Anybody who has seen Salman Khan films would vouch for his inability to cry on screen. It's a pain to see him even try. On December 10, however, at the Bombay High Court, when Justice A.R. Joshi acquitted him in the hit-and-run case, the superstar broke down.
The verdict broke the internet, too, with #SalmanVerdict and #SalmanFree ruling the roost. While the court delivered the verdict, the social media users delivered their own verdict—one that the superstar would have loved to overlook.
Much ink has been spilt over the developments in the high-profile case, which had been going on for 13 years. On September 28, 2002, Salman's Toyota Land Cruiser allegedly ran over five people sleeping on the footpath outside American Express bakery on Hill Road in Bandra, killing one and injuring four others. Salman was set free not because the court was convinced of his innocence, but because the prosecution failed to prove that he was driving the vehicle or that he was drunk that night.
Lack of proof, however, did not deter the netizens from trolling the verdict. The former hashtag reached 39,67,633 accounts and made 43,70,263 impressions in six days from the date of verdict. It was interesting to note that women comprised 70 per cent of the users who reacted to the topic on Twitter and Instagram. No surprises there.
The loose ends in the case provided fodder for the trolls, like who was driving the vehicle if not Salman, how did Nurullah Sharif die if not crushed under the wheels of the Land Cruiser, and the mysterious disappearance, re-appearance and finally death in 2007 of Ravindra Patil, Salman's bodyguard who was with him that night, along with singer Kamaal Khan, and who was the prime witness against the actor. That the verdict came on December 10, World Human Rights Day, added fuel to the fire, with social media lamenting the denial of the rights of the poor.
But the law says, innocent until proven guilty, right? Then why such vitriol against the once-brash-now-an-essential-do-gooder? National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan had this to say: “The Salman Khan trial, then, is at least a little about schadenfreude. You have all this money, all these women, all this fame. Now let’s see you in a ratty little courtroom. Let’s see you sweat, as you realise your fate lies in the hands of a man who’s one of us. It’s about the perverse satisfaction of seeing someone so larger-than-life being cut down to size, a seventy-mm personality shrunk to the dimensions of a television screen, sharing airtime with commoners he has nothing in common with.” I couldn't agree more.
I accept the decision of the judiciary with humility. I thank my family, friends & fans for their support & prayers .— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) December 10, 2015
Amid all this hullabaloo, if only somebody would spare a thought for the families affected by that tragedy 13 years ago. Sharif's son Firoz still hopes the magnanimous actor might take pity at his family's condition and provide some financial help. Though Salman had deposited Rs 19 lakh with the High Court, including Rs 10 lakh for Sharif's family, as compensation, they are yet to receive the amount. #WhereDidTheCompensationGo, anyone?