Bollywood’s Salman Khan bankable despite bad behaviour

Salman Khan is by far one of Bollywood’s biggest actors with a net worth of US$200 million and films that continue to draw the crowds to the cinemas. A number of factors have contributed to making him such a bankable star.

Sanjay Chakraborty, a marketing communication adviser based in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, explains that Khan’s popularity owes much to how he has nurtured “brand Salman Khan” to become an icon.

“Like a brand, he is consistently visible,” he says. “He is consistently performing in the same manner. He has a personality. He’s a macho guy and he’s popular and does things which connect with the audience.”

This is despite controversies that have plagued the actor, including a hit-and-run case for which he was sentenced to five years in jail.

“He is making sure that his brand is being managed properly,” says Mr Chakraborty. “The moment he had problems, he came out with his philanthropical effort, Being Human.”

As a result, he has become known for his charity. The types of films he opts to make are also key to his success.

“Whenever I have interviewed Salman, he has always told me he likes to make films for the masses,” says Manju Ramanan, the editor of Filmfare Middle East. “He doesn’t believe in making films which question things or an issue-based films because he believes that issues have to be tackled separately. Films according to him are pure entertainment. He’s very clear on his brand of cinema. It has worked with the masses.”

His latest film, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, has been the actor’s highest earning film to date.

The “three Khans”, namely Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Aamir Khan, “collectively are responsible for generating half of all box office collections in India”, Mr Chakraborty estimates. All three of the actors turn 50 this year and their popularity shows no sign of slowing down.

It is hard to say which one is the most successful of the three, he says. Although, if measured by wealth, Shah Rukh Khan is the richest with a net worth of $600m, according to Forbes.

“Each one has created his own personality,” says Mr Chakraborty. “Salman Khan is macho. Shah Rukh Khan is the romantic hero. Aamir Khan is Mr Perfection. That will be a great day when you find all three in a single movie.”

Ms Ramanan also finds it difficult to say which of the three is bigger because “each of them has their own strengths and their own following”.

Aamir Khan has made films that have focused on social issues, including corruption for example.

“Aamir Khan appeals to conscience of people,” she says. “He has a chat show where he talks to people about problems and trying to solve them, including getting governments involved.”

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