The National Commission for Women has come down heavily on actor Salman Khan after he told reporters his filming schedule was so gruelling he felt like a “raped woman”. This one line overshadowed the rest of Salman’s remarks, which were equally stupefying. According to BBC, in the same interview, Khan said he was able to quit every vice — cigarettes, alcohol and coffee — except women.
Khan’s fans aren’t exactly expecting a treatise on wisdom when he speaks, which is why nothing he says really matters. There’s the very plausible explanation that decades spent jumping off trains and fighting the bad guys may have fried his brains a little. Far more likely, however, is that Khan has a meagre vocabulary and got his adjectives and nouns mixed up to come up with a wholly regrettable quote. Or perhaps his life choices have taught him to fear women; we all tend to view the world from the prism of our own experiences.
Superstardom is no guarantee of relationship success. From what one reads, Khan hangs out with a rarefied section of alpha women who enjoy unusual economic power and have, on occasion, dumped him. Reasons, no doubt, to give them up like coffee and smokes. It turns out, what’s most frightening to a patriarchal mindset is women with money.
Because these chosen few can afford to eye men in the way some men ogle women, for time-pass, and move on with no real consequences. Economics, not gender, decides the tilt in relationships, a staggering surprise for many others besides Khan, I’m sure.
There have been many calls to boycott Khan’s films in view of his misogynistic remarks. Movie critic Raja Sen has gone on record to say he won’t see Sultan.
Unlike the West, in India, we are merrily oblivious to political correctness. Mel Gibson’s movie career was finished after allegations of anti-Semitism and domestic abuse surfaced.
Fashion designer John Galliano was unceremoniously sacked from Dior for similar reasons. It’s a question of perspective whether a sexist comment by Khan is worse than allegations of tax impropriety by Amitabh Bachchan, published in the Panama Papers, which may have cost the national exchequer millions. But we are all multidimensional beings and need to be able to separate people’s personal lives from their creative and professional ones. Or we may find that we’ll have no books to read, movies to watch or music to listen to.
Composer Richard Wagner was a Nazi supporter, Woody Allen is accused of molestation and just last week Michael Jackson’s formidable collection of child porn was discovered. Does this diminish their significant body of work and its impact on the world entirely? The life of painter Paul Gauguin, beautifully captured in Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, is an ode to creative genius about a man possessed by art. His quest for artistic success leaves the lives of those closest to him in shreds. Maugham, himself, has been accused of cruelty and miserliness. Sure, they may not have been model citizens and were deeply flawed beings but the world would be poorer without their contributions. To quote Maugham, “The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you”. To apply it to Khan, he was never aiming for the Nobel. So set aside the judgements and go watch him for his huge entertainment quotient.