There is an interesting thing I have observed in Indian culture, if someone is admired, lauded or dare I say worshipped, for some reason they seem to be above the law. They can do as much wrong as they want, but very few seem to care. Worse still, if you are poor, then your life has virtually no value. This part about Indian culture is one I have a lot of trouble swallowing.

A case in point is Bollywood star Salman Khan. One of the most recognisable faces in India, is apparently almost impossible to track down by the police.  Why do the police want to track him down? Well in 2002 he allegedly ran his car off the road near his home, killing one person and injuring four others.

Interestingly he has tried to claim that he isn’t at fault because there isn’t a designated spot for people to sleep on the street.  Umm this is Bombay, a city where people sleep everywhere on the streets and under the cover of shop eaves is very common. Unfortunately, it is not only common place to see people sleeping everywhere on the streets, they even sleep on the road as well.  In my opinion it is more than reasonable to expect someone to be sleeping on a footpath you drive your car on here in Bombay.

Despite this, Salman Khan has not fronted court for his alleged crimes because a court in 2005 gave him an exemption from appearing in court and he has used it to his advantage to avoid appearing in court 83 times, yes 83 times. Police have tried to summons him but had trouble finding him…. this I find almost impossible to believe given that there are at least 50 young boys standing outside his apartment at any point in time hoping to get a look at him. I am sure some of them could tell the police when he was last seen and when they are expecting him home again.

The police have had such a hard time trying to find Salman Khan that they allegedly couldn’t even track him down at a a party that the Special Inspector General of Police was also attending late last year. What makes it even more amazing is that this actor receives extraordinarily high fees (sometimes up to Rs 5 crore or about $1m) to be present at award ceremonies and product launches, even I can work out where he is going to be due to the amount of advertising for these events.

So why hasn’t he been caught?

In my opinion, I don’t believe the police, courts or justice system in general really care whether he killed or maimed a few homeless people. It is this that makes me feel so sad. These poor people who were killed or hurt have such little value placed on their life, and an actor has such a high value placed on his life, that he can literally get away with murder.

Can it get any worse? Unfortunately it can!

Khan was ordered to pay compensation to the injured and killed in 2002, but one family is still waiting to receive their compensation for the death of their father and husband because they don’t have identity papers. Many births don’t happen in hospitals here, and there isn’t always documentation of someone’s existence, let alone their relationship to another. So based on this technicality, this family haven’t been compensated the paltry amount of Rs10 lakhs (about $20k) for the loss of their loved one from the man who killed him.  A man who would probably earn that amount of money in the time it takes him to sneeze.

This whole situation reminds me about an observation I have made about Indian society; it is a truly selfish one. So whilst the west is considered to be capitalist and self-absorbed, and the romantic hippies view India as a place of communal living and open hearts, I see it the other way.  If roles were reversed, and Australian film star Russell Crowe for example had hit and run in Australia in a similar way to Khan, I believe he would have been crucified by the media, abandoned by fans and left desperately trying to demonstrate his compassion and remorse. Heck, the man threw a telephone at someone once, bruising them slightly, and was decimated by the media.

But here in India, heroes can be villains in real life and they will still be revered and protected by everyone around them. It is those with nothing who are left to fend for themselves, it really is a brutal demonstration of survival of the fittest.

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11 thoughts on “Bollywood: Where Heroes Can Be Villains

  • July 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm
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    I’m in shock at what Sapna said above. “Who cares! Human lives esp of the street dwellers are aplenty in India…” It saddens and kind of scares me when I hear that people actually think this way. Is this the prevalent mentality in India?

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    • July 16, 2013 at 4:27 am
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      It saddens me greatly too. Unfortunately that is not an uncommon attitude from my experience.

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    • July 29, 2013 at 6:19 am
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      @endlessroad: Yes, that is a prevalent mentality. Just to be clear: Most definitely not my view just the prevalent view.

      And again this is not the attitude only towards heroes’ atrocities but a general apathy that my fellow country folks have towards things happening around us. Not sure what causes this but we do generally tend to turn a blind eye till things hit us hard in the face. Sometimes even then we just blame it on the system and move on with what we call a ‘Chalta hai’ or ‘swalpa adjust maadi’ attitude.

      Reply
  • July 13, 2013 at 8:03 am
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    Who cares! Human lives esp of the street dwellers are aplenty in India. Whereas only a few super heroes plus this one showers lavish gifts on people who come his way and also wears a Being Human T-shirt. Ain’t that enough? And why are you comparing him with some Crow-sparrow fellow. We Indians are different you know. We have culture! You coming from West and spoiling all our great culture of respect and dignity and happy families and society. People like you don’t understand anything…

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      • July 29, 2013 at 6:12 am
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        That was a sarcastic comment as to how our administration views people & the prevalent mentality especially towards the ones who are on the lower rung.

        It was meant to show how people sing praises in the name of Salman Khan coz he supports ‘Being Human’ efforts when he himself acts contrary to the ethos of the organisation. And Salman Khan is just one of them .Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan and many more down South belong to the your heroes being villain category and yet they are not punished but idolized.

        respect,dignity,yaada,yaada was meant to say how we harp on our culture being so great and yet we act contrary to it.

        If you check I did ‘like’ the post. Wouldn’t have if I meant literally everything I said in the comment.

        Hope that clears my stand.

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        • July 29, 2013 at 6:21 am
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          Thanks for clarifying that Sapna. I know you are regular reader and commenter so I did find your comment out of character, my apologies for missing the sarcasm. I agree with you, I find Salman Khan’s actions anything but “being human”.

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          • July 29, 2013 at 6:46 am
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            Thanks Rakhee. With two of you missing the sarcasm I suppose I could have written it better to drive home my point.

            You are bang on with your observation. Down South, one of our ‘heroes’ was jailed for domestic abuse(which includes holding his wife at the gunpoint) and also rumours were that he was having an affair with an actress.
            Since he is a popular hero the producers association thought they should take matters in their own hands and sort out the issue. Guess what they did – Pressured his wife to take back the complaint, Banned the actress(‘the other woman’) from working in the industry, got the actor out of jail, invested hugely and made movies starring the hero. So much for justice and setting things right.

            If this was not shocking, the movies were a huge hit and the producers made huge money. Nobody was bothered that the hero was a villain in real life.

            Thankfully, a few sensible people made noise and the ban on the heroine was revoked.

            P.S: Sorry for the long comment. Somehow this topic makes me go on and on.

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  • July 4, 2013 at 6:53 am
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    Haha,

    Going by the no. of comments (0 as of 4th July 13), people didnt seem to like u criticizing a celebrity !!
    Rakhee – the right word is entitlement. As a celebrity or socially established person, they carry a sense of entitlement as if no laws apply to them. Other examples are uproar over Sanjay Dutt’s conviction, Shahrukh’s security check up in USA, righteous indignation were heard from Indians. As if the high and mighty are by default innocent or entitled to a certain privilege above ordinary.

    Reply
    • July 4, 2013 at 8:12 am
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      Usually I find if people don’t say much about a post like this it is more because of indifference then dislike. Dislike usually generates plenty of comments!

      But yes I do agree with you that entitlement is an issue, particularly where it is granted to the wrong type of people.

      Reply

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