MUMBAI, Sept 15 – After two years lying low following a string of box office flops, Bollywood’s enigmatic "bad boy" Salman Khan is set for a comeback, in three new films about to hit the big screen.
The first, "Wanted", is out on Friday. The comedy "Main Aur Mrs Khanna" (Me and Mrs Khanna) and "London Dreams", about two friends who try to become rock stars in London, are set for release in the next two months.
Khan, 43, said he was confident "Wanted" would succeed. The movie sees him play a gangster on the run from police — including a top cop played by veteran actor Om Puri — and from fellow gang members who want him dead.
"It’s the script of the film," he said. "It has all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler. When I read the script, I was 100 percent that it will click."
Khan has been a controversial figure since he first broke into Bollywood in the late 1980s in the family drama "Biwi Ho To Aisi" (A Wife Should Be Like This) and the romance "Maine Pyar Kiya" (I’m In Love).
He cemented himself as one of Bollywood’s leading stars with hits such as "Bhaaghi: A Rebel For Love", "Patthar Ke Phool" (Stone Flowers), "Saajan" (Hearthrob) and "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun" (Who Am I To You?) in the 1990s.
But in 1998, he spent more than a week in prison for killing endangered Indian gazelles in the northern state of Rajasthan, and four years later he was alleged to have killed a man in a drink-driving case in Mumbai.
After the runaway success of 2003’s "Tere Naam" (In Your Name), the last five years have seen more misses than hits for Khan, yet he has kept his high profile and fans through regular appearances on television game shows.
Khan, with his trademark slicked-back hair, two gold earrings and t-shirts designed to show off his bulging biceps, puts down his appeal to a lack of pretence.
"I don’t behave like a star when I’m on television. I look like a common man and also behave like them, therefore the serial is popular," he said.
Asked what went wrong with his career in the last two years, he added: "I feel it was the length of the films that went against me.
"Today, Indian audiences don’t have the patience for long films and therefore the films flopped because they were lengthy films."
Khan’s three new films have been accompanied by a blizzard of pre-publicity, astounding the Indian media who have become accustomed to their requests for interviews falling on deaf ears or being accepted only reluctantly.
Column inches have been dedicated instead to speculation on the keen body-builder’s love life after he was pictured with a string of leading Bollywood actresses, including former Miss World Aishwarya Rai.
His current girlfriend is the model-turned-actress Katrina Kaif.
"I have realised that it is important to talk to the media," said Khan.
"I feel if I keep silent, the media starts inventing stories about me, so it is better that I come out and talk on what kind of person I am rather than they telling others what kind of person I am."
But Monday’s Hindustan Times newspaper speculated that there may be another reason behind what it called Khan’s "over-exposure", suggesting that he might have "a lot more to lose" if "Wanted" flops.