Salman Khan and the Sultan: Both are flawed idols

Source :SIFY
Author :Sonia Chopra
Last Updated: Fri, Jul 8th, 2016, 17:04:21hrs
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Salman Khan and the Sultan: Both are flawed idols
It is an armchair philosopher’s gold - to sift through and analyze how the real and reel Salman Khans merge together in his films. It’s an incestuous, uncomfortable folding in, one that creeps its way in Salman’s latest Sultan as well.

The film’s title is pure genius - Sultan. A subconscious comment on the star’s standing in the industry, masquerading as a happenstance character name.

Read more: Sultan review

As is the case with Salman Khan films, here too, the actor and character merge together. A dialogue from the film clarifies this, when Sultan’s character is described as someone who will not cooperate unless he likes you, in which case he will move mountains to help you. Those who are friends of Salman will vouch for this quality.

Then there’s the factor of both real and reel Salmans behaving like overgrown babies — over-the-hill but still refusing to grow up. In real life, 50-year-old Salman Khan makes a juvenile, insensitive comment about his grueling training making him feel like a “raped woman”. He refuses to apologize, and his father, yet again has to eat crow and apologize on his behalf. In the film, Salman Khan is nearing 40, but prefers playing the fool with kids half his age. His flustered father begs with him to grow up.

In the end though, both the real and reel Salman Khans overcome odds to win the big game. Salman Khan is the sultan of the industry, despite his age, questionable behavior, countless controversies, and refusal to apologize for his faults.

In the film, Salman Khan begins off as a loser with no life-goal but ends up as the Sultan of the sport and his personal life. Only thing is, in the film, Sultan’s character learns humility the hard way, which we are yet to glimpse in our real-life, clay-footed hero.

Another interesting aspect in all Salman Khan films is that the heroines end up being subservient to him. I still remember that ghastly scene from Kick where Salman Khan’s character feels “insulted” as the heroine’s father suggested the couple live with him after marriage. “Ghar-jamai??,” he says outraged as if there was no bigger insult to his fragile male-ego, while his “psychiatrist” girlfriend listens to him feebly.

In that way, Sultan is an improvement. Anushka Sharma’s Aarfa is a sure-footed wrestler, and in fact the inspiration for Sultan to take up wrestling. But to make sure she doesn’t fulfill her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal, the film (writer-director Ali Abbas Zafar) puts in a pregnancy at the very moment she gets her selection letter. It’s an unfair situation to put your character into, and Aarfa does what is expected of every good Bollywood heroine. The status quo is maintained, and the boat remains ‘un-rocked’. Then, Sultan tells the heavily pregnant Aarfa that he’s sure they’re going to have a baby boy!! At this point, I was ready to walk out of the theatre. I’m glad I stayed, as despite this outrageously sexist piece of completely avoidable dialogue, the film makes amends towards the end.

In the end, Aarfa does get back to the sport (no sign of the Olympic gold-level ambition though) but circumstances put her in a similar spot. Still, it is telling for Sultan to be as supportive of his wife as she is of him. There’s a lovely scene where he accompanies her to a wrestling match, the way she is there for all of his matches. And as I said, the ending makes amends to the sexism in the first half.

Will we then see a Salman Khan film that lets his heroine have everything, the way he gets everything in the end? Where the formerly ambitious heroine doesn’t have to say things like, “He (the hero) is my goal now”. Where modernity doesn’t have to be demonized for ‘desi-ness’ to shine. Case in point is Salman describing the heroine as “modern on the outside, but desi on the inside” as if both have to be mutually exclusive. Or the dialogue hinting that divorces happen only in modern societies, not in India’s small-towns (really?).

So will we ever see a genuinely modern Salman Khan film? As things go, I guess our real-life Sultan will have to take care of his clay feet first. With Sultan, one is hopeful. As they say never say never!

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