There are two movies starring Salman Khan which can be used simultaneously as analogies and allegories to put the recent conviction of the mega superstar into context. In the motion picture Dabanng 2, the character of Chulbul Pandey (played by Salman) is incensed at the death of his unborn child, which happens when the evil villain pushes the character of Rajjo Pandey (played by Sonakshi Sinha) down the temple stairs. Chulbul Pandey then goes on an epic rampage and ultimately kills the villain aptly named Thakur Prakash Singh by shooting him in the chest with two bullets. Due to some quality time together, Chulbul and Rajjo soon have a baby again and thus get a second shot at being parents. The second movie is the commercially unsuccessful Jai Ho. The plot of the story gives a message to the youth that one must practice and follow goodness. The movie found some resonance amongst avid Salman fans because he is known to be a good guy in ‘real life’ as opposed to ‘reel’ life. Unlike Chulbul Pandey, those killed in the horrific pavement accident that day will not get a second shot at anything. The fact is that they are dead and six feet under. What is perhaps worse there are next of kin who have had to wait for 13 long years, almost a life sentence under the Indian Penal Code for justice. For them perhaps justice denied is equivalent to justice delayed. On the other hand, the film fraternity and fans across India are crying themselves hoarse to sleep over what is in their books a result of unnecessary activism from civil society.
The stated logic from the film industry goes something like this: There are thousands of crores riding on Salman Khan’s movies. There will be hundreds of people soon out of work because of his conviction. What about their lives and families? This is the ethically grey paradox of Salman Khan which has people from inside the film industry raving mad and crying at his conviction, whereas those from civil society who pursued the case with such vigour are perhaps celebrating his conviction in a muted manner out of due deference to lives lost on the pavement that day. The case of Salman, both the legal one and the metaphorical one is a curious one indeed.
In personal life, he is known to be a hard-charging devil may care guy with a heart of gold. Despite these stellar qualities, he is also known to be an alleged woman beater. News of his break in on the sets of Chalte-Chalte are said to have caused Shahrukh Khan (his friend turned foe turned and currently frenemy) to drop Aishwarya Rai from the role of the heroine and cast Rani Mukherjee instead. One of the most famous rivalries in Bollywood is said to have its roots in Salman allegedly failing to hold his liquor. Since the matter is still sub-judice and an appeal process is still pending, it’s perhaps best to avoid the legalities of the issue. However what can and should be explored are the facts which lie in the public domain and are open knowledge. Salman should perhaps turn to the only institution which can help him- the law. An institution he has perhaps no fondness for right now. First the blackbuck case and now the hit and run case. The law’s hands seem to be getting longer by the day.