Dilemma of being Salman Khan: A BJP man for liberals; a Muslim for right-wing

Public opinion has always been divided on Salman Khan. It is assumed that the more intellectual and educated class hate him and the ‘public’ love him. So, why does the public love him so much?

PTI Photo
PTI Photo
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Rohit Prakash

On Thursday April 5, in full media glare, a Jodhpur court convicted Hindi film actor Salman Khan and sentenced him to five years in jail for killing two blackbucks in October 1998, during the shoot of Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘family film’ Hum Saath Saath Hain. His four co-actors Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and a fifth person, a local businessman Dushyant Singh, were acquitted.

After the verdict, people belonging to communal and right-wing ideology are happy and saying that justice has been done in this case. They are saying so because most of them see him as Muslim, their pet hate, despite the fact that he was seen kite-flying in Gujarat with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi before 2014 Loksabha election. And, he has never uttered a word against present regime and always supported it. Ironically, this is the same reason why there is dislike for him among liberals, specifically anti-Modi liberals, apart from obvious reasons. And they too are happy with the judgement.

It's not the only case Salman faced and not even the first time he has been convicted. In May 2015, he was convicted by a Mumbai trial court in a 2002 hit-and-run case, in which one person died on the spot and four others were injured. In December the same year, Mumbai High Court set aside the conviction and acquitted Salman of all charges. It was a case when some people thought justice was not done while others celebrated Salman’s acquittal, especially his Bollywood fraternity and fans.

Public opinion has always been divided on Salman Khan. It is assumed that the more intellectual and educated class hated him and the ‘public’ loved him. So why does the public love him so much? He commands a huge fan following. In the mid 1990s, the emergence of his well crafted body was a turning point in the iconic history of Bollywod. To some extent, he is singularly responsible for the obsession that we have seen in young people with gym culture in the recent decade. His not-so-sensible-films have acquired a place in people’s mind and also changed content-commercial relations of Hindi cinema. A new audience was created through his films. His charitable activities are seen with great admiration.

But, then, there’s a different Salman Khan who led a reckless life and landed up in court on charges of killing humans and animals. He was accused of abusing women, both verbally and physically, including the ones he befriended. He made outrageous
statements from time to time that disgusted people. It is assumed that his power is such that he can make and destroy careers in Bollywood. And power is something that is equally flattered and hated.

Salman has already entered jail today. He might get bail tomorrow or some other day. He might yet be a completely free person acquitted of all court cases. Or, he will have to serve a few years in jail before he gets free. All possibilities remain, but one thing is certain. He will always have fans crying and dying for him, along with his share of brutal critics.

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