Why is Salman Khan still considered a ‘Sultan’ despite his transgressions?

It seems that there is little that one can do but wait and watch for the Bollywood superstar's next faux pas - which will be instantly forgiven, of course.

Salman Khan in a scene from his new film Sultan, in which he portrays a wrestler. Courtesy Yash Raj Films
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You don't need a crystal ball to predict that Salman Khan's new film Sultan, which is releasing on the first day of Eid, is going to do tremendously well at the box office. In fact, it might go on to become the most profitable Bollywood movie of the year, like most of his movies. This despite the fact that a few weeks ago, Khan compared himself to a rape victim, in what can only be described as the most distasteful case of a foot-in-mouth situation.

When asked how he felt after completing Sultan's gruelling filming schedule – he plays a wrestler – Khan commented that after lifting a 150-kilo man several times over, he would come out of the ring feeling like "a raped woman. I could not walk straight". The comment came at a time when sexual abuse is at its most publicised peak in India.

The backlash was swift and harsh – social-media users criticised the star for his insensitive comments; op-ed columns were written expostulating why “educated Indians should boycott Khan’s films”; even his father, scriptwriter Salim Khan, and brother, actor-director Arbaaz Khan, admitted that the statements, while “unintentional” and “harmless”, were uncalled for. These reactions from the famously close-knit family known for backing its own felt like an admission of the objectionable nature of Khan’s remarks.

Many celebrities and fans came out in support of Khan, calling critics “oversensitive” and “looking for a soft target”. Now, a few weeks later, the furore has died down and the media outlets that were baying for Khan’s blood are back to covering his appearances, television performances and publicity stunts like nothing happened.

This is not the first time that his fans and the media have given Khan a clean chit. From hunting endangered deer to charges of physical abuse by former partner Aishwarya Rai, Khan is infamous for more reasons than one, including allegedly running over and killing a man in a DUI accident in 2002. He was proclaimed not guilty earlier this year.

“To err is human, but to err and get away with it every time is Salman Khan,” wrote blogger Honey Mehta.

What is it that enables the 50-year-old to escape punishment for such serious transgressions?

Is it because the famously large-hearted actor has done many people a good turn? Or because his charity, Being Human, has helped countless slum children and underprivileged youth?

Maybe it’s because he is simply too powerful and influential to be held accountable for his words and deeds.

With the much-hyped Sultan on the verge of release, we can do little but watch as the film shatters the box office, and Khan's transgressions are swept under the carpet. All over again.