Is Salman Khan our Tom Cruise?
Tom Cruise is 4 years older than Salman Khan, but look at the stunts he performs, Oh Maa! Look at the warmth and humility he conveys in his persona. He lights up the room and the screen, depending on where you are watching him.
And he doesn't command attention. He gets it without asking for it. As I heard one of his co-stars from Mission Impossible comment, when you watch him at work you know why Tom earns the big bucks. Yes, watching him we know why he is ‘Tom Cruise' a metaphor for masculine beauty and perfection all the way here in India where we often hear the taunt, ‘Kya samajhta hai apne-aap ko, Tom Cruise?"
The best part of being Tom Cruise is he doesn't behave like ‘Tom Cruise'. He is kind considerate and warm-hearted on the locations. All his co-stars genuinely love him. His time between shots is not spent bitching about co-stars or sharing lurid details about female actors (yes, a lot of Indian actors do that) but in healthy conversations about life and new skills.
New skills, reminds me the chopper that Cruise flies through the treacherous mountains of New Zealand (standing in for Kashmir) in the Mission Impossible film. These are stunts that can easily take Tom's life. Why does he do it? Why does he repeatedly take such grave risks with his life? Is it a death-wish?
I think it is more to do with learning on the job and acquiring new skills. Tom never ceases to be a humble inquisitive students looking for a challenge each time.
When was the last time Salman Khan acquired a skill for a role? So okay, he learnt the dhobi-pachaad stunt for Sultan. He also gained a lot of weight for the part. This is as close to realism that Salman can bring himself.
Tom Cruise spends months and years learning skills that would make him look absolutely convincing when doing the action on screen. Why go to all this trouble and even hazard a threat to his life when he could easily fake the stunts with a body-double?
Let me tell you the biggest of action heroes in Bollywood fake their big heart-in-the-mouth stunts. Salman doesn't even try to do the action. He is forbidden from doing so due to his neurological condition. And yet he is the Tom Cruise of India.
At 50-plus you can't touch them even if you are an aspiring superstar with more energy than you can muster to get even with the enemies. They both are the sort of supreme superstars whose every word is biblical in context and every gesture is iconic.
Yet there is a difference. Surrounded by family and hangers-on Salman has left no room for himself to grow, Tom, on the other hand is a loner. He has no family surrounding him in doting adoration. He has a daughter whom he seldom sees. He has only his superstardom for company.He nurtures it like a precious relationship, which, if you think about it, stardom is.
He doesn't try to be ‘Tom Cruise'. Because unlike Salman Khan, being Tom Cruise is not about self-congratulation , not about over-ruling the scriptwriter , directing the director and sneering at the media.