In Salman they trust

Baradwaj Rangan   | Photo Credit: mail

One of the more perplexing moments on Season Four of Koffee with Karan was when Salman Khan made his first appearance on the show and declared, “I am a virgin”. Host Karan Johar’s eyes popped, as did everyone’s who’s read about the star’s sexual exploits. But Khan remained grave, as if he’d just announced he was retiring from acting. Sneakily, Johar let us know that Khan may not have been entirely truthful. Earlier, he’d asked Khan about girlfriends and the star had said he had none. Johar smirked. Later, when he asked Khan how he handled ex-girlfriends if he bumped into them, Khan, forgetting he had none, said, “Some I ignore totally...” And we laughed.

But Balram Gehani didn’t. In Being Bhaijaan, a fascinating documentary directed by Shabani Hassanwalia and Samreen Farooqui, this Salman Khan fan from Nagpur reveals that he liked the word “virgin” very much because Khan accepted that’s what he was. As proof, Gehani said: Khan has never done a kissing scene. And Gehani added, “I am 100 per cent virgin and will remain one.”

The fact that a fan models his behaviour on a star is disturbing, but there’s more. Gehani believes India’s population is under control because Bhai (Salman’s popular moniker) fans haven’t married. “That’s because Bhai himself hasn’t married. If Bhai gets married, at least 3-4 crore men will get married. A year later, they will have children. The earth will topple over and the world will end. He is like Vishnu’s avatar, who is balancing the whole world on his finger.”

Gehani is exaggerating, but not much. Khan has been more or less god so far. He was god to the industry, balancing the box office on his finger, summoning up blockbusters out of thin air, thinner material. And he is certainly god to fans like Shan Ghosh, who answers his phone with a ‘Jai Salman’.

The hero of the masala movie is a direct descendent from our epics, an embodiment of good, a vanquisher of evil. And Khan created his screen persona with a bit of mix-and-match: respectful to elders like Rama, mischievous and flirty like Krishna, and, off-screen, unattached like Hanuman. (It’s no accident that Khan’s next release is titled Bajrangi Bhaijaan.) Many fans buy this persona totally. At least fans from the India that mainstream Bollywood is trying very hard to forget.

These fans are ordinary people. Gehani is working to reopen his father’s bakery. Bhaskar Hedaoo wants to earn enough for his sister’s marriage. Shan Ghosh, a Bhai lookalike who is called ‘Junior Salman’, is investing in real estate to move his family from middle class to upper class. But these real-life aspirations still come second to dreams of being Bhaijaan.

Shah Rukh Khan, with his NRI romances and designer duds, embodies aspiration or escapist fantasy. Aamir Khan is the thinking man’s actor. But nobody speaks to the real India that wants godlike heroes and modern-day myths like Salman Khan. He is the Rajinikanth of North India.

After listing out the qualities of an ideal wife, Ghosh says he doesn’t believe in love. Bhai, after all, said that he wanted a girl just like his mother, and according to Ghosh, “The marriage market doesn’t have those kinds of girls anymore.”

Ghosh is from Chhindwara, about 3 and a half hours from Nagpur. His life has more bromance than romance. In the film, he tells Gehani he will come to Nagpur to watch the new Salman film with him. It’s practically a date. On his way there, Gehani wonders nervously, “How do I look? Will he be smarter than me?”

When Ghosh watches the Fevicol se number from Dabangg 2, he is asked about Kareena Kapoor. “I can’t even see her,” he says. “If Salman Bhai is on screen, I can only see him.” Ghosh not only looks like Khan, he has chiselled his physique like Khan’s.

Gehani believes that building a Bhai-like physique is about masculinity. “If a man shows his body, he is successful. It means he’s a man. If somebody beats up two men, he’s a man. A man needs courage, and what gives him courage is his masculinity”.

I asked Gehani if Khan’s sentencing had made him re-evaluate his fandom. He said no. He explained what happened as “ooparwale ki marzi,” (god’s will.) Which god, he didn’t say.


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  • Other Controversies
  • Blackbuck case: He was accused of poaching two Blackbucks in 1998 near Jodhpur during the shooting of 'Hum Saath Saath Hain'. He was sentenced to one year prison.
  • Comments about 26/11 attacks: “It was the elite that was targeted this time. So they panicked. Then they got up and spoke about it. My question is why not before? Attacks have happened in trains and small towns too, but no one talked about it so much,” Salman said in 2010. He claimed that Pakistan cannot be held responsible. He later apologised.
  • Aishwarya Rai in the picture: After their presence in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, the couple’s relationship was in the eye of the storm. After they broke up in 2002, Aishwarya alleged that the actor harassed her, as he was unable to come to terms with the ending of their relationship. A case was also registered by Aishwarya’s parents.
  • Brawl with SRK: In 2008, the two actors allegedly got into a fistfight during a party. The relationship between the two stars has never been the same since then. However, the two actors got back together on a good foot in an Iftar party and SRK attended Salman’s sister’s wedding. SRK visited Salman hours before the verdict on hit-and-run case.
  • Vivek Oberoi’s allegations: The actor accused Salman of "threatening to kill him, abusing and indulging in character assassination." It was rumoured that Vivek Oberoi and Aishwarya Rai were in a relationship.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 1:42:44 PM |

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