Getting away with murder...

WHILE MAKING "The Wild Ones" in the early 1950s up and coming star, Marlon Brando, dressed in dirty jeans, T-shirt and black leather jacket, transferred some of the scenes from the film (he was the member of a motor cycle gang) to real life by zooming around the streets of Los Angeles at reckless speed.

But he was not involved in any hit and run case, involvement with the mafia or bashing up the paparazzi.

That was one of the favourite activities of another Hollywood celebrity, Frank Sinatra, a famous paparazzi-basher whose business deals in Las Vegas invited the Government's attention for alleged involvement with the Mafia. But Sinatra continued to be the favourite of the U.S. Presidents, sang at their Inaugurals and was more than friendly with Nancy Reagan, even after her husband moved into the White House.

Scandal also hit action hero, Errol Flynn, who was tried and acquitted for the alleged rape of a minor when defence lawyer, Jerry Giesler, proved that the `victim' was a grown up who had actively participated in the act.

It was the same Giesler who represented 14-year old Cheryl Crane, daughter of the famous star, Lana Turner, who stabbed and killed her mother's lover, Johnny Stompanando because she had developed a crush on him!

There seems to be a kind of invisible link between celebrities, particularly those in the show business and scandals. The media had been front paging reports on macho actor, Salman Khan, allegedly running over five people sleeping on the pavement of suburban Bandra in Mumbai while driving home from a late night party. One of them, a 38 year-old bakery worker from U.P., Narulla Khan, died on the spot and the others were hospitalised. Salman, reportedly drunk at the time of the accident, ran away from the scene of the crime and surrendered to the police after nearly eight hours.

He was released on bail after being charged under sections 304A, 379 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code read along with section 134 of the Motor Vehicles Act. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to a two-year jail term.

Salman, eldest of the famed writer Salim Khan of the Salim-Javed duo had been under stress, professionally and personally for some months. Most of his recent films had bombed at the box office.

His girl friend, beauteous actress Aishwarya Rai, declared in public that she had nothing to do with him. The actor was constantly in the news for the wrong reasons. He banged his car against the compound wall of Rai's building, gate-crashed into the sets where she was shooting and created a scene so that she was compelled to leave with him. In the past Salman had had stormy relationships with two of his former girl friends, Sony Ali and former actress, Sangeeta Bijilani, now the wife of former Indian cricket captain, Mohamad Azharuddin.

Accused of being a `spoilt brat', the actor had directed his ire on press photographers who had turned up at the office of the police commissioner where he made an appearance in connection with some foreign exchange violation cases. Khan stands accused in a Jaipur case for the killing of two black bucks, a protected species.

The details are gruesome — after shooting down the animal, Salman borrowed a knife from his bodyguard and reportedly slit its throat.

Salman Khan, it appears, belongs to a long line of show biz celebrities who violate the country's laws with impunity and continue to bask in their celebrity status. The Juhu Khans (Feroz, Sanjay) acquired notoriety for bashing up people with or without reason. In fact, Sanjay Khan once slapped well-known actress Zeenat Aman, who was in love with him, in full public view at the Taj Hotel.

Actor Aditya Pancholi, it is said, developed the habit of beating up cops and cooling his heels in the lock up. "We keep away from him, he could do anything at anytime," confessed members of the housing society where Pancholi lived. One of the worst celebrity scandals involved Puru Raaj Kumar, son of the late actor, Raaj Kumar, whose car ran over five sleeping people, killing three of them and seriously injuring the other two. Puru too ran away from the accident site and when the law finally caught up with him, he was asked to pay a measly fine of Rs. 30,000. What accounts for such behaviour from people who seem to have everything in life? With Salman, the streak of violence seems more pronounced. A well-known film critic and a close friend of the Khan family said that the actor should have gone in for psychiatric treatment much earlier. The guilty stars believe that they are special people and that the laws of the country do not apply to them. The film media often goes soft on them.

Today, celebrity journalism is at its peak. It cannot do without Bollywood stars — be they sinners or saints. While columns after columns have been written about Salman, the victims, the dead and the injured, and their plight hardly get any space. The media seldom bothered with such details.

Despite being a public menace and a spoilt brat, Salman Khan continues to be a media favourite. Within weeks, no one will remember he had killed an innocent man and he will be back on page three, reserved for celebrity activities. There are enough famous lawyers to defend him, enough adoring police officers to mess up the investigation and enough journalists to sing his praise and offer excuses for his behaviour.

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