Salman Khan – The bad boy of Indian cinema
On April 5, a court in Jodhpur found Bollywood actor Salman Khan guilty of hunting two blackbucks while working on Hum Saath Saath Hain in 1998.
The 52-year-old has been dogged by multiple charges since undertaking the infamous hunting safari in protected forest land while shooting for the film.
The Bishnois, a Rajasthani tribe seen as custodians of the region’s wildlife, filed a complaint against Salman and other actors.
In 2016, Khan was found guilty of killing gazelles on the hunting trip and served a very brief stint in jail but was freed on appeal.
Last year he was also cleared by a court over the alleged use of unlicensed firearms on the expedition. A higher court is challenging his acquittal.
Controversy has followed the Bollywood bad boy since he burst onto the silver screen in the 1980s.
He was cleared in 2015 of killing a homeless man in a hit-and-run accident. That decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Indian courts can often take years — and sometimes decades — to pronounce verdicts.
He was also accused of assaulting a former Miss World and provoked a firestorm in 2016 by saying his workout schedule for a film left him feeling “like a raped woman”.
But the off-screen drama has done little to dampen his appeal.
The actor known as “bhai”, meaning “brother” in Hindi, enjoys a cult-like status with the majority of his devotees’ young men who envy Khan for being unmarried at 52.
He remains one of Bollywood’s biggest draws, starring in more than 100 films and television shows.
According to Forbes, he made $37 million in yearly earnings to finish second behind Shah Rukh Khan in the 2017 Bollywood rankings.
Both the Khans are among the top 10 most highly paid actors in the world.
The Bollywood heartthrob’s latest blockbuster Tiger Zinda Hai (Tiger is alive) collected some $85 million worldwide.
‘Jail term will not seriously harm his career’
Bollywood film industry analyst Komal Nahta said the conviction and any jail term would only delay movies but not seriously harm his career.
“He is a superstar whose films guarantee huge box office numbers,” Nahta told AFP. “A jail term might affect a few films that are in the pipeline.”
“These films can wait as they have not yet begun production and at present it would only mean a loss of time rather than money investment.”
“He has always been the poster boy of a large section of the youth population,” filmmaker Nikkhil Advani, who directed Salman in the 2007 romantic drama “Salaam E Ishq”, told AFP.
Director Kabir Khan, who worked with Khan on “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, one of his most acclaimed movies, believes his misdemeanours hint at a ‘vulnerability’ that audiences relate to.
“He makes politically incorrect statements but that seems to endear him to audiences who see him the way he is,” he told AFP.
“He´s immensely popular because he wears his heart on his sleeve, he´s a bad boy and a brat, but then he does all this good work with Being Human.
“His fans stand by him and overlook many of his indiscretions by saying his heart is in the right place.”
Salman describes himself as a ‘humanitarian’ on his Twitter profile and filmmaker Advani believes his “image makeover” has helped him persuade fans “to feel that he was always misunderstood and somewhat scapegoated”.
Salman´s following has been enhanced by his hosting of the Indian version of reality TV show “Big Brother”. He has also won praise for taking on difficult roles, such as “Sultan”, where his weight fluctuates wildly.
“He isn´t just playing safe and holding on to the success, unlike some of his peers,” said Kabir Khan.