By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | June 21, 2018
Our tryst began in the year 1997. We dined at Oriental Blossom, Hotel Marine Plaza, Marine Drive, Mumbai: actually, I was on duty interviewing former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar and Salim Khan. Bombay Times then had a column called ‘Table for Two’ where we invited two celebrities out for lunch or dinner at a restaurant of their choice.
I told Dilip that we had set up the table with him and a female actor. Immediately, Dilip was like, “Arre yaar, Martin what will I talk with an actress. I will not be comfortable. Why don’t you call Salim Khan. We two will make a good pair. I connected with Salim who immediately agreed to dine with Dilip. Little did I know then that they were neighbours in Panvel (both have farm houses there) and buddies and they obviously had a cricket connection with Salim being a First Class cricketer himself.
In the 21 years we have known each other we have kept in touch and have met sporadically at his home, sitting at his ‘famous balcony’ at Galaxy Apartments, Bandra, Bandstand. Never has he spoken about his star son Salman but at today’s meeting when I inquired about Salman’s paintings he walked me up to his living room and showed me his own private gallery with a splattering of Salman’s paintings neatly arranged on the wall. “Can I take pictures and write about it?” I inquire. “Of course,” he says.
“I don’t think even he knew he could draw,” reveals Salim about Salman’s painting abilities. “One day he was at our farm house and had nothing to do; he took up a pencil and paper and started to draw and everyone was quite impressed with the outcome.” Was it during his school days?” I inquire. “No. It was after he started acting. In those days he hardly had any films (read offers) so he spent a lot of time at the Farm House. And once he knew his drawings were good he got encouraged and started drawing a lot,” says Salim adding, “As for me, I can’t even draw a straight line. He gets his arty side from his mother, who’s a good artist herself.”
Over the years, Salman has had plenty of exhibitions. “He has sold a lot of paintings and raised money for ‘Being Human’. I guess he sells because he is Salman and not because of his paintings,” adds Salim.
Giving me a tour of his home, the 82-year-old celebrated script writer shows us (me and my friends) a new machine where he spends a lot of time exercising his back. “I have developed a back problem, it’s age-related so this keeps me fit,” he says.
In walks Mrs. Salma Khan. At first, I fail to recognize her and do not offer my hand in greeting not wanting to embarrass myself. We two have met in 2009. After inquiring with Salim if that was indeed his wife, I greet her. “Martin,” I say offering my hand. “I know. Martin D’Souza,” she smiles, offering me her hand. “What happened to you?” I ask, “I failed to recognize you.” “I have to compete with him (pointing to Salim)” she says referring to her trim-knocked-off-10-years self.
Coming back to 1997, whilst having soup at Oriental Blossom, Salim had then said, “Come home, my wife makes the best paaya curry.” I have been to his home but never reminded him of the offer: maybe the next time!
Gems from the meeting in 1997:
“When a film flops, the hero immediately picks up the phone to check whether his phone is working—the instrument stops ringing altogether.” (Those days, it was the MTNL lines).
“Dilip Kumar is my all-time favourite; all other actors have been inspired by him. But the most talented actor today is Govinda. That guy has unlimited talent.”
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