Dear Priyanka,

So you managed to escape in the “Nick” of time. “Smaart” girl, as villain Ajit would have smirked. But you’ve always been a smart cookie.

One is sure that when Salman Khan had the media eating out of his hands during the mega Bharat promotions, all those swipes he took at you had you flash a lopsided grin at Mr Jonas next to you. You knew what you gained (marital bliss) was way more than what you lost (an inconsequential role in an underwhelming film).

To be fair, Salman had the right to be miffed; you did ditch him less than a week before the unit of Bharat took off for Europe. One still remembers Salman’s sister Alvira’s jaw drop when she got a phone call in London from younger sibling Arpita that you’d stepped out of Bharat. What a hard wallop that was.

On the other hand, it’s understandable that when you’d just said “Yes” to your man, it’d take a while to sort out the nitty gritty and prioritise. It must’ve been that should-I-shouldn’t-I phase of a bride-to-be who has to make her choices.

But you are a clever one. You chose to give your time to Nick, marriage and all those elaborate preparations for a dream wedding. And you also chose Farhan Akhtar’s The Sky Is Pink over Salman Khan’s Bharat.

You’re not only smart, you’re courageous too, PC. You knew that Salman and you had never hit it off. That sister Arpita was the only link between the two of you. So the choice you made was brave indeed. To stand up and incur the wrath of the biceps man all over again just after you’d patched up.

And tauba, Bharat was Salman’s most ambitious Eid offering thus far. A budget that will be undervalued at Rs 100 crore if the film is tepid in its collections but whispered to be northwards of Rs 150 crore.

Salman, as we all know, keeps his Eid date with the box office with religious fervour. It was a date fixed by fluke 10 years ago, after he’d suffered a string of failures like God Tussi Great Ho and Yuvvraaj. “It’s another sure flop,” trade insiders who’d been privy to private screenings of Boney Kapoor’s Wanted had whispered.

But when the unabashed remake of a Telugu film, directed by dancer-choreographer from the South, Prabhudeva, was released on Eid by chance, the floodgates opened. The jinx was broken and Salman’s season of remaking commercial fare from the South set in with a repeat act in 2011 when Bodyguard (originally in Malayalam) brought in a pile of Eidi for the actor.

In between, he released the comic-action Dabangg (using the same formula as Wanted) also on Eid in 2010. Everybody knows that the successful franchise is currently readying its third instalment with Wanted man Prabhudeva at the helm.

Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Kick (2014), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) and Sultan (2016) further consolidated the Eid belief.

Until Tubelight (2017) and Race 3 (2018) brought that magical run to a screeching halt, though the latter made money.

Bharat may well complete the hat-trick of disappointments even if it made a crazy Rs 42.30 crore on the opening day. But it’s not about the pile they’ll make, it’s about an infallible image taking a beating.

Additionally, that jibe from Salman that women would leave their husbands for a role like the one in Bharat was in rank bad taste. After having excelled as Mary Kom, Bajirao’s wife, Kashibai, and Jhilmil in Barfi! (three from an illustrious range of work), playing the vacuous Kumud Raina in Bharat wouldn’t have added anything to your repertoire, PC. You’ve even curled your hair before. Therefore, Katrina’s hairstyle too would not have been a novel experience for you. So you chose well, Priyanka.

PS: But Bharat is yesterday’s headline. The PR machinery has already begun to roll out news about Inshallah — Salman’s Eid release with Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Alia Bhatt in 2020.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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