While 1993 may have been the year that shocked the Hindi film industry as actor Sunil Dutt’s beloved but wayward son, Sanjay, was found to have been a part of the terror ring that shook Mumbai, Salman Khan was upending his professional life in a relatively different manner. He was reported to have misbehaved with the media on the sets of Sanam Bewafa for which he was shooting.
Many of his co-actors, too, complained of Salman’s high-handed and bullying behaviour. Many actresses, such as Ayesha Jhulka and Raveena Tandon, even refused to work with him because of his rudeness. Salim Khan, of course, has always been quick to jump to the rescue of his hot-headed son publicly, but summed up the reasons for his son’s misdemeanour as immaturity and an inability to understand that he could not continue leading a simple life, unlike other youngsters. As a superstar, his responsibilities had now doubled and he would always be in the limelight, but, as several friends and family members have stated, Salman simply refuses to grow up.
Every now and then, Salman Khan has made news for his personal life. In spite of having several beautiful women in his life, four or five of whom have been really close to him, Salman has never taken the next logical step—matrimony. He states that his need to be alone supersedes all such concerns. Sometimes, these very romantic entanglements have led to brawls with many of his colleagues and friends, one of whom was Shah Rukh Khan. In another case, Salman punched director Subhash Ghai because he had spoken ill of his then-girlfriend, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, at a party in an inebriated state. Kailash exclaims of the brawl, ‘There was an altercation in my house and it was in the press in no time … there was a party and there were quite a few friends present including Rajiv Rai, Jackie [Shroff] and David [Dhawan]. Salman is rather possessive and he was seeing Aishwarya those days when she was doing Taal  with Subhash Ghai. I do not know what got into his head; even though there were people all over my house but somehow, there was a clash between Subhash Ghai and him. Subhash was getting rather livid with him and was going to hit Salman over the head when Salman socked him in the face. Subhash was of course, not as strong and was also older so he fell. I have another friend, Dr Farhad, and he was there and I asked him to check up on Subhash Ghai. He looked at Subhash and said he is fine, assuring us. I was unable to understand what transpired between them, but Subhash got up immediately and then they both went home. The next morning, Salman’s dad fired me, ‘‘Why do you call him to a party when he does not know how to behave himself? How dare he hit him, a senior director? Never call him again to any such parties; he does not know how to behave himself.’’ I said, ‘‘I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?’’ I think Salman was high or drunk but something personal had brewed that evening. The same morning, after the party was over, Salman got up and went over to Subhash’s house to apologise and said that he should not have done what he did. Subhash obviously said
okay and even offered him his next film … I think it was Yuvvraaj.
‘Salman was laughing later, ‘‘I have got into his film’’, he told me and we talk about this whenever we are together, as it had happened at my house. But they have been friends since then. He comes to Subhash’s house and mine. We are all good friends.’
In spite of being competitors in the dog-eat-dog world of Bollywood, Shah Rukh and Salman had remained good friends until things took a turn for the ugly when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan broke up with him. Salman accused Shah Rukh of having an affair with her. After being at loggerheads for quite some time, the two were brought together by a common friend, director Farah Khan, but fell out again. Most recently, another common friend, politician Baba Siddiqui, has brought them together and they seem to be cordial and good friends again. Shah Rukh has often waxed eloquent about how Salman’s family helped him during his initial struggle in Bollywood.
Perhaps, Salman’s towering ego got in the way of forgiving Vivek Oberoi who had once called a press conference and bad-mouthed Salman. This was after Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had left Salman Khan, citing physical torture and abuse, and started seeing Oberoi. Vivek Oberoi claimed that Salman often called and threatened him. Later, Oberoi expressed his regret over the press conference and even though he asked for Salman’s forgiveness, Salman adamantly refused it. Aishwarya has since moved away from both their lives and married Abhishek Bachchan and now has a daughter with him.
Many of Salman’s critics have been quick to point out that perhaps he uses his charitable activities to clean up his earlier improprieties, perhaps even to remove the now infamous tag of ‘bad boy’. In an interview given to Livemint in 2016, Salman stated, ‘I don’t get hurt by all this stupidity. They know they’re talking rubbish. But they need the debates to go on. They need those four people against four people who, in turn, are also out to build their brand. Sab achhe achhe kapde pehen ke, make-up vake-up laga ke television pe pahunch jaate hain (They all dress up, wear make-up and appear on television). This has become a business and I do not think it’s going to die down. People like us are going to make some more careers for people like them.’
In spite of his many success stories, Salman continues to raise questions about his conduct. In the last couple of years, he has often been in the eye of the storm for making controversial statements on social media. More often than not, his father has stepped in to mitigate affairs and make public apologies on his son’s behalf. His long-drawn entanglement with the Indian judiciary system continues, as he reports to many courts in Mumbai and Jodhpur; in the last 18 years, Salman has been behind bars thrice.
This excerpt from Salman Khan: The Man, the Actor, the Legend by Devapriya Sanyal has been published with permission from Bloomsbury India.