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April 4, 1997


The Iceman Cometh

Suparn Verma

Arbaaz KhanAs the sea breeze played havoc with his hair, Arbaaz (known, for the present, as Salman Khan's younger brother) jumped on the couch, narrowed his eyes into a glare and growled, "So, what is it you want to know?"

For a moment, it seems seemed like his character in Daraar (his debut film that has been scheduled for a July release) had spilled over to real life. Arbaaz plays the character who becomes totally warped by his obsession with Juhi Chawla in this remake of Sleeping with the Enemy. Which does make you wonder -- is this the Shah Rukh Khan syndrome or is the negative image really making a comeback?

"The nice 'n' clean kind of guy is redundant today. It's the kinks in human nature that make the audience relate to the character on the screen. Everyone loves to know about the misdoings of other people. That's the reason gossip sells. It makes a guy feel better when he realises that the people around him are not so great after all. It helps him to equate with the other person."

Arbaaz KhanArbaaz Khan first claimed public attention (notoriety, actually) as the male model in the controversial MR coffee ad that co-starred Malaika Arora.

For someone with the right connections (he is movie scenarist Salim Khan's younger son and the younger bro... but we have already told you that), his professional entry into the film industry was not smooth. "I had always been fascinated by films because of the kind of atmosphere that we have had at home. I knew I wanted to be an actor, so I started conditioning myself. I even assisted Mahesh Bhatt because I though that experience would help me."

Somewhere down the preparation line, things went wrong. Elder brother Salman made his mark in show business. At home, Arbaaz was faced with mounting pressure to equal his brother's achievements. His health took a beating. He succumbed to all the pressures surrounding him.

And then, Salim spoke to his younger son. "My father calmly told me that he had worked all his life so that his family could lead a comfortable life. Salman had made him happy by working at his career but when he saw me ruining my life, it reduced the remaining ten years of his life by half."

"That was it," Arbaaz jumps up at the memory and prowls around the room. "Something snapped in me. The next day, I went jogging with him. I ran two rounds to his 10, but it was a start." That period did something to Arbaaz, it made him resilient enough to attempt the impossible.

DaraarLike, despite suffering from severe vertigo, Arbaaz stood in a flying helicopter "and flung my arms all about the place. This was our first major schedule for Daraar and the director was really excited about the shot. I thought I would be over and done with the scene in a couple of shots, but I was left standing on the chopper for two days."

The situation was getting more and more confusing; where was the customary arrogance that the Khans were credited with? "Arrogance," announced junior Khan, "stems from a point of clarity. It takes away a certain aspect of dispute. I don't understand why confused and dilly-dallying individuals are considered nice guys. I'm clear about what I want; I guess people like to label this clarity as arrogance."

DaraarDo 'two clear visions' then tend to clash in the Khan household? "Salman?" Arbaaz has a smile on his face. "As kids, we were always fighting. Since we were physically alike and have an age difference of only one-and-a-half years, we inevitably ended up wearing each others' clothes, shoes, belts, whatever... I would be sitting like a cool dude with my friends, trying to make an impression, when the phone would ring and Salman's angry voice would shatter my eardrums, 'Remove my jeans just now.' And I would race home, only to sheepishly return with a different pair of jeans."

The two brothers were encouraged to develop different lifestyles. They had a totally disparate set of friends. Arbaaz's friends were his school mates; Salman's friends belonged to the street. While Salman used to just about manage to avoid the red line in his report card, Arbaaz used to pass with slightly more respectable grades. Even where sports was concerned, the two brothers were never in the same team.

Arbaaz Khan"Today, Salman has proved that he is here to stay. He has years of experience behind him. While I," Arbaaz looks worried, "still have to get a foothold in the industry."

To that end, he is working towards creating an image for himself. "An actor need an image if he wishes to be accepted by the audience. Without an image, he is like a rudderless ship. Actors are only allowed to experiment within their image. Like Amitabh Bachchan did. He would always play on his 'angry young man' image. He might play a beggar in one scene and a drunkard in an other. But you wouldn't see him playing a beggar in the whole film. Actually, there is no such thing as a versatile actor."

Despite the philosophy, Arbaaz is jittery about his fledgling career. "People strive for things that are not permanent. But then, nothing lasts forever. I cannot understand why people want to hang on to success. I would rather shine brightly once. That way, I will have at least proved my potential. I'm already mentally prepared for the fact that, after tasting success, I will be joining the ranks of the has-been someday."