The Future is Bhai


The Future is Bhai


hen I grow up, I want to be Salman Khan.

In my late 20s, I realise the time may have passed for such lofty ambitions, but I’m still clinging on to a glimmer of hope. Brother Khan is a model citizen of an India that rational, young, privileged males live in, and he leads the life we all secretly want. He’s self-assured, bold, does what he wants, and has people bending over backwards to accommodate him. It’s the Great Indian Dream – one that women and poor people are expressly barred from having.


Basically Khan is Batman; he’s a rebel and a revolutionary. What he has could generously, but not inaccurately, be described as the superhero life (with the minor fact that he’s missing a conscience). He has lived through a string of unbelievably hot women with a jaunty disregard of the law of the land, and has done so with absolute power and zero accountability. Add to this utopian situation the fact that each of his movies pocket a few hundred crores – some of which is rumoured to be stuffed in the back of his Toyota Land Cruiser in case his “driver” messes up again – and you’ve got yourself a superhero for the kids of today.

As kids, especially ones belonging to the not-really-oppressed-but-very-jaded-middle-class, we’re taught to buy into the just-world fallacy and ideas of morality and virtue, only to realise later that that isn’t how the world works. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to terrible people. This leads to cognitive dissonance, followed by disillusionment and simmering anger.
Enter Brother Salman.

Salman was once a scrawny twerp with a penchant for tilting his head sideways to express puppy love. He picked up a dumbbell in the early ’90s (and hasn’t let go of it till today); at a time when our race didn’t even know what gyms were ( unlike now when people are more prone to having gym memberships than savings). In a short while, Bhai became the amalgam of every alpha male fantasy. He’s adored by literally millions of people – young boys want to be like him, young girls want to marry him. He teaches us that rules are meant to be broken, that respect is a bourgeois conceit.

Some of us who’ve been weaned on the old-fashioned “what goes around comes around” spiel, think he is biding his time to his ultimate demise.

Just look at all the women who’ve been a part of his life. Khan has, ever since I can remember, had a conveyor belt of often talented, always attractive, powerful, young, famous girlfriends. He is a passionate and sensitive guy, so sometimes it’s understandable that he reacts impulsively when he’s unable to control the love in his heart. Then he gets accused of assault or abuse – emotional or physical – but the next girl recognises who he really is deep down. It’s the victory we all crave, and we experience it through him. He’s also lived out the ultimate male fantasy of threatening to beat the shit out of the new flame of an ex-girlfriend.
Add to this how delightfully oblivious he is to any kowtowing or political correctness in this PC-gone-mad world. In fact, very recently he stuck it to the (wo)man, by refusing to apologise for a “harmless little remark” that led to “hysterical hissy fits” by all those “bloody feminist types”.

Wherever you go in Mumbai, you’ll hear of at least one or two apocryphal tales about Khan’s whimsies and eccentricities. How he’ll apparently show up six hours late for an event and then charm your socks off; how he’ll hear a singer at an event, kidnap him and take him to his house for drinks. He’s famous for such random acts of kindness and charity – some are documented, some fabricated. (In fact, one completely made-up story of his that I admit to having spread among my friends was that he’d visit Arthur Road Jail every weekend with a carton of Royal Stag to polish off with old pal Sanjay Dutt.)

Sometimes, though, he finds himself in legal trouble, like we all do. Most people have to at some point witness the true face of Middle India – of inertia, sinister cynicism, and babudom. We want to tear our hair out, but we just have to grin and bear, getting tossed around from room to room, official to official, treated like scum for a moment of madness. It could happen to anyone. But Khan doesn’t follow the rules of the universe. He gets out of these things – using charm, innocence, cash, influence, whatever – the way we’d all want to but can’t. He pisses some people off along the way, but so what? (“You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”) At least he’s not cowering down to authority; at least he’s grabbing his destiny with both hands. And having lots of fun with it. The Great Indian Dream.

Some of us who’ve been weaned on the old-fashioned “what goes around comes around” spiel, think he is biding his time to his ultimate demise. We think he is the same tragic creature as Doctor Faustus who struck a deal with the devil for limitless worldly pleasures in exchange for his soul. Faustus had 24 years – followed by an eternity in, well, hell. Maybe Salman will go the same way and finally self-detonate into a flaming ball of hubris. But then again, maybe not.

Chances are that this mower-of-sleeping-men and hunter-of-endangered-species will zoom into a gold-flecked sunset in a yet-to-be-invented white, high-end SUV, with one hand on the automatic steering wheel and the other on the thigh of a woman quarter his age.

I guess it’s too late for me to grow up to be Salman but it’s not too late for our kids. This Great Indian Dream shines in their eyes and every time their hero pulls a stunt like this, it shines stronger.

The future looks bright. The future looks Bhai.