Is Bhai never wrong? Why is Bollywood so silent on Salman’s rape comment?

  • Subhash K Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 22, 2016 18:46 IST
The industry has chosen to not comment on Salman Khan’s gender-based faux pas. (HT/Pramod Thakur)

While the habitually-outspoken and consistently gender-sensitive actor Kalki Koechlin chose not to comment on Salman Khan’s comparison of being tired after a wrestling shoot to that of being a raped woman, her former husband Anurag Kashyap made bold to describe Salman’s statement as “daft” and one that will force an apology out of the superstar.

In spite of the pressure from the National Commission of Women, Salman has still not apologised for trivialising an issue as serious as rape. The wide cross-section of weighty voices in Bollywood, people who generally have a sensible and influential opinion on issues specially related to gender outrage, seem to have quietly withdrawn when it came to Salman’s careless and callous utterance.

Read: Bollywood’s bad boy Salman Khan just can’t stay away from controversies

A close friend of the actor who spoke on condition of anonymity (“on record, no comments, off-record, he was being stupid”) says, “It is Salman’s PR team that needs to be pulled up for this blunder. Salman couldn’t have said what he did unscripted.”

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai feels Salman is a “child at heart”. “He has always showed the greatest respect for women,” says Ghai of Salman, who has been accused in the past for alleged violence and abuse in his relationships.

Last year, Salman Khan had to delete his tweet on Yakub Menon after public outrage. (HT Photo)

Says a producer on condition of anonymity, “Subhash Ghai will of course defend Salman Khan, he has been angling to sign him for a film for three years now. This is his chance to win brownie points and probably get Salman to say yes. Almost 90% of Bollywood is quiet on this wrestling-rape because they are afraid their work will suffer if they offend Bhai.”

Read: How many times will Salim Khan defend Salman?

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who is currently promoting his film, struggled to express his disapproval of the Khan’s careless utterances without offending him.

Fumbling over his words, Nawaz says, “If he has said those things (about wrestling on screen being like rape) then it’s wrong. And I am sure he realises it. He must be sorry for saying what he did.”

Read: Salman fans abuse Sona Mohapatra as she slams ‘50-year-old baby’

Writer Apurva Asrani (who recently penned the films Shahid and Aligarh) was initially reluctant to speak. He then says, “Salman made a very irresponsible statement. It was obvious he was trying to liken being manhandled and overpowered by men in a wrestling ring to rape. Clearly a terrible analogy, but I know that it is used liberally by the youth of our country. I wish he had just apologised profusely when he realised his mistake, right then and there. Then this wouldn’t have blown out of proportion. I also understand why he is being held accountable. He has a massive fan base and the youth must not get the signal that rape can be taken so lightly.”

While Nawaz, Anurag Kashyap and Apurva Asrani have spoken up. Voices in the entertaimment industry that had been raised passionately in the past when politicians like Mulayam Singh made disparaging comments about women, have gone mum.

Watch: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma in a song from Sultan

Singer Babul Supriyo, who is the Union minister of state for urban development and housing, says Salman has not erred. Says Baabul, “ Everyone knows that he did not mean what he said. Theoretically, yes it sounds wrong and I am sure like Salim saab he will tender an apology but honestly speaking, I do feel sad that being famous is almost a crime today.You are a soft target and you will have to stand up for agnipariksha all the time to prove yourself.”

Pooja Bedi is even more equivocal in her support of Salman during this hour of crisis. “Analogies similies and metaphors are used for larger and more dramatic visuals to describe an experience. If his context of rape was to describe a brutal physical and emotional experience , is that wrong?Is this being made a tamasha for political gains and media TRP?”

Read: Salman Khan says he felt like a ‘raped woman’, stirs controversy

However, actor Lilette Dubey says, “Obviously the term ​ rape​ is used completely insensitively, tastelessly and loosely... Just reveals how little understanding there is of what rape really means... Physically, mentally and psychologically... How deep this trauma is... How life changing its impact and ramifications... but mostly what a terrible violation of human rights it is... and of the human body ! And it wasn’t even rape per se... It was an analogy of a woman raped... There is rape of all ages and genders... To me that was even more disturbing.”​

While we debate the pros and cons of Salman Khan’s statement it must be pointed out that Bollywood is no stranger to misogyny. A female actor, on condition of anonymity, says, “It’s man’s world in this industry. Actors sit with their cronies on the sets discussing women’s anatomy and what they’d like to do with it it.Given the scenario Salman’s rape comment is not really a big deal.We’ve seen and heard much worse.”

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