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Salman Khan
What will Salman do next?
The troubled actor may confront a turbulent future

Subhash K Jha

You know what? Salman Khan will go scot free again, even though he has killed a human being," an irate actor told this writer on Saturday morning after Salman Khan was arrested and bailed out for allegedly running over a pavement dweller and seriously injuring two other pavement dwellers in a drunken haze. An incident evidently precipitated by one-time girlfriend Aishwarya Rai's volatile interview published Friday morning in which she accused Bollywood's enfant terrible of harassing her constantly.

Who is harassing whom here? That is what friends of the couple are asking themselves. It is easy to see Salman as the debauched and reprehensible son of a film family who has gone from shooting black bucks to worse.

This is the same Salman who, not too long ago, picked up a bleeding victim of a road accident (not caused by him) on a highway, took him to hospital and waited there until the victim was out of danger.

To be responsible for a human being's death is not an easy burden for anyone to bear. How is Salman coping? Nobody knows. Everyone is too busy hating him to try and understand him.

No one can be blamed for being cynical about Salman's trespasses. It is one thing to err and move on in the first flush of youth. But to continue to behave repeatedly like a brat when you are 36 and then sheepishly ask for forgiveness will hardly work.

Today, Salman is largely ostracised by the film industry. "Enough is enough," says an actress. "He has been allowed to get away too often. It is time to put him in his place."

Ever since Rai cropped up in his life, Salman's decline into drunken brutality has been steep and quick. The brawls have been frequent and widely publicised. About a year ago, there was the infamous incident where Salman banged on Rai's apartment door in suburban Mumbai well into the night until the whole neighbourhood woke up. Except Rai.

Salman Khan More recently, there was an uglier incident on the sets of Rohan Sippy's Kuch Na Kaho. Salman barged on the sets, threatened Aishwarya and other unit members, including Abhishek Bachchan, rammed his car into hers and then drove off into the night.

A week ago, history (or whatever Salman's misdemeanours might be called) repeated itself. It happened on the sets of Aziz Mirza's new Shah Rukh Khan-Aishwarya Rai starrer. Salman suddenly showed up in drunken fury. accusing Shah Rukh of getting too friendly with his girlfriend. Shah Rukh retorted in kind.

The two men apparently had to be separated by mutual friends like choreographer Farah Khan.

The outcome of that ugly incident? Aishwarya was thrown out of Mirza's film, which is produced by Shah Rukh's production company. Shah Rukh even threatened to shelve the film. It now has Rani Mukherjee in Aishwarya's place.

Off the press in recent months (stars do that only when their personal relationships get too hot to handle), Aishwarya suddenly decided to speak to one newspaper. She spoke her heart out, detailing her trauma and harassment at the hands of a man who just would not take no for an answer.

Right now, Salman is the most hated man in the film industry. "Can you imagine what kind of example he is setting for children who are his big fans? Beating up women, running down pavement dwellers, abusing everyone. I wish someone would drill some sense into him," says a costar.

Salman Khan Strangely, the industry seems more inclined to forgive the senior enfant terrible, Sanjay Dutt, though his alleged crimes are far more serious. He was linked to Mumbai's 1993 serial bomb blasts and has since been linked to the underworld. "But Sanju has never hurt anyone except himself," argues one of Dutt’s friends.

Besides their well-toned bodies, their penchant for impetuous drinking and getting into serious trouble repeatedly, Sanjay Dutt and Salman share another marked trait: Neither is capable of staying in a relationship. If Sanjay has had his fill of Tina Munims (now Ambani), Kimi Katkars, Cleo Isaacs and Nadias, Salman's flings could fill up an entire telephone directory for a non-metropolitan town.

If Sanjay could not stay within a serious relationship (his first wife left him and, now, Rhea Pillai too has walked out), Salman all but drove away Sangeeta Bijlani, Somy Ali and Aishwarya Rai.

Admittedly, none of Salman's past relationships were as passionate volatile and obsessive as the one with Rai. There is no denying this self-destructive man's burnout of his life and career in full public view.

His intention? He reportedly wants marriage. No more, no less.

What does Salman Khan do when he is spurned in love? He loses his head completely and drinks until dawn. Then, after waking up, proceeds to do the same until late night.

Many want to know why Salman's family --- a close-knit nucleus of loving, giving people, especially brothers Arbaaz and Sohail --- do not stop his suicidal binge. The answer is simple: Salman does not listen to anyone, not even his father, scriptwriter Salim Khan. Nor even his own inner voice that is telling him to stop before it is too late.

As for Salman's career, he has Satish Kaushik's Setu on the floors. He is also scheduled to act in Willard Carroll's Marigold. No one is rushing forward to sign him on any longer. Salman has stumbled out of market range.

What will Salman do next? He can either take the latest jolt in his life as the final warning signal and gather his scattered life together, clean himself out, exorcise himself of a love that is gone (though he is unwilling to accept it). Or he can continue to hurtle down the path to utter ruination.

Sad thing is, Salman cannot even phone in a friend. He does not have any left.

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