Bollywood’s love for Salman Khan

Published: May 10, 2015
The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. His book, India, Low Trust Society, will be published by Random House

The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. His book, India, Low Trust Society, will be published by Random House

Those who live in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra, as I did for many years, are familiar with the popularity of Salman Khan.

All three of the famous Bollywood Khans live in Bandra but Salman is different. Shah Rukh Khan’s bungalow, Mannat, is large and visible and its gate is on the main road. Few of his fans, however, are to be found around it usually. Even fewer are around Aamir’s house and that is perhaps deliberate because he is more private than the others. Opposite Salman’s house there is always a mob, whether on holidays, festivals or weekdays. He has star power of the purest sort.

This observation is supported by the Bandra post office. A newspaper I worked in reported that the mail that came in for Salman (this being before the time of email, I am referring to old-fashioned letters and gifts) far exceeded that to the other two. If I remember it right the mail for Salman was four or five times that for Shah Rukh and Aamir put together.

A year or so before the accident for which he was convicted happened, Aishwarya Rai’s father approached our newspaper. He was worried for his daughter, then in a relationship with Salman, whose behaviour was frightening the old man. Salman would appear in the middle of the night and begin to break down the door if not let in, he said. This was the time when Aishwarya had decided she wanted out but he was unwilling to let go.

On the sets of a movie being made by Aziz Mirza, starring Shah Rukh and Aishwarya, Salman one day turned up and began rolling on the road, preventing the shoot from happening. This irritated, if not angered, Shah Rukh and later things were to get more hostile between the two. In the same period came reports of illegal confinement of wild animals at the Khans’ farmhouse near the city and a few years before that, of the shooting of wild deer for which Salman was convicted.

And so it has been clear for many years that this man was troubled and needed to be counseled or chaperoned. In fact, he has been encouraged and supported by people inside Bollywood. After his conviction, insiders like the singer Abhijeet blamed the victims for sleeping “on the roads” (which they were not) and thus inviting death upon themselves.

They are doing this, and will continue to support Salman no matter what happens for a reason. Bollywood is one of three successful film industries around the world, the other two being Hong Kong and Hollywood. All three have a star system, but Bollywood’s is very small. Only four or perhaps, five men can guarantee an ‘opening’ which means the money taken in on the first few days of the release, which is the period that can make or break a movie.

These men are disproportionately powerful in the industry. Of course, this power is earned by them through merit. No matter how much Amitabh Bachchan has promoted his son, he could not turn him into as big a success as the Khans because the crowds did not accept him as they did Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir.

But this power also has an internal dimension. All the others inside Bollywood, whether directors, singers, make-up professionals, body doubles and so on, no matter how talented, must be aligned to one of these stars or be reconciled to doing small (i.e., cheap) movies with the others.

There are exceptions, for instance people like Gulzar and the director Anurag Kashyap, but they are not many. For most people in the star’s orbit, the relationship is parasitic and exists as long as the patronage is extended, just as some Mughal emperor’s grant. Of course absolute and unconditional loyalty is expected.

The star decides who he works with, and unlike Hollywood, this extends to many more things. Salman’s family, for instance, inserts itself into his projects regularly because the star is not just important to the movie, he is the movie.

When Hindustan Times was launched in Mumbai a decade ago, its first lead story was the transcript of a police recording of Salman having a telephone chat with Aishwarya, threatening her with his underworld connections. The story was filed by the crime reporter J Dey (later shot and killed). Our newspaper reproduced this chat in which Salman said abusive things about Preity Zinta. She was incensed enough to sue the newspaper for libel, but not Salman, the man who made the remarks.

We must not expect Bollywood to be neutral or balanced about Salman, nor take what it says about people like him and Sanjay Dutt seriously.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Hunza
    May 10, 2015 - 3:14AM

    Referring to Salman Khan the writer claims, “And so it has been clear for many years that this man was troubled”.

    ha ha ha…..when in “trouble” low-cast Hindu or Non-Hindu victim is always labeled as “troubled”. It is a good selling technique for the articles; books or the headlines news.Recommend

  • May 10, 2015 - 3:47AM

    Why is the author expounding philosophical about Bollywood?
    Bollywood is just a ghastly caricature, trying, duplicating, copying,
    xeroxing Western Culture. It is the PEOPLE of India who cannot find
    their way, their culture, their identity [there never was one to begin with]
    There was 1400 years of Muslim rule. Then British rule. This is a lost
    nation. Perfectly reflected in Bollywood, which represents Indian culture,
    if you can call it that. Deification of charlatans, is the latest trend, you have
    your Salman, you have your Modi, You have your Maharaj, Sadhvi Prachi…..
    Amitabh? Who is he? Aishwarya? Who is she?

