The Sultan Will Have the Last Laugh

POV

The Sultan Will Have the Last Laugh

T

he last time Salman Khan was in the news for the right reasons was, never. The sultan of controversies has not failed us yet again. This time he has outdone himself by comparing his post-shoot fatigue to rape – to be more precise, to a “raped woman” who could “barely walk straight”.

The remark was followed by titters in a room full of journos, who went on to crucify him for it. The remark was also followed by Salman quickly realising his mistake and withdrawing the statement to the same room of journos, who conveniently forgot about that part.

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I’m a big fan of humour going to places where it’s going to piss someone off; one look at my Twitter feed will convince you of that. But Bhai’s case is different. (Bhai’s case is always different, isn’t it?)

We’re living in a country where filmmakers face the heat for showing young people addicted to drugs. We live in a country where the words sex and breasts are censored on television screens. The loose logic is: Drugs/sex dikhaoge, toh log drugs/sex karenge. This is the same reason rape scenes are frowned upon. Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, based on the life of Phoolan Devi, was banned for being “offensive”, “vulgar” and “indecent”.

In countries like England or America, where almost everyone has received a few years of basic education, the argument, “Rape dikhaoge movie me toh rape hoga”, doesn’t hold water. This is mostly because people know the difference between a joke and actual rape. They know that if a song has the word rape in it, it doesn’t mean that the song is encouraging it. The likes of Anthony Jeselnik, Greg Giraldo, and even the beloved George Carlin, have been cracking rape jokes since we were busy getting computers in India.

But in India, where a woman is raped every 30 minutes, making a rape joke is out of line. We haven’t got the reputation of being the rape capital of the world for no reason. Here a rape joke is not just a joke, it comes with consequence. In any society where the underprivileged outnumber people of privilege, the choice of words should be taken care of, especially when the words come from a politician or person of influence, like a Bollywood actor. But then, Salman’s sense of responsibility toward our society equals the number of fucks given by God to our prayers.

Still, should we lynch Salman for it?

Salman’s sense of responsibility toward our society equals the number of fucks given by God to our prayers.

Haven’t you ever heard students panicking before incomplete college assignments saying, “Aaj toh rape honewala hai?” Or fans saying after a cricket game, “India raped Pakistan” and laughing about it. We have politicians comparing elections to rape. Just type “rape” in the Twitter search bar, read the tweets and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Salman Khan’s statement, when put in context, is as simple as this. That, I feel, is where the flaw lies.

Using a word is never wrong; neither is making an analogy. At most, it can be in bad taste, but it can never be an asking-for-an-apology kind of mistake. People have been making shitty analogies since time immemorial. Politicians say shit like “Uplifting Dalits is like taking pigs out of a sewer” and get away with it. In my opinion, this is even more dangerous, because it exposes their mentality toward the lower caste, which further reflects their upbringing in a classist society. But should they go to jail for this? I think not. They should be sent to school instead.

I say this because I believe that statements could never hurt anyone. Freedom of speech should be absolute. Making an analogy is his wish, ignoring it completely is yours. Moreover, the guy has gotten away with stuff much worse than this. He has been accused of killing people, for fuck’s sake. So the brouhaha over his statements and asking him to apologise is as ridiculous as asking Hilter to first say sorry about an insensitive comment on Jews.

Last night on Times Now, Arnab The Ever Enlightened, pushed his panelists to outrage. We had voices screeching about how working out releases happy endorphins in the body and therefore, by equating working out to rape, Salman is suggesting that victims enjoy rape. The leap was magnificent, but nobody pointed out that it made two errors: The first in the logic and second in suggesting that Salman had deeper levels.

If Salman was watching the debate, he must’ve been cackling. This 50-year-old man-child who has been defended by his daddy and brother must be having a field day watching everyone lose their shit, congratulating himself for making it to yet another national debate before a movie release.

In these times of instant outrage, saying asinine things is a great way to get publicity. SuSwamy has made a career out of it. Donald Trump may get a presidency out of it. So what’s wrong if Salman wants to get a hit movie out of it? I’ve heard the word “Sultan” about a million times since yesterday. If I were the producer of the film, I’d be laughing my way to the bank this morning. The Salman circus is a long and protracted one and at the end of each act there’s usually a ₹100 crore tag. Hold on to your seats and just enjoy the show.

Editor’s note: The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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