September 24, 2003
Salman Khan is back in action. Tere Naam , his first film in some time, has been declared a hit in some quarters. A music video has been released starring his beefy persona. Promos of his forthcoming films are running on prime time. In the last few weeks, he has made regular appearances on page three and in city supplements of leading national dailies. His rehabilitation, it appears, is nearly complete.
Rehabilitation, I say. But was he ever really condemned by anybody, other than the media? True, in the distant past, he allegedly hunted down a protected specie or two, intimidated some producers, hobnobbed with underworld demi-dons. Then, he reportedly subjected a girlfriend to public abuse, threatened a co-star forty two times in one night and allegedly ran a few basement-dwelling people over. Does the fact that he has notched a hit mean the public has forgiven him? Or that the people never cared either way?
Take the case of his equally illustrious partner in notoriety, and close friend, Sanjay Dutt. After a promising start, Dutt’s life went into a dystopia of drugs and alcohol. He made a comeback of sorts in the late eighties with Mahesh Bhatt’s Naam but hit the mat again in the aftermath of the Bombay riots for possession of AK-47s and links with the D-Company. Tada led to his incarceration for over three years. He remained a saleable star.
Vaastav, a hit some years ago, is believed to have been produced by Chhota Rajan’s brother. Last year the police produced transcripts of his conversations with Chhota Shakeel describing the extortion racket between the underworld and filmdom. In the court case, all leading stars turned hostile. And Dutt remains popular, saleable.
The Indian people relate to film stars in pretty much the same way as they do to politicians. Has any scandal, personal or political, been powerful enough to compel a politician to shut shop forever? I can’t recall any. Did V.P. Singh’s record during Emergency impact his later incarnation as the messiah of the backwards?
Look at Modi, labelled the butcher of Gujrat, but today rehabilitated enough to be lauded by newspapers as an example for Congress to follow. Look at Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Laloo, Sukhram…
Hollywood has ever admired the real gangsters and mafia of the east.
Much of the seventies’ Hollywood New Wave cinema was propelled by filmmakers for whom living on the edge was the only cauldron that could produce masterpieces. But spurious though it may have been, there was still a notion of art behind the lifestyles these Hollywood new-wavers were leading. In the Indian scenario, even that extenuating pretence does not obtain.
What we are left with are Bollywood sagas being mutually reproduced in real and reel life. With new tags, as in Tere Naam, saying things like ‘unfortunately a true love story.’ It is not clear whether it was unfortunate for the filmmakers, the star, the protagonist or the audience.
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