The superstar, the bhai of our industry, and undoubtedly of the country too, is the unofficial mascot for millions of people, from all over the globe. From aping him to wearing the similar prized bracelet, from watching his moves first-day first-show to crowding near his building in Bandra, a Salman Khan fan has done it all, unabashedly, with no inhibitions and with all his/her love. He’s loved by many, and feared by more, and enjoys a cult following like no other, commanding the mind space of an overwhelming majority in our Bollywood-addicted India.
Everyone is aware the kind of influence Salman Khan has cultivated in the minds of the people over the years. They swear by his ideologies and would not mind stepping out on the streets for his support. It is very endearing to see his fierce band of supporters who become overprotective and extremely vocal for their superstar with every soup he immerses himself into.
He has been accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriends, of running over people, killing and injuring them while they were sleeping on a pavement, of hunting down endangered blackbucks, humiliating a fellow, of course lesser known and lesser paid colleague – singer Arijit Singh – from the industry, bullying people into subjugations, and much more. However, his fans know their rightful role and support him fiercely through all his trials and tribulations.
Of late, he has landed himself in a controversy by making a rape analogy, for which he was bashed both on and off virtual media. It was an uncalled comparison to make, and I would say it was just very stupid and naïve of him to pass on such a comment, which, thankfully, he retracted immediately. Nevertheless, we all know how social media works. It is now a platform to demean other people or ally with their thoughts, and that’s what exactly happened.
While many on the social media thought Salman to be tactless and reacted in a manner that was expected, his fans decided to take another route altogether. Instead of accepting that their bhai committed a mistake, they were all supporting him with all their might, ridiculing people who disagreed with him. This very sheer force with which his loyalists rally behind him has been the reason of his sustained superstardom. They simply will not let go of their hero. His rape analogy may ruffle feathers on social media, but his real fan base — the masses — could not care less.
Despite the incident, the multiplex crowds will swoon over Salman, his hard core fans are still loyal to him even when he continues to make rubbish flicks that have often passed off misogyny as comedy. More than his films grossing hundreds of crores, what scares me is the kind of mindset Salman has the power to nurture over millions of people, and the scary thoughts he instils them with.
His fans would not notice his philanthropic side and help others in distress, but they would be very quick to ape his sexism, his misogyny, his stereotypical thought process and his biased judgments, and yes, his violence.
We no longer live in the era of introspection, it is the era of aping, and if one tries to ape Salman Khan, we might end up being a lot regressive than progressive.