    ET moderators please print. Just enlightening the Indian
    masses on their lost hybrid cultural identity. Consider
    it a full faith service rendered. Nothing crude, nasty, nope.Recommend

  • May 10, 2015 - 4:06AM

    With all due respect, why is the author regaling his readers with these
    sordid episodes of a Bollywood actor? Could be the Hindustani masses
    are enthralled by the escapades of a dreamlike persona. Closely resembling
    a Mughal. After all, Mughals are the ones that put a shine on Hindustan, after
    conquering it. Before Mughals, Hindustan was a lackluster land of a thousand
    rajas, fighting, squabbling, feuding among themselves. Nothing more.
    Understandable, though, Bharatis, yearning for the past glory days of the MughalsRecommend

  • JSM
    May 10, 2015 - 6:18AM

    Live in the past brother. Where are you today- holed up in a corner of what used to be Hindustan on which Mughals put a shine. Grow up.Recommend

  • wb
    May 10, 2015 - 8:02AM

    Indians need to understand that Salman Khan is plain idiot. He cannot act. He simply cannot act. Why is he such a big star then?

    Because the subcontinent (sans Srilanka and Bhutan) is unarguable filled with 1.5 billion IDIOTS.

    This is not the time to be politically correct or be polite. We Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis and Bangladeshis are bl**dy idiots. That is why we get this kind of leaders, stars, sportsmen and businessmen.

    Bollywood is basically a mafia run by a few families. Let’s be honest, these Kapoor, Khan and other families have produced generations after generations of idiots and we idiots lap it up as entertainment. So it is expected that the members of mafia look our for each other. Because if anyone of them falls, they all lose (some big, some small).Recommend

  • ahmed41
    May 10, 2015 - 8:08AM

    “—— In the same period came reports of illegal confinement of wild animals at the Khans’ farmhouse near the city and a few years before that, of the shooting of wild deer for which Salman was convicted.—”

    Sirs, he was ” convicted ” , but he is not repentant and has not become humane to animals. What kind of a ” hero ” is he???? Killing gentle animals for fun !!!!

    I hope that the GOD-above, questions him about such attitudes ,after his death.Recommend

  • rajesh
    May 10, 2015 - 9:44AM

    @Gopeet… “Hindustan was a lackluster land of a thousand
    rajas, fighting, squabbling, feuding among themselves. Nothing more.”… Have you read about Hindustan under the rules of Ashoka or Maurya empire ?? I am sure no, your history starts from Bin Qasim, right? He discovered Pakistan right? So cant blame you.Recommend

  • May 10, 2015 - 10:16AM

    Why is anyone surprised? Land of the bunyas has sunk, downgraded to
    a travesty of it’s former self. When you have an allegedly out of control
    Indian Icon, who has gone gaga ballistic Sad indeed, to see a country so
    categorically defeat itself. From a nothing into a zero. They will soon be
    building temples in Salman’s name. Just as they do for Modi.Recommend

  • harkol
    May 10, 2015 - 12:44PM

    Salman & Sanjay Dutt did criminal things and deserve to be punished like every other ordinary criminals. In fact, perhaps a bit more harshly than common criminals to make an example to other rich & powerful to show the law won’t spare them – so they better behave.

    All other noise is unimportant and best ignored.Recommend

  • harkol
    May 10, 2015 - 12:46PM


    It is unfair to say Bollywood hasn’t produced talent. In Kapoor family itself Rishi Kapoor is a very sensible and talented actor. Among Khans Amir Khan is certainly one of the best we have.

    It is the quality of our movies that mostly makes them do idiotic roles.

    Having said that – it is true that Bollywood is a closed club, that makes it extremely difficult for an outsider to break in.Recommend

  • Manish
    May 10, 2015 - 1:14PM

    I believe you’re a non-vegetarian. So why you kill gentle animals? For taste?

