India Uncut

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Me, I'm sorry for the chinkara

There seems to be an outpouring of sympathy for Salman Khan today, now that he's been given a five-year sentence in a case of poaching. There are stories focussing on the hardship he is undergoing in prison, while waiting for his bail application to be heard. "Like other convicts, Salman will have only jail food, and will sleep on the floor without a pillow," reports Mid Day. The Telegraph documents his typical meal: "[A] dinner of 375 gm of chapati (two-three) and 450 gm of vegetable curry."

Bollywood is speaking out on his behalf, of course, with Anubhav Sinha making the case that as some crimes are not punished, none should be. He is quoted in the Times of India as saying: "I want to know why the man who killed Jessica Lall walked away free? A celebrity is a sitting duck."

Tsk tsk. I don't know the law in question -- and none of the papers have quoted the exact law that covers this crime -- but if a five-year sentence is allowed within that, then well, what grounds does anyone have of saying that the sentence is "unusually harsh," as ToI does?

Such talk is common around Salman. This is a man who is involved in multiple poaching cases, though they pale before the incident when he allegedly ran over some pavement dwellers. He has been known to physically abuse his girlfriends, and he famously stalked Aishwarya Rai for a while after they broke up. And yet, Bollywood people, many of whom no doubt have vested interests, are always rushing to praise him.

"He has a heart of gold and has always helped the needy," Pahlaj Nihalini once said to Rediff, while his official website proclaims that he "[c]an be very caring, very protective, very loving, and also childishly petulant." Heck, I've met a lot of people who pout and say things like "But Sallu is such a sweetheart, I don't know why everyone says such bad things about the poor darling." And suchlike.

People used to say similar things about Sanjay Dutt as well, that he was "just an overgrown boy" and so on, but Dutt, at least, didn't go around breaking the law as if he owned the country. I would expect Salman's family and friends to support him, but I'm surprised that a lot of the media coverage is on the same lines. Maybe I shouldn't be. After all, we're a country that's crazy about celebrity, as the rehabilitation of Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja proves. The glitter is everything, little else matters.

Now wait for the feature stories tomorrow on how much damage this will do to the industry, and how much money rides on his films. Heck, with so much at stake, what's a chinkara or a pavement dweller or two? No?

Update: Had this truck started...
amit varma, 4:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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