spending extra hours working (usually without remuneration) for people he loves, admires, respects or thinks deserve his helping hand. So when Preity Zinta helped out with a special cameo in his brother's film Main Aur Mrs Khanna, Salman reciprocated instantly with the same in her maiden production, Ishqk In Paris.
An army of not-so-successful names were in the supporting cast of Salman's latest home production Jai Ho, all benefiting with work and some spotlight thanks to his large heart – a list that included Nauheed Cyrusi, Genelia D'Souza Deshmukh, Vatsal Sheth, Ashmit Patel, Vikas Bhalla and Tulip Joshi.
Recently, Salman has announced the remake of the remarkable Marathi film on the medical condition Down's Syndrome, Yellow, in Hindi as a co-producer. This was another generous gesture – actor Riteish Deshmukh, who produced the original, is a personal friend too.
There are so many names that he has encouraged and mentored, outside the obvious altruism for his clan of Arbaaz Khan and Malaika Arora Khan (producers, Dabangg), Sohail Khan (writer-director, Auzaar in 1997, co-producer, Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya in 1998 and Ready in 2011) and his sister Alvira and husband Atul Agnihotri (producer, Bodyguard).
It is now a matter of trivia that most of his heroines have a lasting bond of affection with him – if Revathi got him to essay the pivot of her directorial debut Phir Milenge, Raveena Tandon got him to do a cameo in her debut film as producer, Stumped, both 2004 releases.
Revathi apart, Salman has also backed new directors ever since he achieved star status, and the illustrious list here includes Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Khamoshi, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), Prabhudheva (Wanted) besides Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru (Lucky – No Time For Love) and smaller names.
Salman Khan has also introduced two composers who are leading names today – Himesh Reshammiya and Sajid-Wajid. Though they have made their own separate marks, they reserve their best for their mentor, and while being competitors happily get into collaborative mode for their common mentor, as when Himesh agreed to sing for the duo at his behest in Jai Ho.
Of late, Salman has mentored Daboo Malik's son Amal Malik, who composed some songs in Jai Ho, and is now scoring the background score for the sports-based small but high-concept film Khwaabb, produced by Arjuna Award-winning ace shooter Moraad Ali Khan. This film, revealed Morad recently, improved by leagues after Salman stepped in to help. To which, the actor simply stated, "I just made them increase the pace of the film."
We should also note the fact that Salman Khan is the key inspiration for many new or struggling talents to give off their best. Raamlaxman has not bettered Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun!…, and the same is true of Ismail Darbar (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) and even Adnan Sami (Lucky – No Time For Love).
Few people are aware that it was Khan who guided Hrithik Roshan in many aspects; including tips on working out and getting a great physique before his debut in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai. Things were said to have soured between the two for some years, but when things went wrong between Hrithik and his wife Suzanne, it was Salman who good-naturedly met him to discuss his problems.
Fewer still know that Salman Khan has even been said to have provided Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan a roof over their heads when the former was a struggling actor.
Sonakshi Sinha, a trained designer with a plump figure to boot, was advised by Khan to become an actress. He took it upon himself to groom her into one, giving her tips on diet and exercise and finally Dabangg. Possibly, this was his way of showing his love for his father's very close friend and one of his own favourites, Sonakshi's father Shatrughan Sinha.
As Arjun Kapoor puts it, "I was fat and was not even thinking of becoming an actor when Salman-bhai told me to become an actor! Salman-bhai is my father-figure, and I am keen that he remains happy with my work, and approves what I do as a human being. If I am an actor today, it is only thanks to him – he deserves a hundred percent credit. I won't even say that he awakened the dormant actor within me, because I did not even know there was one inside!"
Of course, Salman had also bailed out Arjun's father and producer Boney Kapoor after a series of flops with No Entry and Wanted, giving him two of his biggest hits in the last decade.
Varun Dhawan, son of one of Salman's favourite directors, David Dhawan, is also someone who looks up to the actor. Not only was Varun's character in his recent hit Main Tera Hero more of a tribute to Salman than to Govinda, but the superstar blessed him and also "acted" as the 'voice' of God in some fun sequences in the film!
Last but not the least, Salman Khan lent his name to the splendid Chillar Party (2011), and part-produced the brilliant but then-already-completed film (that his father had taken up for distribution) under his banner of Being Human Productions. The film won honours galore at home and abroad (National award for Best Screenplay, Best Children's Film and an award for Best Film at the International Children's Film Festival) besides being declared by the trade as a "super-hit" in terms of return of investment – that is the cost/profit ratio.
What is the font of this all-pervading helpfulness that characterizes this Khan? Is it just his immaculate upbringing? Or is it his innate nature? Or was it the joy of his early success that could have – as with lesser people – gone to his head?
In his early days as a struggling actor, Salman had never used his father's influence or their relationship to get films but would visit producers on his own and audition for roles. He recalled being highly touched then by the trait of generosity of Kumar Gaurav (for whom his father wrote Naam in 1986) and the humility of Govinda, when Salman was no one and the former a star. When Govinda was going through a rough patch, Salman gave him a bail-out platform, Partner (2007), the only super-hit in Govinda's new career phase.
Even today, Salman Khan willingly spares time to listen to new writers and directors as well as talents in other departments. And the one-man army continues to enrich the industry.