Even in times as dire as these, Salman has managed to live up to his Eid promise, delivering yet another special with Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai. After all, what is Eid without sheer khurma, biryani and a Bhai special? In an exclusive interview for Hashtag India with Lipika Varma, Salman speaks about his Eid promise and his thoughts on the massive humanitarian crisis caused by the second wave of the pandemic in India
Your Eid-special Radhe was yet another OTT release…do you miss the big screen?
The release on an OTT platform has increased the risk of loss, but we decided to go ahead with the film in such unprecedented times to hopefully provide a hint of relief and let the audiences entertain themselves. The film got a theatrical release overseas but in India there are very few theatres left which are operating; the figure is around 25-30. Fulfilling the Eid commitment was the right thing to do in the lockdown, as it is more financially viable for the fans too in these times. For now, it is good to watch the film in the safe environment of your house.
There was talk that whatever Radhe will be earning will be donated to the COVID relief efforts. How true is that?
We aren’t going to earn anything. No theatrical release means we are only going to lose. Whatever loss, it will be from our end and Zee’s end. People must be wondering why we decided to release the movie if we weren’t going to make any money. Last time we donated between Rs 3000-1500 to around 25,000 workers in the industry, and this time too, there are around 45-50,000 people from the industry who will get an amount on which they can survive for some time. We are also arranging some concentrators. I also saw some fan clubs of mine who did a commendable job by helping people and I am truly grateful they all recently tweeted about it.
In these unprecedented times, how have you been keeping up with everything, and what’s your plan to help those in distress?
It’s a very difficult time. You can only say things like ‘be strong’, ‘be safe’, and ‘stay at home’, which you have heard a thousand times. But how does one do that if somebody at their house is suffering from COVID, or somebody has lost a person to COVID. Everyone needs to work to earn their daily bread and butter. Khane ko paise nahi hai to davaaiyo ke liye kahan se layenge paise? (People don’t have money for food, where will they find money to buy medicine?) And yet strictly following the lockdown is our only hope to reduce cases. I have also had people suffer from COVID, and I have been getting lots of calls from my friends asking for medicines and injections, and oxygen and ICU beds. I have not been able to do anything. If you manage to snag a bed for one person, it means you’re snatching it from another. Just to help somebody whom I know, I might be taking out somebody else’s mother or father or sister or brother; so I do not wish to do that. The common man is facing a lot more pressing issues by the hour.
What has been your ray of hope in the last few weeks?
I was at the farm, taking in some fresh air. It wasn’t specifically bought for corona (chuckles). It’s a place we have had for 30 years, and we’re using it now for isolation. It is a blessing. Imagine four or five people living together in one house, they must be facing so many issues right now. Even staying at home might have become difficult for them. Lockdown is hard as it is, and every family is dealing with multiple issues right now. Isolation must be hard for them if anyone gets sick. They don’t have the resources required at this time to get out of this safe and sound. There is only so much we can do. People are losing loved ones, and even comforting them seems like mere courtesy right now because misery is just everywhere.
What has upset you the most about the current situation?
I am extremely disturbed by the business the black market is doing during these times. People using this disease to make money. Medicines and oxygen cylinders are being sold in the black market. I don’t understand how this can happen. Families with sick and critical patients are paying lakhs to get their hands on life-saving drugs. Quite a few of them are getting scammed as well. What kind of people are these? You can save somebody’s life, and you choose to harass innocent, distressed people to make a quick buck. I don’t understand how death and suffering doesn’t move these people, but I believe it all comes back; it will come back to haunt them.
Your jodi with Prabhudeva is a superhit. What brings you together on the same wavelength?
I think he is a very talented actor, director and choreographer. He knows the heroes and the pulse of the audiences. I worked on Wanted with him, and it was a super hit. Last year too, our film Dabangg suffered losses because of the lockdown. This Eid looks like it will pan out the same way for us thanks to the virus. We just hope that things go well for the film industry and the entire world especially for the daily wageworkers. I was at the farm so there was no network. But I drove back here and saw the traffic and I wondered why there was so much traffic during a lockdown, only to realise that really, I was complicit too in that moment. The only way to overcome this is by not stepping out of the house for sometime.
And yet people are out there breaking protocol. What would you like to tell them?
What should I tell them? It’s been a year and a half and the wave that has occurred this time is the most dangerous one. Up until now, we used to hear about people we don’t quite know getting struck by the virus, but this time around, the ailment is in our families. I just pray that everyone stays safe, and gets vaccinated at the earliest. Research does say that even if you contract the virus after getting vaccinated, it won’t be as severe, and that’s something. More importantly, the chances of you infecting someone else being responsible for their suffering and possible death is also reduced. I have taken it and will be getting my second dose in 10-15 days. Our medical infrastructure is exhausted. There is no space in the hospitals, which is why people are dying. The government is opening up centres now, but they keep filling up. If we had the resources, we would have been able to save a lot of lives. People are either losing their loved ones or going through 20 days of sheer misery. And when we see how horrifying the situation is, I believe it should be enough to convince us to watch how we conduct ourselves, and strictly follow lockdown protocol.
- Strictly following the lockdown is our only hope to reduce cases.
- If you manage to snag a bed for one person, it feels like you’re snatching it from another.
- If we had the hospitals or the medication, we would have been able to save a lot of lives. People are either losing their loved ones or going through 20 days of sheer misery.