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A Fallen Hero Does Not Make A Villain

14/05/2015 8:25 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Bollywood actor Salman Khan interacts with the media ahead of the release of his new movie 'Ready' in New Delhi, India,Tuesday, May 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Spiderman famously said, "With great power comes great responsibility." Fame, inevitability makes a person a poster child in all situations -pleasant or unpleasant.

Last week, my social media saw a deluge of opinions on the Salman verdict. An article on Firstpost was titled "But Bhai is a good guy: Support for Salman Khan a win for his PR but media's failure". The writer of the piece seems to be baffled by the fondness demonstrated for Khan by his loved ones, fans and Bollywood in general. She also criticises the media for carrying stories about his philanthropic work.

I want to ask the writer of this piece (I'll call her "Ms. Writer"), a few things: How is reportage of a story, as it unfolds, a "media failure"? Why should the media have refrained from covering Khan's charitable work over the years? If you have seen a bevy of fans outside the actor's house on TV, the same media has also reported about the under trials languishing in prison and an uproar on Salman's suspended sentence. All reactions -- from all quarters -- have been covered.

"Why is an acknowledgement of someone's goodwill in society assumed to be a complete lack of empathy/sympathy for the victims and their justice? "

Why is an acknowledgement of someone's goodwill in society assumed to be a complete lack of empathy/sympathy for the victims and their justice?

The article says, "This spiel about Khan being the little people's hero is precisely what Khan would like us to swallow." Isn't that being a bit presumptuous? If people talk about the actor's good-naturedness, it's their prerogative. He hasn't forced them into saying these things.

If the accused in question wasn't an actor but an ordinary person involved in the same situation, would the timeline of his charitable work then be viewed with as much suspicion? If a man is penalised, should he never do good if he has the resources for it?

Ms. Writer states that fans who claim to "know" Khan have no idea what he's "actually like" but the same article presents a screen grab of a Twitter update of a fan whose father, suffering from cancer, was helped by Salman.

From labelling him as a "party animal in his 20s and 30s" to calling him out for "a legion of ex-girlfriends", Ms. Writer, seems to be claiming to "know" the actor, based on portrayals in the same media that she has vociferously criticised. So Ms. Writer, who is being presumptuous here? At least, the fan cited had a real interaction with the actor.

"Ms. Writer, seems to be claiming to "know" the actor, based on portrayals in the same media that she has vociferously criticised."

Is life really black and white? Ms. Writer's article acknowledges that some of the victims themselves don't want the actor punished. The man of the wife who died n the accident said, "We just want compensation." In an interview with a leading newspaper, one of the injured, Mohammad Kaleem, stated that he received only 1.5 lakh in compensation. "The jail term won't fill our stomachs," he said. In the hue and cry of Salman getting bail/being criticised for his charity etc, the voices of the people affected and their pleas for adequate financial aid have gotten drowned.

Ms. Writer ends her piece saying, "You've got to wonder about exactly what 'goodness' means to people who don't think murder is a character flaw." After reading that, I am confused about how it is ethical journalism, when words are used more defamatorily than responsibly.

Search for "culpable homicide" on Google and it clearly tells you, "(in some jurisdictions, including Scotland, South Africa, and India) an act which has resulted in a person's death but is held not to amount to murder.'

Murder is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, "The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another." Accidents are not premeditated.

The irony of fame is that while some might argue of its privileges, it becomes a launching point for the pleas of many. While Salman may have been able to secure suspension of his sentence, his cases, ironically, highlighted the plight of the vast number of under trials languishing in Indian prisons.

The Community Against Drunken Driving, in 2011, found that 70% of road fatalities are due to drunken driving. A lot of these accidents also go unreported.

An act of recklessness weighs heavier on a famous person, since everything is scrutinised to the core. Any wrong, however unintentional, becomes notoriety.

Of course it is important that laws are made more stringent, and that the hue and cry isn't raised only if the person held responsible is an eminent personality. Afterall, a life lost is a life lost -- regardless of whether the owner of the vehicle is someone famous or not.

Also, when the news of the hour is over, and the famous personality has been dissected from all angles, is someone really concerned with the needs of those affected?

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