So some people are very unhappy with Salman Khan. Besides his questionable driving and shooting skills, what has upset people is his casual usage of the word ‘Rape’ to express how sore he felt with the demands made on his body as a wrestler during the shoot of ‘Sultan’. I would like to address these matters with two cultural realities.
In last quarter-of-a-century, the US-inspired, post-liberalisation India, material/professional success has become the new parameter for everything admirable and aspirational----Ambanis, Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy, ShahRukh Khan, Salman Khan and the likes have ruled the media pages; their fancy bungalows, cars, jets, women and women’s diamonds, standing for everything that true success really means. The rest of India, fed on the stories of their riches, has admired them with bated breath, wanting to be like them, thus making them their idols and heroes.
Alas the qualities of a hero have been established over millions of years. And they cannot be completely rewritten even by a highly motivated media or the dazzled masses, without eroding the very essence of human values. Character and personal conduct still form the basis of human life. Thus when these men who we admire so much for their professional success, fall short, we squirm. And then enjoy turning against them.
Salman Khan is a star--- fun, good-looking and loved for his adorable reel-life characters. He is not a real-life hero. Vijay Mallya is a businessman. He is not a hero. Subrata Roy is a businessman. He is not a hero. Once this demarcation is clear in our heads, maybe we shall not be so disappointed. There is a maybe, because very few of us can reconcile with our inner truths. Thus, it is not Salman Khan who is the problem. It is us---confused, envious, worshipping money, fame and the ilk, and accruing misplaced heroism to unlikely possessors of the same, who are the problem.
Salman Khan is being who he really is---Salman Khan, with his blacks and whites and greys, as millions of other human beings are. We expect someone with such good fortune to be perfect. Gods do not bestow good fortune on the perfect or the best or the most talented; life is pretty random, and destiny cannot be trusted to be fair. Too bad if we are not able to digest this reality! And who says Salman Khan is fortunate...where is love in his life? Why has no woman stuck to him? Can a man be truly successful with a bad personal life? What does it really make him? A professional success, a star, that’s all! Let’s also pity him for driving away every girlfriend who then never seizes to be his friend, a nightmare situation for any guy!
To graduate to the usage of objectionable words, something must be said about limited vocabulary of any tenth pass average Indian male from Mumbai. Indians use thousands of languages to communicate, but Hindi and English have been predominant, atleast amongst the brethrens of Mumbai Film Industry. Even in Hindi, the Mumbaiya Hindi is different from the Dilli-wali Hindi, or the Lucknow-wali Hindi. Afterall how many Hindi speaking in Delhi or Lucknow will understand Mumbaiya ‘Kantaal aa raha hai’? This ‘kantaal’ of Mumbaiya Hindi is thus colloquial usage, to express absolute saturation and irritation. ‘Rape’ is the colloquiqal Mumbaiya English to express what Salman Khan was---- complete pain and exhaustion! I have heard many a Mumbaikar use ‘I got raped today man’, to express a particularly bad day.
Before people rise up to attack me, let me ask them if they are watching youngsters talk to their friends. At a recent shoot, most assistant directors, production people and actors (even from respectable institutions like FTII) could not get a comprehensible sentence out, without using words like Behen****, madhar****, chu*, gaan*u, bhons*i and fu*k. It was not because they were always angry. It was probably because though they have studied in institutions where everyday language of instruction may be English, they still have the vocabulary of a seventh grader in a British school. The other reasons maybe that they either feel it’s cool to use these words or are just lazy to make an effort which good English language requires Thus, if they wanted to express surprise, joy, excitement, boredom, or even burning determination, the same few expletives were used to communicate practically all of these! Most of us Indians speak ‘chalta hai’ English, and ‘Rape’ as a word to express extreme pain and soreness is borne out of such a ‘chalta hai’ linguistic culture.
Being in Mumbai for several years, I can assure you that Salman Khan’s usage of the word ‘Rape’ is less about insensitivity, and more a matter of habit, expected from anyone who has probably led a Mumbaiya life amongst other film industrywallahs. Not many film industry people are linguistically gifted. That is why Amitabh Bachchan stands out even at his age.
Salman, who is now fifty years old, may have been using few such words for decades. Yet, thanks to the social media and the new awareness amongst us as to what is offensive and what is not, he is being made aware that some things are no more acceptable. This episode sheds light on our changing social mores, and is a right step towards a more sensitive society. It’s not enough just ‘Being Human’, how about ‘Being a more Aware Human’?