Can one man guarantee success in the film-industry? We all agree that in a team effort, success is the result of a collective effort towards the common goal. There have been numerous occasions where the director has taken the blame of failure of a movie on his personal shoulders, but he has heaped praise on the entire team for the success of any film. In fact, RGV is quite vocal in support of the claim that success is due to the whole team, whereas failure is solely his own.
One of the biggest talking points in the Hindi film industry for the last decade-and-a-half has been about who is biggest star among the three Khans: Aamir, Salman or Shahrukh. The supporters of the stars have gone to lengths to make their point across the supporters of the 'rival' camp, and they have not even shied away from either deifying their 'idol', or from running-down the 'rivals' by whatever means possible. The more sane voices have tried to point out towards the body of work under the belts of the respective stars, and have a comparative analysis of the good/bad products.
There is no denying the fact that if analysed individually, all the three have had their share of hits and misses, commercially successful as well as artistically uplifting. Practically speaking, there is hardly any edge with any one star to choose from, and they deserve to be where they are for their individual contribution to the industry. Its only when we look at the circumstances under which, and the team with which the commercially successful films have been given by these three pillars of stardom, that we realise the edge and extent of stardom that Salman Khan enjoys over his compatriots.
Just think of a Salman Khan movie, and chances are, all we will remember would be the name of the film, and the fact that Salman played a romantic/action/comedy role in it. We will not even bother about the story-line, or other cinematic brilliance expected from any other film. It is even likely that we won't remember the name of the director either, probably because the director is a newcomer, and the production house is not necessarily a biggie. The songs would be ordinary, the dialogues clichéd, and the entire experience of watching the movie would give us a sense of déjà vu. The fact that it is a Salman Khan movie is the only solace that we will carry back, and that is sufficient for many among us to throng to the cinema-hall to catch our favourite superstar.
Contrast this with the films of the other two Khans. Shahrukh Khan believes in playing safe, and prefers working with the Chopras and Johars of the industry. Most of the roles undertaken by him are commercially a 'safe bet', and the brilliant marketing and PR efforts coupled with the names involved make sure that the movie is successful even before it has completed its first-week-run. Aamir Khan, on the other hand, doesn't worry much about the names he is associated with, and makes sure that the product he is involved with is unique in its own way to garner a buzz from the day it is announced, to create awareness about the movie, and to generate a high-level curiosity around the time of release, all resulting in audience thronging to the theatres irrespective of the merits of the film, as claimed or purported by the team behind the film, Aamir himself being the most vocal. Also the fact that Aamir spaces his films wisely, and mostly follows one-film-at-a-time approach, those who swear by his talent (and there are many in that category, including yours truly), just o ahead and watch it.
It might apparently seem that both SRK and Aamir also sell the movie by their name, but in most cases, we end up taking away much more than just the 'star-value' from the movie, in terms of either a good story, or some beautiful visuals and great songs. In comparison, all we get from a Salman Khan film is him and him alone (in most of the cases). He is neither a good actor like Aamir, nor has the back-up of the mightiest of film fraternity like SRK, nor has martial-arts skills of an Akshay Kumar. Yes, he is extremely good-looking, but then, so are most of the stars, in their own way. Then, what unique thing does Salman Khan offer for people to watch his otherwise atrocious movies in such huge numbers? We may not really have an answer to this phenomenon.
All the three Khans started their career around the same time, and were involved in some good, some bad and some atrocious choices in the beginning of their career. All the three of them have given some colossal hits already. But with time, SRK & Aamir moved ahead with their own brand of exclusivity (in terms of persons or projects they would work with), whereas Salman Khan remained there, associating himself with one ordinary product after the other with his trademark benevolence. Sample some of the 'commercially successful' movies that he has given us, and you will appreciate the point I am driving at: Sanam Bewafaa, Veergati, Bandhan, Judwaa, Auzaar, Jaanam Samjha Karo, Hello Brother, Biwi No. 1, Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega, Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge, Chal Mere Bhai, Tere Naam, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, Garv: Pride & Honour, Phir Milenge, Lucky, Partner... phew... Put any other star in these movies, and chances are, the film as well as the star would be overtly criticised or worse, out-rightly rejected for their association with the torture-fest. However, the same no-quality film with Salman Khan becomes worth a watch because of the unmistaken fan-following he has generated over the years.
Salman Khan is also the favourite 'guest / friendly / special' appearance guy of the industry, for the obvious reason that he can't say No where he should, and taking advantage of this weakness, the producers / directors approach him, because they know the name will sell tickets more than the quality of the product. Sample these: Deewana Mastana, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, Baghban, No Entry, Baabul, Salaam-e-Ishq, Saawaria, Hello, Heroes and many more which I seem to forget for now.
Another point to be noted in Salman's favour is that from the very beginning, he has given hits with the lesser known directors, as he was not afraid to experiment, and also his confidence was always with him, so he didn't need to be convinced about the “names” associated with the project. Maine Pyaar Kiya saw Rajshree Productions come out with a big budget movie after almost a decade with the then unknown Sooraj Barjatya making his debut as a director, and Bhagyashree, a virtual non-entity giving him company. Baaghi had Deepak Shivdasani as the director, and Nagma, again almost an unknown face as the heroine. Patthar Ke Phool was directed by Anant Balani, and Raveen Tandon debuted with him. Similarly, Sanam Bewafa was directed by Sawan Kumar Tak, and heroine was Chandni, about whom nobody had heard earlier, or has even her whereabouts since. Fact of the matter is, Salman Khan drew the crowds on his own merit, and made a career out of many others associated with those movies.
Salman Khan has that typical screen presence, wherein the moment he comes on screen, you just forget about the other faces filling the space, be it a supporting actor, or the villain, or even the pretty face of a heroine. Any other actor with such ordinary 'acting prowess' would have crumbled under the tremendous competition that the other two Khans presented to him, but Salman has his own way of keeping his loyal fans happy, and that is an enigma. I am in no way propagating his films or his choice of roles. If anything, I prefer not to watch his movies in most of the cases. But the hysterical following that he enjoys across the country is something no other Khan can boast of. In fact, SRK has himself accepted in one of his interviews that it is to Salman's credit that he has made some of the movies work at the BO despite the inherent weakness of the film, and no other actor would have garnered so much attention to those movies except Salman Khan. And that is the true hallmark of a 'superstar'.
Many people argue that he is repetitive in most of his roles in terms of his acting or mannerisms. I personally feel that being repetitive is what makes him the star that he is, since the 'star' lives, whereas the actor dies with the character. That is the reason why all the movies of Salman Khan are watched as 'his' movies, rather than for the character that he portrays. And that is what his fans take back home, and remember him for, long after the film is over.