The brouhaha about Salman Khan’s sentence and suspension was hardly surprising.
It has happened earlier – a well known filmstar runs into trouble with law, and suddenly people from the industry begin to tweet about what a great man he is, how large hearted, and why should people pay the price for fame.
It was hardly surprising.
Rewind to a few years, and it happened with Sanjay Dutt, too. In that case, Katju (who, it scares one to think, was a Supreme Court judge) wrote in public about how the man needs to be forgiven as he has ‘transformed’.
If you zoom out and look at the larger picture, you’ll notice a particular pattern to filmstars who run into trouble with the law. Whether it is being caught with some cocaine, or helping terrorists in killing people.
They were all born with the proverbial silver spoons, being children of earlier stars themselves. They were all people who began their careers during their adolescence, because time and tide waits for none, not even if your father produces and directs the film for you.
They like to live the large life, getting more bang for their blackbuck. They are all sons of stars. Except Shiney Ahuja, who took the lyrics ‘Dil chahiye bas Maid in India’ too seriously.
They are not the sort who commit one crime and have an albatross round their neck. They have a number of cases against their name, and across ages. And after decades of flirting with, and offending the law, their supporters say mind-numbing stuff like ‘How many years will one man pay the price?’ Well, the number of years that correspond to the crimes they commit, I’m afraid.
For laymen, committing a crime screws up your life. You serve a jail term, your relatives avoid you. Your parents forget about any dowry you might have gotten otherwise, etc etc etc.
But if you’re a superstar, things are different. You become a ‘Bhai’, a ‘Baba’, or ‘Roxxx’ (depending on the education of your fans). Going to jail shoots your career graph to meteoric levels, giving you the image of a large-hearted man who suffers in silence. Your films do better business, and fans do intellectual stuff like setting themselves on fire when you visit a court.
The son of Sunil Dutt and Nargis, the man has had what one could politely call a chequered life. And yet, his jail stints made him a bigger star. Gave him fans who tattoo his name on their chest and scream ‘Babaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’ every time he comes on screen.
Sanjay Dutt has made a career of playing gangsters. Whether it is dreaded gangsters in films like Khalnayak, or the large-hearted gunda in Munnabhai MBBS. Sanjay Dutt’s cases have only given his career a longer tail, and he continues to act in movies, attend premiers, and have Supreme Court judges plead for mercy on his behalf.
The Telugu industry is replete with dynastical sycophancy, with a number of third generation actors dominating. Caste plays a huge role in deciding your favourite actor, and Balakrishna is hugely popular among one particular caste.
Now, it so happens that Balakrishna shot a person with a gun after a drunken brawl in his farmhouse. In the days that followed, fans slit their wrists, protested against the case, and the whole ‘I didn’t do it’ game began. In months, it was found that it was actually Balakrishna’s security guard who had fired as he thought his master was in physical danger.
Balakrishna continues to make movies, and enjoys cult status as a man who is powerful enough to take matters into his own hands. And slimy enough to slip out of sticky situations with the law.
Personally, I have no idea what Being Human does, apart from selling slightly tight T-shirts. Every once in a while, there are fashion shows of actresses, which my fellow countrymen often use to control the bludgeoning population of the country.
But then, I’m a cynic. It could be that he has impacted the lives of thousands of under-privileged children through Being Human. It’s all good, but is that a reason to pardon someone for taking another’s life?
It is not God’s Book of Karma that we operate by. We have a Constitution, law, and a judicial system to go by. So even if you have transformed into Buddha, you still have to pay for the crimes you committed. There’s no two ways about that.
And all those coming out in support of Salman Khan are the same lot. Children of stars with weird stances on law and morals tweeting #IStandWithSalman.
Which is the dumbest thing I’ve seen in years. What does #IStandWithSalman mean? Where do you stand with him? In the courtroom? During a photoshoot?
And what dafak is the nation supposed to do with this ‘stance’ of yours? Bypass laws and pardon sentences of people who have enough people ‘standing’ with them on Twitter? It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d find in a Salman Khan film. People changing the country by sending tweets to each other.
Why do we make criminals into our Gods? May be that’s how we like our stars. We like the ‘Bhai’ image, that of a large-hearted troublemaker with a heart of gold. Think of the bullies in your childhood. The guys who wore tight T-shirts, didn’t let you play cricket, and were immensely popular.
They were all the kind of guys who had flexible notions of rules, and yet were friendly and caring to people they knew. We like our stars like that.
So fear not, dear Salman Khan fans. Bhai will continue to make movies. You won’t have to do mundane stuff like going to college and getting a job. Bhai will wrap up pending projects, attend premiers, promote his films, and endorse Shanti Banian and Shweta Underwear.
There are bigger days in store for Bhai. The journey ahead is smooth, there are no speed-breakers ahead.