Salim Khan Marriages: Two Marriages, Zero Regrets, One Happy Family

If there is one individual in Indian cinema responsible for the trend of giving screenwriters due credit for their work, it has to be the legendary screenwriter Salim Khan. Before Salim Khan wore the hat of screenwriter (along with Javed Akhtar), writers were seldom given credit for their efforts, to the extent their names would be given a pass from featuring in the opening credits! The duo of Salim-Javed flew in with the winds of change by setting the trend of copyright protection, and the pair is credited for some of the most memorable and iconic screenplays, songs and dialogues of Hindi cinema.

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When we shift focus from reel to real, Salim Khan’s life has been no different from a perfectly written screenplay of a potboiler – two wives and five children, yet a single happy family with not a speck of grudge or discord. Khan married Sushila in 1964 after courting her for five years, and later in 1980 married Helen Richardson, whom he was seeing around the same time he married Sushila. So do they actually all live under the same roof as a happy family? Well, read on.

Salim Khan – From Actor To Screenwriter

Salim Khan was born on 24th November 1935 in Indore into a family of affluent Afghan immigrants. Khan received all his education in Indore, and was soon enticed by the glitter of the show business. His friends would often encourage him to try his luck at films owing to his good looks. It is said that in the year 1960 he was a guest at the wedding of Tarachand Barjatya’s (founder of Rajshri Productions) son. It was here he was spotted by director K. Amarnath, who offered him a role in his upcoming film. Khan made his debut with K. Amarnath’s film, which was released with the name Baraat in the year 1960.

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The film had little success, post which Khan worked in small, insignificant roles all throughout the1960s. It was in the late 1960s that he met an aspiring writer, Javed Akhtar, and the two soon formed a team that would assist directors in editing and finalising dialogues. The duo eventually realised that they have potential of their own, and with some help from superstar Rajesh Khanna, managed to get their first break as independent screenplay writers and lyricists with the film Andaz (1971).

That was all the impetus the duo needed, and ever since the twosome have written screenplay, songs and dialogues for some of the most iconic films of Indian cinema, especially in the 1970s. The formidable list of titles include Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), Zanjeer (1973), Deewaar (1975), Sholay (1975) and Don (1978). The talented pair split in 1982 due to some artistic differences, and while Javed Akhtar went on to have a flourishing independent career, Salim Khan went into semi-retirement mode, writing sparingly. His last film as a screenwriter was his son Sohail Khan’s film Auzaar in the year 1997. Then came full retirement.

The Five Years Of Courtship

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Salim Khan’s first tryst with wedlock was in the year 1964 when he married Sushila Charak, the daughter of a Dogra Rajput father and a Maharashtrian mother. Little is known about their first meeting but it is said that they first met somewhere around the year 1958, much before he joined films. Khan shared in an interview that he fell in love with Sushila the moment he saw her, and courted her for five years before tying the knot. Salim Khan and Sushila Charak got espoused in the year 1964, and Sushila changed her faith renaming herself Salma Khan. The couple were blessed with three sons, Salman Khan (b. 1965), Arbaaz Khan (b. 1967) and Sohail Khan (b. 1969); and a daughter Alvira Khan (b. 1970).

The Other Woman

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It was a perfect marriage that cut across communal differences. While Khan loved Sushila for sure, she was definitely not his only love, and in fact he had a special place in his heart for Helen Richardson. Helen Richardson, better known by her screen name Helen, was the popular dancer and actress of Hindi cinema for over three decades. She is often credited as the original ‘item song’ dancer of Bollywood, and made her debut as a chorus dancer with the film Awara in the year 1951. In mid-1960s, Khan helped Helen bag several songs as a dancer, mainly due to his clout as the screenplay and songwriter of that film. While the two shared an excellent professional rapport, they soon started bonding on the personal front. It is not known whether Khan’s present wife Sushila was aware of her husband’s extra-marital fling but Helen was definitely aware of the fact that she was having a liaison with a married man. Nevertheless, it did not hinder the progress of Khan and Helen’s relationship and by the late 1970s, Salim was ready to take it to a new level. Again.

Honouring The Relationship

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Despite the ‘married man’ status, Khan took the plunge in tying the knot for the second time with Helen in the year 1980. Khan shared in an interview that he cannot exactly say whether he was madly in love with Helen but he knew her for so long that he had to honour his relationship with her. Helen on other end was totally in awe with the gentleman-like persona of Salim Khan, In an interview, much later she shared the following words of admiration towards Salim Khan.

“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.”
– Helen about Salim Khan

While the two love-birds had made their point to one another, the fact that Salim Khan opted for bigamy did not go down well with his original family – Sushila and her children. In an interview, Sushila Charak shared that she was very ‘depressed by the development’, and was disturbed to the core by what Salim did. The two women had to share space in their man’s heart, and his house as well, which needless to say caused them to emanate cold vibes towards one another. Even Khan’s children reciprocated their mother’s sentiment and would totally avoid their stepmother. The household definitely seemed on its path to destruction but thankfully Sushila and her four children did not let their bitterness destroy the tranquillity of Khan and Helen’s life.

Hum Saath Saath Hain!

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Soon Khan’s other family realised the fact that Helen was no home-breaker, and she was indeed a warm and cordial person, who wanted nothing but best for her stepchildren. Helen once shared in an interview, that she felt guilt for years for being Khan’s second wife, and always wanted the family to be together. Few years down the line everyone was acquainted to this fact, and thus started accepting Helen as their own. In fact things went to the extent that Sushila and Helen went on to become such good pals, that now they are like the two mothers of the same children. It is said that if the children buy anything for Sushila they even get it for their other mother Helen, and vice-versa. Helen and Salim Khan did not have any children of their own, and they adopted their daughter Arpita in 1980s, whom Sushila and Khan’s children treat as their own.

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No real life happy ending can get more filmy than this! While the Khan household endeavoured to keep their paradise intact, it is not always the case, and bigamy usually leads to household havoc. Don’t believe us? Well, we leave you with the following words by Salim Khan himself, and wish the Khan family remains united and strong forever.

“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.”
– Salim Khan on his two marriages

Images Source: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7

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