One would have thought that Sialkot might have produced another Allama Iqbal or Faiz Ahmad Faiz, but guess what rolled out with the footballs? A Salman Khan duplicate! Is it something to do with the letter ‘S’: sports goods, surgical instruments, Sialkot, Salman? At the risk of sounding silly (oops, ‘S’ again), this has got to be the doppelganger effect.
Wait … it gets stranger. Let’s start again, we have our very own Salman Khan in Sialkot. Except that he’s only 28, his birthday falls two days before Sallu’s, he shares the same zodiac sign and father’s name i.e. Salim. And his house is right next to Allama Iqbal’s ancestral home. For Salmanholics on this side of the border, Husnain Saleem has arrived.
Hum Aapke Hain Kaun
Who on earth is Husnain Saleem? Since the past four years his life was pretty mundane. “I spend the day at my departmental store, work out two hours at the gym and then chill out with friends and family.” Animated, mercurial and totally wacky; shades, black vest et al; Husnain speaks Urdu with a Bollywood touch, mimics Meera, reels off Salman Khan’s lines and bursts into Sallu Mian songs at the drop of a hat!
Ek Tha Tiger
It all started way back when Maine Pyar Kiya was released. “I was in school but after watching the film, my family started saying ‘hamaray betay ki aankhen Salman Khan se kitni milti hain’.
Throughout school and later college, people would call me Prem or Karan (Sallu’s characters in his hit films). All this time I wasn’t deliberately copying Salman’s body language, hairstyle or gestures. I was just being myself!”
Then college saw him perform as Salman Khan. “Even before I became a showbiz person, wherever I went, people came to talk to me, and take pictures with me. People in Sialkot love me! Not a single day goes by when I don’t have fans outside my store or at the shopping mall. It has only got crazier and I have hired a security guard outside my store, not because I am Salman Khan, but it seems that people want to express their love for him through me, like I’m the nearest point of availability. It seems girls are so crazy about Salman that they are happy to settle for Husnain.”
God Tussi Great Ho
Husnain feels that his ‘big break’ was through divine intervention. “The Creator made my face. Now he is making it go places.” On his way back from the mosque after Friday prayers, Husnain bumped into Chef Mehboob, who was in Sialkot for a masala company ad film. He said to me, ‘Excuse me, can I say something to you’? I said, ‘Salman Khan’? And he said, ‘Exactly, yaar’!”
He interviewed Husnain and when the clip went on air, Husnain was under the spotlight overnight. “All major TV channels and newspapers were calling their bureau offices in Sialkot that how come they didn’t know about this guy who looks like Salman Khan, and how come Chef Mehboob discovered him and did his interview for TV? They came running me to for reports and shows like I’m the real deal. ‘Thora time de dein please, peechhe se bohat pressure hai’ they would plead. Zoom TV and E24 ran reports about me. From then on my day begins and ends with Salman Khan. I’m excited by the limelight but just a little bit tired as well.”
Has he ever met his double? “Mila to nahin hoon magar bohat jaldi milunga, aap dekhiye ga,”said Husnain. “There was a possibility for a performance with Salman Khan in the Bigg Boss grand finale. Krishna Nandwani was trying to do the line up through another coordinator in Dubai but then there were visa issues. Pakistan, Sialkot and my name going on air in India and Salman commenting about me; these were great moments for me.”
On hearing about Husnain in Pakistan, the Khan said, “I’m still alive, do some unique work and make a name for yourself and your country.”
Husnain may be Salman Khan’s duplicate but he is a die-hard fan of Pakistani filmstar Shaan. “I love Shaan and plan to meet him shortly. He is doing wonderful work and I want to do the same. I’m also a fan of Babar Ali and Afzal Khan aka Rambo, but it is time for them to go home and make room for me!” Husnain suddenly goes wacky. What will he say to Salman when he meets him, I ask. “Khan Sahib, mujhe apse itna pyar hai, meri shakal ap jaisi hogayi hai!” He quickly replies and laughs. “Main ap ko gaana sunaoon?” He starts to sing Baahoon ke darmiyaan do pyar mil rahe hain from the SK flick, Khamoshi; rather tunefully.
“Salman Khan is the waseela for my fame. God has given me resemblance with such a high profile person, that I decided to sign away my identity as Husnain Saleem and Salman Khan is my fate now,” he says on a rather serious note.
These days, Husnain is busy dodging Lollywood film producers. “I have refused an offer to do a film with Nida Chaudhry. Jootay maaren gay sub mujhe. Would you go and watch me in Wehshi Gujjar, Dream Girl or Wehshi Haseena? I don’t want do films where the producer tells me, ‘Paaji pandra din wich film tayyar, solvein din parday te, te sataarven din tussi mar jao ge!’(Bro, the film will be ready in 15 days, up on screen on the 16th day and on the 17th day you’ll die).
I want to make Pakistan, Sialkot and my family proud of my work. I want to work in films likeWaar. Going shirtless is not an issue with me but bad songs, bad filming, dancing in heavy rain or on the bed; thanks, but no thanks! Mein apnay kaam ke liye marne ke liye tayaar hoon.”
On the morning/fashion show circuit
Husnain is doing the morning show circuit and in one show he was invited along with stars like Gia Ali and Saud. “I unintentionally hijacked the show. It was like the other stars were thinking, “Hoon, assi turr chalye?”
Is he as ‘dabangg’ as his idol? “Not at all,” he confesses, laughing. “Mein bohat bara phattu hoon. Don’t go for my doolay shoolay. I try to stay away from fights and phadday, kya karun face kharab hojaye ga!” Husnain is on the roll again. “I haven’t insured my face like J Lo. Don’t want a ‘chott’ (injury) on my ‘chocolatey’ face.”
Salmanholics love the original, how wanted does Husnain feel? “Pakistanis want the duplicate. If this wasn’t true, why do I already have about a dozen fake accounts? My Facebook page gets 100 likes a day. The way people meet and greet me is simply unbelievable.”
The face was a given, but Husnain works hard on his body. “I have Kashmiri roots and body building is my passion. I started in college and I work out two hours a day. My biceps are 16-and-a-half now.” Still half an inch lesser than the real Khan’s!
Maine Pyar Kiya
Unfortunately, there’s still no Katrina Kaif type in Husnain’s life. “I will get married even though Salman Khan hasn’t done it yet. I would go for an arranged marriage and fall in love afterwards!” Any takers?
Beneath the bandana and the brawn, there’s none of the Khan’s attitude. Our mundiya Sialkotiais very down-to-earth, polite and very indigenous.
“I have a very strong faith especially after the way things are turning out for me. I’m loving, caring and humble. Even if I’m exhausted after work, I still deal with people politely. I would hate it if people said that “Allah ne shakal dedi hai magar ye maqbooliyat deserve nahin karta.Salman has an attitude because he has fought his way to stardom.”
Hum Saath Saath Hain/Veer
Husnain is grateful to his family and friends for their unconditional support. “Sami Khan, my friend and a singer from Sialkot has especially supported me incredibly.”
Andaaz Apna Apna/Yeh Hai Jalwa
In January, Irfan Khoosat plans to do a serial with Husnain playing the lead. Kaam koi chhota ya bara nahin hota, kaam karne wala chhota ya bara hota hai,” says Husnain a la Salman Khan. “I will not do stuff that makes Veena Malik and Meera popular. I’ll do even a small role but it has to be dignified.”
So it seems that without ‘character dheela’, Husnain Saleem is all set for lots of ‘dhinka chika’ ahead.