Tiger is indeed zinda but he is also currently Prisoner (qaidi) Number 106 in Jodhpur jail. Salman Khan, arguably Hindi cinema’s most bankable star, has been acquitted in the past of crimes far more heinous than successfully hunting a deer. He has flown kites with the high and mighty, he parties “in and as” the rich and famous.
Reports this week highlight the financial consequences of Khan’s potential five-year incarceration — between Bigg Boss and a slew of films, including Eid releases, Rs 800 crore could be lost. But those who understand stories, the power of the narrative, knew it could be no other way.
The blackbuck, hero or villain of the piece depending on your feelings toward Khan, is the little deer that could. In Rajasthan alone, its numbers are estimated to have increased from between 7,000-10,000 in the 1980s to over thrice the number last year.
Beyond the figures, though, the chinkara fits an archetype of the Indian hero, quite opposite to the one Khan usually plays on screen: The passive warrior — lithe, likeable, vegetarian and worshipped. In Rajasthan, as in some other parts of the country, it forms a part of the sacred ecology of the Bishnois, who pursued the case against Khan.
The bad boy of Bollywood, then, was the Goliath brought down by diminutive David. A fleet-footed source of protein managed what teams of lawyers could not in the past. But as with all giant-slayers, the chinkara too threatens now to loom large. It has no natural predators since the cheetah disappeared from the Subcontinent and wolves have dwindled.
Its sacred status means its unlikely to lose protection, and its growing numbers have led it to destroy farmers’ crops. But fear not, packs of feral dogs that are beginning to hunt the buck abound, even as a tiger learns the power of an underdog tale.