Why 2015 has been the Year of Salman
Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP
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Everything has gone according to a script dictated by Salman Khan in 2015. His immense popularity can be measured in the number of crores earned by each of his two releases this year in India alone (over Rs 300 crores for Bajrangi Bhaijaan and over Rs 200 crores for Prem Ratan Dhan Payo). He has, at least for now, finally crawled out from under the shadow of conviction that hung over him ever since he was accused of having driven a vehicle in a drunken state and killing a labourer in 2002.

Khan turns 50 on December 27, and he could not have asked for a better gift than the acquittalbestowed on him on Thursday by the Bombay High Court. The state of Maharashtra will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court, but at least for now, Khan has emerged the winner, straight out of a perfectly contrived climax of one of his many movies.

In the 1990s, Khan was one of Bollywood’s bad boys, a borderline basket case who featured regularly in gossip columns for alleged acts of violence against his girlfriends and alcohol abuse. He has since turned over a new leaf, a feat he owes to his advisors, including his loyal manager Reshma Shetty. He is “Bhai” to his numerous fans, and sports the image of a fun-loving and physically strong brother who cares for the populace through acts of charity. He is a box office seer who knows the kind of cinema Indian audiences want. He has become genre-proof and sui generis, like Rajinikanth. Salman Khan’s admirers come to watch Salman Khan in cinemas regardless of the character he is playing.

Khan is, at this point, at the very top of his game, unlike his peers. Khan’s closest box office rival, Shah Rukh Khan, is at that precarious point in his career where he has to pad up his new releases with attractions other than himself (a pairing with Kajol in Dilwale, playing himself in the meta-narrative Fan in 2016). Aamir Khan stepped out of the mass market race a few years ago, and prefers to work in movies that showcase his abilities. Hrithik Roshan was never a contest, and actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh are a couple of generations away.

Salman Khan has, through his choice of roles, stayed close to the invisible but sizeable masses that have stood by him through every allegation of criminal behaviour and impropriety and shared a portion of their earnings with him whenever required. In Indian terms, there is no greater measure of acceptance: a love that can be quantified.

Even the gossip grapevine is swaying in Khan’s favour. He remains an unrepentant bachelor, and any link-ups in the entertainment media only enhance his persona of a still virile and attractive man who lives his life exactly the way he wants to. This attitude got him into trouble with the law 13 years ago, but today, the Bombay High Court vindicated the Salman Khan Way.