Bollywood superstar Salman Khan made some dumb and horrible comments about the grueling shoots for his wrestling film Sultan. Here’s the quote:
“While shooting during those six hours, there’d be so much of lifting and thrusting on the ground involved. That was tough for me because if I was lifting, I’d have to lift the same 120-kilo guy 10 times for 10 different angles. And likewise, get thrown that many times on the ground. This act is not repeated that many times in the real fights in the ring. When I used to walk out of the ring after the shoot, I used to feel like a raped woman walking out.”
An actor who has the double privilege of being both a man in India and one of the most successful movie stars in the world would like you to know that he too suffers, "like a raped woman." For the "bad boy" of Indian cinema to make such a remark in a country where rape is the fourth most common crime committed against women, underlines and perpetuates the nation’s deep-rooted misogyny.
Many claim Khan was misquoted because he appears to backtrack, but he did not address the actual rape comment and her certainly hasn’t apologized. Oddly enough, his own father apologized for him, taking to Twitter to plead for forgiveness.
It’s been almost four years since the horrific Delhi bus gang rape in which five men boarded a bus and brutally assaulted, raped, and disemboweled a young woman known as Nirbhaya. Rape culture still is a massive issue in India. Every fifteen minutes a woman in India is raped. In remote villages led by councils not recognized by the government it’s not unusual for rape to be used as a punishment, even if the original crime was committed by a family member and not the woman herself. But even in India’s sophisticated cities, the dialogue surrounding the safety of women largely puts the responsibility on women. While the government expanded the definition of rape, it still refuses to recognize marital rape as rape.
It’s a big fucking deal, and so is Salman Khan.
The 50-year-old actor has a net worth of $200 million—he’s not just one of the highest paid actors in India (top 3), he’s one of the highest paid actors in the world. More than Leo, more than Channing, more than Matt (Damon and McConaughey). He’s been the star of India’s favorite movies since the '80s and his last film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo made a whopping $52 million at the box office putting it in the top five highest grossing Bollywood films ever.
But Khan can't stay away from controversy. Like that one time in 2002 when he left one dead and injured three others in a drunk driving incident (he was found guilty of all charges, but then later acquitted). And like that other time when his ex-girlfriend Aishwarya Rai accused him of harassing her—he allegedly threatened her as well. And that other time he was convicted for hunting an endangered species.
Khan’s own celebrity peers have largely abstained from the matter, but some have called him out. Critically acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap said, “It (Khan’s remark) was poor choice of words. And Salman must say sorry." Others took to Twitter to voice their disgust:
The National Commission for Women has demanded that Khan apologize, giving him one week to do so before summoning him to explain. Activist and gang rape survivor Sunitha Krishnan penned a furious essay calling Khan out for ignoring the responsibility he has as a celebrity and trivializing rape culture. Khan’s comment was even denounced by the mother of Nirbhaya, who said this was a “mockery to the families of rape victims."
Later on in the interview, in true bad boy fashion, Khan went on to describe how he's given up on most of his vices—except women. After doling out advice to "leave every second vice on your list," he explained, "I’m leaving everything for women. There’s nothing left to quit anymore."
He thinks women are a vice. He believes the horrendous myth that women are merely temptation and not people, the very myth that encourages men and society at large to mistreat women, attack them, pay them less, rape them, kill them. I know Khan is a really big deal or whatever, but the man is a dinosaur, an oiled up jar of protein powder that spouts out plumes of insolent bullshit every once in a while, and yet, makes off with the hard-earned money of Bollywood fans. Let the old man be and embrace a better, more respectful star.