Salman Khan is India's favorite macho mard. Often touted as a man with a big heart, Khan is the gym-trainer and acting coach of lesser Bollywood mortals like Arjun Kapoor and Sooraj Pancholi, the money-making golden goose of producers and the ultimate bro of an entire section of Indian men who believe bulging muscles is what makes ‘manhood’. Khan is also a convicted individual who is currently looking at a jail term of five years.
For the past few days, there was no escaping the news that Salman Khan has been sentenced to a five-year prison time for killing two blackbucks in Kankani Village, near Jodhpur, in October 1998.
Thousands of articles and an inordinate amount of airtime was dedicated by the media to cover every aspect of this news. One big question that was being tossed around was-- what will happen to Khan's upcoming films -- Race 3, Kick 2, Dabangg 3 and Bharat-- if he goes to jail?
Over the last few decades, this question has resurfaced every time a big Bollywood actor like Khan has faced lawsuits that can send him to jail. While it is pertinent to ask how much money do producers stand to lose if Khan goes to prison, the more important question here is why have Bollywood filmmakers continued to invest in Khan, who has lawsuits pending against him which, if proven, can put him in jail jeopardizing their films?
The temptation to cast Khan is understandable to a certain extent. With his sheer star power, the actor can turn any film into a money-minting machine. In most cases, it is truly a miraculous feat to achieve given the films he acts in have no scripts to speak of, often defy logic and lack content.
However, Khan isn't the only actor in the industry who has the superpower of turning a crappy film into a goldmine. If you think of it -- from Shah Rukh Khan to Akshay Kumar-- there are several Bollywood superstars who can play the macho mard onscreen with equal flare (well, almost!) and strike box office gold with ease. And the good news is that they neither have lawsuits with such serious charges against them nor do they have to serve a jail term in near future. Then why are Bollywood producers still so hung up on bhai?
Is it because these producers and filmmakers believe that Khan can find a way around the law this time as well?
Well, the answer is simple. In the last twenty years, hardly any producer has ever lost money because of Khan's legal battles. Therefore, there is no precedence that proves that the filmmakers will incur losses now. It may seem like bad business sense, reckless even, to invest crores of rupees on him (especially when there are others who can do his job equally well or maybe even better) however, chances are producers and filmmakers never really see Khan’s imprisonment as a real threat because despite serious charges against him, the actor has managed to evade long jail terms even in the past.
Salman Khan's next film Race 3 is almost done, and his other upcoming projects are not on floors yet, so any actual losses are unlikely for producers even if Khan goes to jail. However, the worst part of this whole situation is no one is actually expecting him to go to jail.
The actor has already got a bail from the district and sessions court of Jodhpur and a suspension of the order of the trial court has been announced till the hearing of Khan's appeal against the conviction. For now, Khan is back on the sets of Race 3 celebrating Saqib Saleem's birthday and shooting, as his lawyers figure out ways to keep him out of jail.
In the last five days, events unfolded as they generally do in any court case concerning Salman Khan. Hearing, sentencing, bail and now appeal against conviction -- We have seen this way too many times and yet it never gets old.
Fans danced and rejoiced when Khan got bail and finally got back to their normal lives after felicitating their favorite actor for spending two days in Jodhpur jail while Bollywood might as well have organized a homecoming party! Oh, no, wait, I think that actually did happen in Khan's house as one celebrity after another visited him over the weekend.
It is strange that an industry like Bollywood that is so obsessed with appearances doesn't care that by supporting Khan, they are appearing to be supporting a criminal. It is not only the producers and filmmakers who are dying to cast the actor in their films but also actors, actresses and other film industry members coming out in full support of Khan.
The reason may be because it goes down well with the public. Khan has an unrivaled fan following in India, and no Bollywood actor wants to mess with that. Also, the Dabangg actor despite his flaws has a reputation of being a benevolent individual among B-towners, or so they say.
Therefore, as soon as the verdict of the blackbuck poaching case was out a barrage of tweets from Bollywood personalities followed on the microblogging site, Twitter. Barring a few, unsurprisingly everyone showed great BHAIchara (Camaraderie) for the bhai. Many began their tweets with a customary deference to the decision of the court but quickly moved on to express their sorrow over Khan's sentencing.
Subhash Ghai said he is 'shocked by the sentencing'. Jaya Bachchan told, "I feel bad, he should be given relief." Arjun Rampal tweeted that the last thing Khan can be is a criminal. And lo behold! Mawra Hocane called Salman Khan the last saving grace of mankind. From Varun Dhawan to Simi Grewal to Sonakshi Sinha everyone tweeted. Reportedly Katrina Kaif even visited the Siddhivinayak temple to pray for Khan a day before the verdict (May I say, Katrina is the best ex-girlfriend anyone can ever ask for).
Somehow, over the years, Khan's off-screen image has become as significant as his larger-than-life onscreen counterparts. From fans to Bollywood stars; everyone is celebrating because Khan is home after two long days in prison and the fact that he is 'guilty' of a crime that demands a five year prison time has quickly slipped into some dark alley of the social sub consciousness. The media has happily moved on from covering the court case to covering celebrations of his fans and the industry.
It is almost like a living breathing ecosystem made of fans, Bollywood and media is at work here which is helping Salman Khan thrive as a superstar, who can evade the law
In the last few days, the sequence of events has played out exactly the way it did in all previous occasions when Khan's lawsuits were being judged. Perhaps that is the reason for Salman Khan cockiness, because no matter the lawsuit, at the end of it all Khan knows how this case shall end as well. Will the judiciary prove him wrong? Let’s wait and watch.