India

Salman Khan: The superstar who lives dangerously

  • 6 May 2015
  • From the section India
Salman Khan
Salman Khan is one of India's most bankable stars who has had several hits in recent years

Salman Khan, who has been handed a five-year jail term for running over five homeless men, killing one of them, in a 2002 hit-and-run driving incident in Mumbai, is one of India's biggest and most popular film stars.

The verdict is a huge setback for the 49-year-old actor who has acted in more than 80 Hindi-language films. He is known for his romantic roles as well as hardcore action films and has won several prestigious Indian cinema awards.

Khan is that rare Bollywood star who has a huge fan following across the vast spectrum of Indian society.

Several of his films in recent years have been huge commercial hits and, at the time of his sentencing, he was reported to be working on several big-ticket projects.

When Dabanng2 - sequel to the hugely successful 2010 film Dabangg - was released over Christmas in 2012, it was screened in more than 3,500 theatres and the cinemas were packed for days.

At an upmarket multiplex in the south district of the Indian capital, Delhi, the crowds included the usual middle-class English-speaking audiences as well as the residents of a neighbouring slum for whom the 350-rupee ($6.6; £4) tickets could not have come cheap.

Although critics did not rate Dabangg2 highly, Khan's fans clearly did - there were catcalls when he romantically courted the heroine, loud whistles when he showed his dance moves and resounding claps when he beat up the "baddies".

But his fame has brought with it a long-held image of a larger-than-life macho superstar who lives dangerously.

While the hit-and-run incident has dragged on for nearly 13 years, Khan's fan base has remained loyal - in fact, it has kept growing steadily and the hits have kept coming.

Five of his latest films - Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger and Dabangg2 - have been huge blockbusters.

The eldest of the three sons of well-known screenplay writer Salim Khan, he is a hit on social media too - his Facebook page is liked by 24.7 million fans while on Twitter, he has 11.7 million followers.

Brush with law

But there is another side to Khan.

Stories about his brawls at parties have long filled the Bollywood gossip columns, and his link-ups with some of his leading ladies have also proved controversial.

Salman Khan has a huge fan following

In one notorious incident, an angry Khan was reported to have emptied a bottle of cola over the head of an ex-girlfriend in a restaurant.

Another relationship, with actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, ended acrimoniously with Ms Rai later making allegations that she was beaten up by Khan - a charge he has denied.

And the 2002 hit-and-run incident in Mumbai was not his first brush with the law.

Khan was arrested in the western state of Rajasthan for illegally hunting and killing a protected blackbuck deer in 1998.

He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in 2006, but spent less than a week inside before being released on bail. His appeal is pending in court.

In the past few years, the actor has worked hard to shed his "bad boy" image - with some success.

His devotion to his family, particularly his brothers, is well known and he is reputed to go out of his way to help friends and even strangers.

A few years ago, he started Being Human, a charity to help the underprivileged through education and healthcare. The charity sells T-shirts and other products online and in stores, and the proceeds are used for charitable work.

His relationships with women also seem to have matured. Although he parted ways with actress Katrina Kaif some time ago, they remain good friends and the couple acted together in Ek Tha Tiger.

But the court verdict handing him a five-year sentence shows that his past may well overshadow his current success.