The Toxic Masculinity of Salman Khan

Mumbai: Actor Salman Khan leaves Bombay High Court after he was acquitted in 2002 Hit and Run case, in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI Photo (PTI12_10_2015_000255B)

Like scores of children skirting the edge of a pool, Salman Khan first learnt to swim when he was pushed off the deep end by an enthusiastic relative. Except in his case, the pool was a well in Indore; a watery cave he shared one afternoon, with a fish, two turtles and a water snake.

“A rope was tied to my leg to make sure I didn’t drown. Someone shouted instructions down at me, and left,” he told a gathering of reporters at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio on June 18.

“This is what my life has been like ….I do things before I learn them. I’m unique in that sense.”

The swimming anecdote is one of Khan’s favourites among the thousands of Salman-ecdotes (often supplied by the star himself) that go into building the legend of Salman Khan. Bollywood cinema (particularly movies starring big industry names like Khan, Kapoor and Bachchan) has always fed off the personal lives and histories of its stars: producers love casting real life couples or love triangles, new generations of actors with their real life superstar parents, or simply splicing in music from a star’s older hits, creating the impression that the audience is rarely watching a whole new story, but a slice from the actor’s life itself.

As a result, 50-year-old Salman, arguably the most popular of the three ageing Khans, has spent nearly 28 years playing slightly altered versions of the same person – an easily angered, brooding, sensitive man child tormented by the intensity of his likes and dislikes.

Both in real life and on screen, when bhai (as Salman is popularly known to his millions of fans) makes a mistake, it is always only a temporary setback, its ramifications rendered insignificant by the larger narrative arc of his ever increasing fame.


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