Salman Khan: star on ascendant!

New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) His biggest fans admit he isn't the greatest actor and say his films aren't really quality cinema. But Salman Khan is unstoppable, spinning box-office magic from Chandigarh to Chennai and Bhopal to Ballia, with his "Bodyguard" confounding critics and being declared a hit on day one of its release.

The lukewarm reviews and the thumping success of the Salman-Kareena Kapoor film across single theatres in India's hinterland and multiplexes in metro malls could be perplexing for some. But not for his fans queuing up to get entertained as only Salman it seems can; so what if the film isn't top-notch?

If his 2009 release "Wanted" revived single screen theatres, his 2010 release "Dabangg" was the top grosser of the year. This year his first release "Ready" did decent business at the ticket window but "Bodyguard", released this Eid, is breaking records, beating the opening day collections of "Dabangg" and "3 Idiots".

"Bodyguard", the remake of a Malayalam film, has broken "Dabangg" opening day record by a huge margin of about Rs.7.5 crore and the second day collections at Rs.18 crore is bigger than any film's Sunday collection.

The film has been co-produced by Reliance Entertainment and Atul Agnihotri, Salman's brother-in-law. And distributors can't stop celebrating.

"The film is going 100 percent occupancy in Uttar Pradesh. Single screens are also going houseful. Both distributors and exhibitors are likely to rake in the moolah. Although the reviews have been not very good, the film will cross the Rs.100- crore mark," Joginder Mahajan, a Delhi-based distributor, told IANS.

T.N. Kapoor of Bharti Film Distributors in Indore said: "The response has been fantastic. The occupancy is not going less than 90-95 percent. The film is likely to be the highest earner in Madhya Pradesh. We also manage Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and the response has been very good there too."

"The film is not as good as 'Dabangg', but it is still doing fantastic business in small cities. While Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are popular in metro cities, Salman is more popular among the masses in the interiors; hence the excitement is more.

"On the opening day, the film had already crossed over Rs.20 crore, which is much more than 'Dabangg'. It is likely to do much more business."

Bihar-based distributor Ranjan Sinha said: "Any film in Bihar normally opens in 113-115 centres and 'Bodyguard' is the first one to open in 150 centres. If we compile numbers, the film has earned over Rs.1 crore in Bihar itself."

The star, known to be close to his family, has helped his family cash in on his success. Brother Arbaaz hit the gold mine when he produced "Dabangg" and now brother-in-law Atul is raking it in with "Bodyguard".

"We were expecting a good opening, but the number has gone beyond our prediction," said Atul. "Even in Cochin where people have seen both its Tamil and Malayalam versions, the film is doing extremely well."

Sanjeev Lamba, CEO, Reliance Entertainment, said expectations from a Salman film at Eid are sky high. "We expect that the film will continue to create new milestones at the box office. For Reliance Entertainment 'Bodyguard' caps an extremely successful summer."

However, the star is himself missing the action as he is sitting miles away in a hospital in Pittsburgh and recuperating after a surgery to fix his nerve problem.

Film critic Khalid Mohammad feels the news of his health trouble, which came five days before the release of "Bodyguard", has worked in favour of Salman.

"Salman Khan has a good fan following and his presence in itself is charismatic. There's also a sympathy wave riding on the actor, who is being treated for a medical condition," he said.

"He has this glamorous presence and poster boy image; as a result he is getting such roles even at the age of 45. Moreover, his time is also good; so whatever he does works well for him," Khalid said.

Salman is the reigning Khan of the moment, the star who it seems is bigger than any film. How long will the magic last, cine goers wonder.

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