Dheela about character

Paromita Vohra What does this it mean that Salman Khan has a golden heart? People brought it up in 2002 when his drunk driving killed people. And again in 2003 when he called his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend Vivek Oberoi 41 times to harass and threaten him. Oberoi held a press conference to which Bollywood responded thus:

Kareena Kapoor: “If he had a problem with Salman, why could he not solve it instead of going to the press? My sister Karisma and Salman are very good friends…and Salman is a thorough gentleman.” (Yaniki, he’s nice to me so he can’t be bad to anyone else.) Suniel Shetty: “Vivek has done it for publicity. Salman..is a fantastic human being. He says he made a call or two, but he wasn’t abusive.” (Yaniki, Bhai bola, so it’s true.) Sanjay Leela Bhansali: “Salman is the best human being I have met. I think Vivek Oberoi has committed the biggest blunder ever by any actor in Mumbai.” (Yaniki Bhai ka ilaka).

Dheela character
Illustration / Amit Bandre

Salman’s problem is he thinks with his heart... I’m making my next film with him. He has given three of the biggest hits ever -- Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Karan Arjun.” OK then. Finally, Abhishek Bachchan: “In the film industry, there is a code of honour whereby all problems are sorted out internally.” Yaniki, Alpha and Omerta.

So, Vivek Oberoi broke the industry’s feudal code—ghar ki baat ghar mein rehne do. A benevolent patriarch will sort out the problems between hot-blooded male youngsters. Bhai’s problem though, was not his golden heart. It was that he was at the beating end of the stick called power. That is why no one in that warm fuzzy one big honourable family called Bollywood told Mr Khan he needs to learn to respect women, not drive while drunk, put a lid on his temper or learn humility. Is Khan’s golden heart aware of disappearing evidence and witnesses in the hit-and-run case? Does it feel linked to Vivek Oberoi’s professional ruin? Or in golden hearts does the left ventricle not know what the right ventricle is doing?

The golden heart is symbolic of inherent innocence. Khan’s innocence is like a self-refreshing computer screen. It keeps erasing all memory of experience in order to maintain its sense of innocence, and so, frees him, like an ignorant, ego-centric child, from being mindful of consequences and boundaries. It is this quality that makes him the star he is— giving affirmation and joy to millions of young men for whom the world is a hard place in which they feel misunderstood.

Has Salman Khan’s philanthropy atoned for his mistakes? Actually, it has helped many people—but not those who were harmed by him. It has caused him no hardship either. So, in doing it, Mr Khan has not really confronted the true meaning of his actions. Perhaps in that he is like us, who live in a world where our class position and comforts are linked to other people’s hardship. Where development for one group of people comes through devastation for other groups.

We, too, would like to be innocent of this knowledge, not see news about it, confront it. We too, like Salman Khan, want to be believe we are basically good, so how can we be implicated in anything bad? But that’s not how the world is. Actions have consequences, meanings and unpalatable histories. Nice people can be part of bad things. All innocence in these circumstances is willful. We must accept this in Salman Khan, and accept this in ourselves. It is time for all of us to grow up now.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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