    I like your hard work. You might have to research a lot about wherever Salman has been in trouble. But let me tell you, that Hindustan Times script was fake. Forensics labs clearly told that the voice in that tape was not of Salman’s.. And if he said abusive thing about Zinta, why is she still a friend of him. Indeed a very good friend. Maybe you missed this all.

    Aishwarya reported lodged a complaint on Salman for abusing and beating her. But later when questioned, she clearly declined that he beat her and no such thing was there in the complaint.

    Get your facts right, before you want to gain popularity by using Salman’s name in your article. God bless.Recommend

  • Bahadur
    May 10, 2015 - 1:42PM

    seems like Burmese monks have tortured this Rohingiya fella beyond his tolerance.thats why he is uttering such absurdities.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    May 10, 2015 - 2:46PM

    I am highly disappointed by this Bollywood megastar. At least he could have better compensated the victim’s families as no one among them wants to see him in jail. However, I am even more frustrated by the hypocrisy of the Indian legal system. An identical ‘drunk and hit & run’ incident happened in 1993 involving Raj Kumar’s son, Poru Raj Kumar, in which 2 people sleeping on footpath died, 1 was permanently incapacitated, and 2 got injured (all perhaps Muslims). He was not sent to jail for a single day, but was only fined Rs.100,000. Strangely, the Bombay Police didn’t even charge him for manslaughter or crushing people. Was that because he was a rich and famous Hindu and the victims were hapless nobodies? So, what do you say, dear author, for this hypocrisy?Recommend

  • Dishum
    May 11, 2015 - 3:06AM

    Kinda funny how a little talk about Bollywood has people waxing eloquent on the Mughals or invaders who forcibly converted one of their very own forefathers. Or the comment about Baniyas….the funny thing is, the Chinese are the biggest modern day baniyas around. Wait till they come around for their pound of flesh…lol…. Recommend

  • ask
    May 11, 2015 - 7:22AM

    ET: This question had come up earlier & my response was denied. Now, please allow:- Contact by the accused with the victims’ kin or any gift/compensation during pendency of case/appeal would be construed as attempt to bribe witness. Court had asked for 1.9 million to be paid which the actor did. He will pay more when allowed. (2) In 1993 the laws/procedure were lax. Accused was taken in custody but almost immediately released on bail & a prescribed fine & compensation were adequate punishment. Jail was rarity. In 1980 laws were even worse when I was a hurt victim. A pedestrian lost his life, the drunk perp was arrested, released on bail, fined a few hundreds while compensation was paid by the Underwriters. Things changed; since 2006 Section 304 Part 2 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder; max jail 10 years) is being used to prosecute drunk drivers while others with Part 1 (causing death by negligence, jail up to two years). Hindu-Muslim has nothing to do with it. But, your next question should be this,”Why Salman was sentenced only 5 years instead of 10. Was it because his mother is Hindu & victims were not Hindus but Muslims?”Recommend

  • JSM
    May 11, 2015 - 7:40AM

    Stay bewildered.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    May 11, 2015 - 4:09PM


    Appreciate you taking time to respond and explain things, though I believe section 304 of the criminal law always existed since before Independence without change. On a lighter note, I would really like to ask the question you suggested, ”Why Salman was sentenced only 5 years instead of 10. Was it because his mother is Hindu & victims were not Hindus but Muslims?”Recommend

  • ask
    May 11, 2015 - 6:16PM

    History of aplication of 304-2 is not that simple. There is no specific mention of drunken driving in that section, and therefore, it is not just bare law but interpretation, procedure, practice & precedence that matter & they keep evolving. Also, some times a prosecutor is interested in conviction primarily & perfect retributory justice incidentally.Though India doesn’t have practice of plea bargaining the prosecutor used to try & save Govt costs by preventing extended litigation. One such method in past was to charge a man with rash & negligent driving, see that ends of justice are met through compensation & fine & dispose the case fast. All that began to change after 1999 when a boy Sanjeev Nanda, grandson of Indian Admiral(retd) mowed down 6 men (don’t guess, no Muslims)and the media uproar was deafening. Reg the question: Principle irrespective of religion is: “culpae poenae par esto” Let the Punishment fit the Crime. Is the quantum enough to give solace to victim? Now,that’s what the argument in appeal is going to be about.Recommend

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