Over the years, superstar Salman Khan has launched many newcomers in Bollywood, but this is going to be the first time when someone from his own family makes his acting debut under his wings. We are talking about Khan’s brother-in-law Aayush Sharma who enters showbiz with the forthcoming film LoveYatri, bankrolled under the banners of Salman Khan Films.

Khan says that he always knew that the association of his name with Aayush’s debut flick would spark nepotism debate again, but it’s the audience who decides who will stay and survive and who goes into oblivion.

In this latest interaction with Eastern Eye correspondent, Mohnish Singh, at Galaxy Apartments, Salman Khan opens up about Aayush Sharma, nepotism, and the controversy around the title of his production. Excerpts…

Salman, your brother-in-law Aayush Sharma said that this place, Galaxy Apartments, is an institution of performing arts from where his journey started. There have been some good graduates and some not-so-good ones. What do you have to say?

Who are the good ones and who are the not-so-good ones? I think everyone who has come here has done well for themselves. See, everyone has their own destiny. Who will go up and who will come down, it’s all in destiny.

When I did Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), I did pretty okay for myself. So, whoever has started from here is in a better position than what they were in when they started.

Everyone wants to be the biggest star, but some people have it in their destiny, while others don’t. Sohail and Arbaaz are working as directors and producers. They own their entertainment companies. They are doing pretty well for themselves.

Ahead of the release of LoveYatri, what is the advice that you would like to give him?

The only thing that I tell him is that don’t play any games. Just be very enthusiastic about what you want to do. Be patient. Just don’t jump into anything just because you need to work. If there is no work, that’s fine. You need to do only good work, otherwise working every day and doing bad work will get you no work later on. So, you might have to wait for good work to come. And work does come. Work nowadays comes from web, TV, movies and different kind of cinemas. People get not one, two are three changes, but they keep on getting work.

Salman Khan with Aayush Sharma

In one of his interviews, Aayush said that irrespective of whether he is going to be launched by you or somebody else, he has this baggage on his shoulder that he is related to Salman Khan, the superstar. Even if he had made his debut outside your banner, people would say Salman must have helped him bag the film. Do you think it’s not cool when a superstar’s name is attached to someone from the family who is being launched?

That’s why I am staying as far away as possible (from the film and promotions), so much so that I hope that my sister (Arpita Khan Sharma) does not think I don’t like Aayush and that I am not supporting Aayush (laughs).

When I did Hero (2015) with Sooraj (Pancholi), I did one promotional song in the film. Everywhere I go, I sing that song. It became so popular. But these things do not translate into people going and watching the movie in the theatre. The film is got to be good for it to work. In the promo and trailer of your film the urgency that people want to see the film should be there. After that, it’s word of mouth. There are many of our films which did not do well. Then people ask me to do guest appearances and stuff like that, and they think the film would do well because of that. But when they don’t work, it brings me to earth. I have danced and sung, but (at times nothing works). It’s a very close-knit industry, so we keep doing that. It’s good. It’s a good bonding. If you are free for four-five days, you go and hang out with friends. So, it’s a very chilled out atmosphere.

(Coming back to your question), I’ll tell you a story. Sohail saw Aayush a lot before in the gym. If not me, somebody else would have launched him. It was (a matter of) time. He’s been training really hard. He’s been working really hard. He’s been taking care of himself. I had worked with Abhiraj (director) on Sultan (2016); he’s a very sorted guy. So I thought this was the best for both of them.

But then the nepotism debate is still on…

I always knew the topic of nepotism would crop up. But Aayush is the son of a politician. How can one drag him into nepotism debate? He is from Himachal (Pradesh). Let me tell you, this (Bollywood) is the only place where nepotism cannot work. It cannot work at all. No matter how much you push, but it is only the audience that will make you a superstar, or reject you. No matter whose son you are, let alone being the brother-in-law of somebody. Here, brothers and sons don’t survive if they are not good. I am a writer’s son. Ajay Devgn is an action director’s son. So, it’s just the audience. It’s totally, totally audiences who come and see you in a movie, and what they like you never know. You could be the best looking guy, the best actor, but they will reject you. At the same time, you can have nothing, but it’s something endearing that they feel whether it’s the script that you have done or something about your screen presence, that they like and they go for you. That’s it.

No matter how many hits you give, one film down, the audience is not going to have that reflect, but people from the industry would. I have been seeing this change. It’s become competitive, which is very good. Earlier people used think that my film should work, his film should also work. Right now people want their films to do well, not yours, which is the worst thing for the industry. However, we are still of that old thinking where we feel happy if somebody’s film does better than ours. It motives us to work much harder to beat that. But when people don’t want to work hard, it’s hard for them to digest that somebody is doing well. So, it’s all about the hard work.

The title of the film has been changed from Loveratri to LoveYatri because some people had issues with its original title. Do you think there are always attempts to curb the freedom of expression of people in showbiz?

I think there is a lot of creativity. If they don’t like any title, we will change it. If they don’t like LoveYatri either, we can change it. Had the title of the film would matter so much, they would use only titles before theatres.

There was nothing offensive about Loveratri. We knew we were making a very sweet, beautiful love story. It’s about love and festivals, so we called it Loveratri. But some people got offended by that. Even if one person’s emotions are hurt, why are we going to do that? We are making a love story. We are not making a hate story. So we changed the title.

LoveYatri releases on Friday October 5th.