Salman Khan brings Being Human to Dubai
Bollywood A-lister funds education and healthcare with his charity fashion line
- By David Tusing, Deputy tabloid! Editor
- Published: 09:57 June 13, 2012
- Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News
- Salman Khan
When Salman Khan, Bollywood’s biggest prankster, jumped on my question without a moment’s hesitation, I should have suspected something was up.
Having being reminded more than once by his people that I should limit my questions to the reason for his visit to Dubai today — to launch his Being Human charity fashion line — I thought I had gone for the jugular.
When you realise you’re making so much and you know you haven’t earned all of it yourself and that you’ve not worked for it as much as others have and that destiny played an important role, I guess you feel the need to be appreciative
“We were strictly briefed not to ask you any personal questions,” I said ever so earnestly when I met with him on Tuesday. “But Being Human comes from a very personal place for you, doesn’t it?”
“Yea,” Khan said without flinching. “You know, my dad came [to Mumbai] from Indore and left everything behind. He came with Rs60 [Dh3.93] in his pocket and never turned back and looked. He made it on his own…
“Back then, in Indore they used to have these eating competitions,” he continued, without skipping a beat. “You know, 50, 60 rotis — who could eat the most. Everyone does that growing up. So dad was going through this really bad phase and I think Sohail [Khan, his brother and also actor and producer] was about six months old then. And one day, his friend came for dinner and mum made rotis. The rotis got over, then the chicken got over, then the mutton got over. Then she went to the neighbour’s house and their food was also over. So eventually, she put some water in the gravy and everything was over…
“Then the friend said to my dad, ‘Salim, give me some more food — I’m still hungry.’ Sohail was sleeping then. So my dad looked at his friend and said, ‘You know, why don’t you just eat Sohail?”
Then, as laughter broke out in the private room we were sat at The Address Downtown Dubai, Khan added with a mischievous glint in his eye: “I’m just kidding!”
I should have known. In his 25-year Bollywood career, spanning almost 100 films, many of them some of the biggest hits the industry has produced, Khan has become notorious for his on-set pranks.
But besides being one of the most successful Hindi actors ever, the 46-year-old has also earned quite a few “titles” along the way: There’s Bollywood’s Original Bad Boy, thanks to his many arrests and police summons, including one for harassing ex-girlfriend Aishwarya Rai Bachchan 10 years ago. There’s also Lover Boy, following his breakthrough role in the seminal Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) right through a chunk of his many hit films, to his publicised relationship with Rai Bachchan and his current very much single status. And then there’s Star Maker: actresses Katrina Kaif and Sonakshi Sinha have him to thank for their success, and so do the many directors and scriptwriters he’s discovered over the years.
But very little is ever written about Salman Khan the do-gooder. Those close to him say that even before Khan became the star he is today, he would often visit hospitals, helping out and donating blood. He had a particular interest in healthcare, especially for cancer and HIV/Aids patients, and has dreams to build hospitals.
It’s no wonder then that his Being Human Foundation, launched six years ago, focuses on providing free healthcare and education to needy children across India. The trust has since grown into an art movement (Khan is an accomplished painter), a fashion and accessories line, and later this year will become a chain of cafes.
In Dubai to launch the merchandise in the Middle East, having partnered with high street retailers Splash and Iconic, Khan said, seriously this time, that Being Human came out of the desire to pay it forward.
“When you realise you’re making so much and you know you haven’t earned all of it yourself and that you’ve not worked for it as much as others have and that destiny played an important role, I guess you feel the need to be appreciative. And the need to give your token of appreciation to God.”
Healthcare and education, he added, are “two of the most important things ever”.
“When we say education, we don’t just mean getting a qualification. Yes, it’s education where a person is taught how to read and write, but also, depending on how far in life he wants to go, it’s also teaching him to be street-smart, to live his life [to his full potential].”
Khan also donates a percentage of all his earnings into the project.
“I have done my rounds asking [for donations], but I didn’t feel good about it. So now whoever feels like donating, it’s up to them,” he said.
But thanks to his popularity and the support from the industry, Being Human merchandise has spawned imitations, which Khan said disgusts him.
“Can I swear?” he asked, offering a hint of the things he would say in Hindi if he could, then adding: “Okay, maybe not.
“But that’s what I feel about them. What I really don’t like is the man who is making the fakes knows that he is making the fakes and he is telling people they are original and making money out of it. It’s like stealing from the blind.”
He said he wanted the brand to be accessible to all.
“If we made it really expensive, people would have still bought that stuff. But what’s the use if they buy in ones and twos? You make them cheaper and people will keep on coming.
“Just because a brand [is] expensive does not mean it’s a big brand. And low priced does not mean it’s a cheap brand. What looks good is good, if the fabrics are good, designs are good, it’s all good.”
With his last three films, Dabangg, Ready and Bodyguard, smashing box office records, Khan is currently riding high. His next film, Ek Tha Tiger, which will see him reunite with Kaif, is scheduled for an August release. He is also making a number of cameo appearances, including one in the Ajay Devgn-starrer Son of Sardar.
How does he ensure his charity runs smoothly and that all the money is accounted for?
“So far, we don’t have any administrative costs. So whatever comes in, 100 per cent goes straight to the people. The money that comes from the brands, we pay the taxes and it goes straight. Very soon we will start hiring people and then we’ll see.”
As Being Human goes international, he said he wishes it would grow bigger.
“More success, inshallah,” he said. And in his inimitable style added: “Because success will mean s***loads of money. That would mean that much more education and those many more free surgeries.