By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Stop hounding Salman! Whoever is doing it, whatever the reason and however we may hate him for his brashness, he doesn’t deserve to be hounded constantly.
And what, pray tell, is his crime? Let’s not even go there. Let’s just look at why Salman has been chosen to be the Fall Guy…let’s wonder why he’s constantly in trouble and why those troubles are constantly magnified into manifestations of a monstrous aberration in his character.
“This man has got to be made into a example,’’ the moralists and other custodians of our twisted social order seem to suggest, as though Salman were a dangerous social outcast whose exuberance must be put on a leash.
I’ve spent time with Salman. And I can tell you one thing. All he wants is attention. Give it to him, and he’ll be yours for a lifetime. Ignore him or be contemptuous, and he retaliates, not out of ill-will or malice, but out of hurt.
There was this incident a few years ago in a restaurant where Salman had entered with a lady friend for a meal. A fight that had broken out between him and some people at the next table, was duly splashed in the papers the next morning.
But did anyone know why it happened? I had met Salman the day after the incident. And he told me, “All I wanted was a quiet masti-filled evening. But the minute we walked in, a bunch of guys started passing vulgar comments. ‘Faggot, what’re you doing with the lady?’ was one comment. There were many others. At first I ignored them. Then I couldn’t take it any longer.”
Most of the trouble comes on Salman after he’s pushed to the wall. There’s that infamous incident on camera with press photographers where he’s shown pushing media-persons physically. Did anyone hear the nasty communal comments that were passed at Salman, or the fact that he was physically pushed from behind before he retaliated?
I sincerely feel Salman is caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. I sincerely feel he doesn’t court trouble . Trouble loves him, chases him down, throws him to the ground and then watches in glee as he tries not to squirm. I sincerely believe Salman is a child who craves for attention.
Years ago I remember my evening with Salman when we went to this restaurant where he banged and banged on the bathroom door and nearly broke it down. Everyone fell silent and waited for the inevitable fight. But guess who emerged from the loo? Zayed Khan!
The two stared at one another hugged and screamed in delight.
The onlookers looked a little cheated, as though the management hadn’t given them their money’s worth.
I remember Salman catching hold of Kareena Kapoor who had accompanied us . “Let’s give them a scoop,” he had mock-whispered and pretended to beat up the giggling star for the shutterbugs who went crazy. When I frowned in disapproval, he grabbed her again and chuckled, “Let’s give him a scoop…” and he pretended to manhandle her while she giggled uncontrollably.
I remember Salman jumping from the back-seat of the car on to the front seat straight into my lap when I had ignored him. I remember Salman talking in a hotel’s coffee-shop till the wee hours with Abhishek and finally taking off his posh watch and gifting it to his co-star.
Unlike some other superstars Salman never gets insecure about his juniors. He treats them like kids newly recruited into the army where he’s the general.
Can this generous but impulsive man who loves to be noticed actually mean any harm? I seriously doubt it. I seriously think Salman means no harm to anyone. He’s incapable of causing conscious hurt.
Just why people actually end up hurt because of him is between his God and Devil.
We can punish him for being brash. But we can’t lock him up for criminal offences. He’s too soft-hearted to cause anyone deliberate harm.
“But you can’t be a spoilt brat at his age,’’ a serious actor reasoned after the latest trouble in Salman’s life. Perhaps not. But must we punish Salman for not having grown up enough to realize that there is a public face, and then there’s a private face. And the two do not meet in public?
That all-important mask which all superstars wear in public, is conspicuous by its absence in Salman’s demeanour. If he dislikes a situation or a person, he won’t make the effort to hide it.
Society is never kind to non-hypocrites. Salman has been made to realize this the hard way for years now. How long will he be hounded for being himself without caring if his slip is showing?