New Delhi: You remember that scene from 'Kick', when Salman Khan bicycles down tiny crowded streets in a city and finally comes across a railway track? He then proceeds to get down from the bicycle and simply crosses the track, just as the train thunders down upon him -- but misses him by a whisker. (Kids, don't try this at home.)
Disclaimer: Yes I like to watch Salman Khan films. No, I don't think he's a great actor. Yes, I whistled and hooted during 'Dabangg' and 'Kick'.
When we see Khan beating the bad guys to a pulp on the big screen -- punch them senseless with one hand, to be precise -- we don't stop to wonder how, or rather, why we are watching this. And how does any of that make sense. No, just like the rest of the crowd in the movie hall, you find yourself whistling, cheering and hooting in unison, blaming Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif and all the rest of them who didn't realise Bhai's true worth.
But what makes Salman Khan's fans so...loyal? It's not like he's India's only favourite or anything. There's the other three Khans, Aamir, Saif and Shah Rukh, but we don't see their fans trolling the media for "portraying the actor in a negative light". At least, not so viciously. That is something Khan has in common with Rajinikanth. (We speak from bitter experience.)
Looks: Perhaps one of the reasons Salman Khan is revered by his fans is because of his looks. While definitely in the good-looking department, Khan is not classically beautiful -- you know, the Grecian nose, the square jaw or the tall built. He is instead fair, on the shorter side and has worked hard to beef up his muscles and stay healthy. It is perhaps these flaws that make him more accessible to the general public.
He is bigger than the character he plays: It is said that a great actor always becomes the character he/she is portraying on the stage, or on the big screen. But not Bhai. Be it as a cop, a good Samaritan, a lover, a period warrior or a goon, Bhai is Bhai on the screen. You can take the character out of Bhai, but you simply can't take the Bhai out of the character.
Keeping up with the times: It is obvious that he hasn't hired any PR agency to handle his social media accounts. Whatever you see on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, is his authentic voice. Typos and faux pas aside, his fans like that he has his own 'voice' on social media.
Reinvention: Figure this. Khan was one of the most sought-after gooey, romantic actors in the early '90s. And post 'Tere Naam', he's completed the circle with venturing into a variety of genres from action, thrillers, comedy, romance, period and drama. We think that it is this quality of constantly reinventing himself through his looks, his choice of films and filmmakers, that he has managed to stay relevant in this cut-throat glamour industry.
Magnetism: To try and figure out how Khan's fans see him and why they adore him so much, we did a cursory research on the subject. While topics such as Cult of the Personality, Apotheosis and Charismatic Authority cropped up at regular intervals, we were unable to fit Khan in any one of the cubbyholes. It is just magnetic personality, you see.
Scandals: Like the proverbial prodigal son, the film industry as well as his fans were more than happy to welcome back their erring star. Khan's car had run over a group of people sleeping on a pavement in Bandra, killing one person and injuring four others in an accident, 12 years ago. He was charged with an additional charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder that is liable for a 10-year sentence. He, along with Sonali Bendre, Tabu, Neelam, Soha Ali Khan and others were also accused of hunting the protected blackbuck in Rajasthan while shooting for the film 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'. But his fans seem to have forgiven and forgotten his "misadventures".
Your pain is our pain: Who hasn't been heartbroken? Who hasn't been through tough break-ups? Who hasn't suffered through jealousy? Who hasn't sworn off love at some point in their life? We have. And so has Salman Khan.