The Poor Salman Syndrome.
Salman Khan is just one bullet point in the long list of powerful men who get away with doing horrific things and enjoy mass popularity.
The nation is in mourning. The collective conscience of the country has woken up. Even Bollywood has suspended its vipassana to express sorrow over this tragedy. If you think they’re condemning the dilution of the Prevention of Atrocities against SCs and STs Act, please divert your attention to more pressing issues of public importance. Our national heritage, Salman Khan, has been sentenced to jail, again. There is a lesson here for all of us – you can allegedly run your car over people sleeping on the footpath, allegedly harass women, be the reason Dabangg happens, but killing vegetarian cuties of the jungle is where we might draw the line.
Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood’s pride and India’s sweetheart, spoke on the record about Salman’s abusive behaviour with her. In a 2002 interview, she said “There were times when Salman got physical with me, luckily without leaving any marks. And I would go to work as if nothing had happened.” But no one gives a damn. The words of one of the most successful actresses in the country, a Miss World, a Padma Shri awardee, hold no weight over the might of Bhai. Bhai fans don’t believe her, and those who do believe her think that it’s okay for her and other women to bounce off of this man-child’s learning curve.
To refresh your memory, he was acquitted in hit and run case where he is alleged to have killed one person and injured three, because of lack of evidence – the prime witness died in ‘mysterious circumstances’. An appeal has been filed against the acquittal. Again, bhai fans don’t care. The lives of the people he injured (allegedly) and the death of the person he killed (allegedly) don’t matter either. We go to watch his movies and fuel the mass hysteria that is behind the immense power this individual holds. He is the gladiator-in-chief in the Colosseum that is the Indian entertainment industry. The crowds love to see him win, other gladiators have to be in his good books to survive, and the wealthy merchants have a lot of money riding on him. Everybody has a stake in bhai’s success, and we will suspend even the minimum of our morals, values and good judgment to watch bhai score.
Invertebrates of Bollywood have emerged from all dark corners to showcase their everlasting loyalty for bhai and their zero knowledge of how things work. Raj Kundra laments in his tweet “Parts of our legal system needs a revisit! Any1 can file a case on anyone! One court says not guilty other says guilty! People thrown from court to court!.” because the procedure of appeals and the fact that anyone can file a case against anyone are bad stuff. Arjun Rampal thinks that “the last thing @BeingSalmanKhan is, is a criminal.I feel this is too harsh.” Rampal probably skipped 9th-grade civics classes where everyone else was told that breaking a country’s laws is literally what makes you a criminal. One bhai fan (@theSamAhmed) says “though Law is equal for all, but i feel Salman doesn’t deserve to go in Jail.” People have to go to jail for a lot less, but of course, regular people rules don’t apply to Bhai.
The people of this country don’t hero worship half-assedly. If bhai gets an awful haircut, everyone pays money to look that awful. Bhai wears a bracelet; everyone buys the bracelet. Bhai does bodybuilding; everyone stocks up on protein shake. Bhai hits people on screen; everyone thinks it’s okay to do that in real life. Bhai treats women awfully, well, everyone already does that so nevermind. Bhai is the real bhaang ka kuan, and no-one gets to take away our opium.
We have a problem, and it’s not just this drunk-driving, woman beating, black buck murdering ‘human’(allegedly, allegedly, most definitely and allegedly, respectively). Salman Khan is just one bullet point in the long list of powerful men who get away with doing horrific things and enjoy mass popularity. At this point, it is safe to assume that if Salman Khan somehow gained political clout, became the chief minister of a state and allowed a genocide on his watch; we would still vote to make him the Prime Minister of this country. He sucks at his job, has a huge chest (56 inches, some say), makes awful remarks about women, and with a great PR machinery at his disposal – I’m surprised that he isn’t already the most powerful man in the country!
Mitali Agrawal is an education researcher in a Delhi based think tank and tweets at @just_screams.