Love works in strange ways and finally finds its way. Nothing could be more true for actor Helen and Salman Khan’s father, scriptwriter Salim Khan. On her 82nd birthday on Friday, here’s a fresh look at their love story.
Salim was a married man with children when he decided to marry actor Helen in 1980. He was 45 and she was 42, not the most conventional age to marry. But theirs was a relationship that was cemented by time. Marriage just made it a formal and gave them society’s approval.
Born in 1935, Salim came to Mumbai (then Bombay), aged 23, to become an actor. After a few years in the city, he married Sushila Charak, whom he had courted for several years, in 1964. A year later, Salman was born. However, it was around this time, he met and worked with Helen, famous for her vamp roles and dances in Bollywood movies through the 1950s and 1960s. In the course of their association, they fell in love but marriage happened rather late. Incidentally, for much of this period, Helen too was married to one Prem Narayan Arora, whom she divorced in 1974.
So what was it about Salim that attracted her to him? In an interview to journalist Shashi Balinga, she had revealed how of the many industry folks, he was one who never tried to take advantage of her. She was quoted in Pinkvilla as saying: “Something about Salim set him apart from rest of the industry men. I respected him tremendously as he tried to help me out without trying to exploit me.”
So was it really romantic at all? Not quite. Salim was quoted as saying: “I won’t be able to say when exactly I fell in love with her or decided to marry her. After seeing her for quite a long time we decided to honour our relationship. We got married in 1980.”
And was it easy to settle down with a married man? Helen did confess that she felt guilty seeing a married man and Salim accepted that his wife and kids were far from accepting Helen. He also said how the kids carried their mother’s hostility into this relationship. “As kids they had their hostility. But they reacted the way their mother did. As I told you very honestly, it wasn’t as if Salma accepted the relationship happily straightaway and thanked me for it or said, you deserve an Oscar for it. So at that time there was hostility from the children.”
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It was only natural that his children, quite grown up by 1980, would not taken kindly of Helen. Salman was after all already 15 and aptly understood what was happening. However, with time Salma and his children, saw that Helen was really a warm person and, over the years, their feelings towards her changed. Today, she and, Salim and her adopted daughter Arpita, are very much a part of the Khan family.
In fact, Arpita is quite the darling of her brother, Salman and often the centre of the Khan household. Salim’s life with his two wives, children and his many grandchildren is one of bliss. But would he recommend two marriages to anyone? Not really. He was quoted in the same report as saying: “Falling in love twice was a beautiful accident that happened to me. I have survived that accident! Though I wouldn’t recommend it as an ideal way of living. Normally it doesn’t work.”
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