Tiger Qaidi Hai: Salman Khan’s First Night in Prison


Tiger Qaidi Hai: Salman Khan’s First Night in Prison

Illustration: Akshita Monga

The arrest of India’s favourite hit-and-run driver Salman Khan takes place on a pleasant Thursday. Relatives, media vans, and fans in the thousands are already stationed outside the courtroom to witness the historic moment. The man of the hour, Salman Khan, gets a free rickshaw ride to Jodhpur Central Jail by a fan. (Dad had taken away his car and the driver quit a few months ago.) As he gets out of the rickshaw, there’s an incredibly loud cheer from another fan. It turns out to be Remo D’Souza shouting at the top of his voice, worried about the shooting schedule for Race 3.

Salman Khan is wearing a black Being Human T-shirt along with blue jeans to cap off the irony. Before entering the courthouse, he waves at everyone for one last time. Until the next morning, when he will eventually walk out paying a bail amount lesser than his monthly budget for protein shake.

Jail inmates are excited. The last time they were told that a celebrity was arriving, it ended in disappointment. They’d waited with bated breath and Asaram Bapu had walked in. They hope this time around, things are going to be different.

As Salman Khan walks in, his fans in jail stare at him from toe to head in slow motion because that’s how they’ve seen Bhaijaan make an entry in every movie. Fictional conscience supersedes reflex sensory action. They can’t believe there isn’t a screen in front of them, as “Bhai bhai bhai” chants begin to echo in jail. There is a mood of jubilation, that hasn’t been experienced in months. Some inmates start dancing. The chavanni aisle throws coins at him, which they’ve risked their lives to smuggle inside prison.

Bhai is escorted by the superintendent to receive his prison uniform. After running over a person, injuring five others, beating up several women, and poaching two blackbucks, it is while handing over his beloved bracelet to the authorities that the Bollywood superstar bursts into tears. One of the jail guards collapses on the spot, as he catches a glimpse of Salman’s stomach without CGI, while the superstar changes his shirt. After thirty-seven attempts, Salman finally approves the mugshot that is ready to be etched in Jodhpur Central Jail history.

Rid of all material possessions and now in dull black and whites, Salman is taken to his cell by the prison guard. He is stunned at how scripted this sequence of events is, completely unlike any of his films. As he walks past serial killers, thieves, murderers, and rapists, he looks at his biceps and softly whispers to himself, “You don’t have to worry, Sallu. Remember you were a strong and powerful cop. In Dabangg. And Dabangg 2. And at some time in Dabangg 3.” At the end of the long 40-metre walk is Salman’s prison cell. His neighbour? Asaram Bapu. Salman greets him with a namaste, Bapu replies back with, “I’m also a virgin,” and starts laughing uncontrollably like a maniac. Bhai ignores him.

As he enters his prison cell, Bhai’s first thought is, “Yeh toh shuru hote hi khatam ho jayega,” just like Arbaaz’s acting career. Accustomed to his lavish Mumbai home, Bhai realises that his bathtub is bigger than this prison block. To ensure he doesn’t get suicidal from lack of validation, there’s a fan in the room. It’s on the ceiling. The room isn’t that great and he has to sleep on the floor, which is right up his alley after all the practice he got during the shoot of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. After having eggs and rotten tomatoes thrown at him by critics for over two decades, Salman finally gets to have a decent meal – roti, dal, and aloo.

It’s time for breakfast and he stands in a queue for the first time since the last time he was in jail. Soon he breaks into the song, “Ek Garam Chai Ki Pyali Ho”.

As the guards lock the door to the cell, Salman realises this is the moment he has been dreading all along: Being left alone with his thoughts. The last time he was left alone with his thoughts, the world had to deal with Veer. He is sad about the fact that he doesn’t have his phone, so he can’t give out pearls of wisdom on Twitter like, “Thinking mein bhi takla ho ja oooooon.” He quietly walks around the room and it reminds him of his Tere Naam days. Fearing that he will be given the same haircut by the prison barber tomorrow, he sits down in the corner of the room and cries himself to sleep.

The morning gets off to a rough start as he’s forced to wake up early. The prison alarm is so bad, it reminds him of Arijit Singh’s voice. He is pissed off and wants to let off steam. “I wish Vivek were here, would beat the shit out of him,” he says aloud, talking to himself, punching the wall and hurting himself in the process. Salman looks miserable, almost as if he’d been asked to binge watch his movies for three days.

It’s time for breakfast and he stands in a queue for the first time since the last time he was in jail. Soon he breaks into the song, “Ek Garam Chai Ki Pyali Ho”. His fellow prisoners have to remind him that he is not a on a film set. He doesn’t know what to do next. He thinks of his friend Sanju Baba and wishes he’d have taken some prison tips from him, all those times he took a crate of vodka to Arthur Road jail.

But there is hope yet and his spirits are up – today is the day when the bail will come through. Sallu is saying goodbye to his fellow prisoners, exhorting them with “chal beta selfie le le re,” sure that he will be out of this miserable place soon, when he gets a call from the prison superintendent: He will have to spend one more night in prison.

Salman looks devastated. He is on the verge of tears yet again. Everything sucks and life is so unfair. This time around, the inmates break into a song – “Just Chill Chill, Just Chill”. His time in jail is turning out just like his movies: It’s all about him, most of it makes no sense, but thousands of people are looking forward to it.