For Salman Khan, the verdicts are out—the Thursday sentence and the Friday release from immediate tension. The polarity is clear: among many obvious friends, beneficiaries and well-wishers, there were some surprise supporters too. Then there are the sitting-on-the-fence holier-than-thou types who would rather not talk about the law of the land and him. Of course, there are the ‘Happy-he-is-punished’ and ‘Serve him right’ ones as well.

Actually, what most people are doing, depending on which side they are on, is passing their verdicts on the two legal ones! As one wag tweeted, “No one cares a shit about justice” and states that everything depends on whether they like Salman or dislike him, truth, justice and everything else being cast aside in the process.

Salman Khan With Parents( Sushila and Salim Khan) at his residence
Salman Khan With Parents( Sushila and Salim Khan) at his residence

To a good extent, unfortunately, that is true, despite the truly idealistic few who simply believe that crime must not go unpunished. Of course, Salman’s poaching case lingers on, but in that case, everyone knows the truth—the public ‘secret’ about why Salman misguidedly thought that taking the onus for shooting a black buck would be fairly ‘safe’.

However, as a film lover who has watched and loved two classic hits of their time, V. Shantaram’s much-awarded and much-remade Do Ankhen Barah Hath written by Marathi titan G.D. Madgulkar and Dulal Guha’s 1972 (also much-remade) Dushman written by Virendra Sinha (father to filmmaker B. Subhash of Disco Dancer fame), these kind of reformist sentences awarded to the actor and even others whenever advisable could probably work wonders in making them aware of what they might have done.

Do Ankhen… , supposedly based on a real jail experiment done in Maharashtra, saw a reformist warden (Shantaram himself) take six murderers, make them work with him on an almost-barren country farm, inspiring and guiding them into producing a rich harvest, simultaneously cleansing their souls of rot and turning them into law-abiding, decent human beings.

In Dushman, a film closer to the Khan incident, Rajesh Khanna as a truck driver, kills the sole bread-earner of a poor family from the village. Again much-remade, this film showed how a shrewd judge (who is moved by the plight of the victim’s family and feels that jail terms do not exactly benefit either perpetrator or victims) order that the driver go and work for the family, though they hate the man and consider him their enemy (Dushman).

He thus has to earn not only their trust but some affection as well, and also win over the villagers and set right the multiple problems of the family members and the village. After two years, when his sentence is complete, the police arrive to take him back home, and the driver asks for a life sentence in the village instead!

Perhaps an apt variation of such a sentence (if the higher courts find Salman guilty) could serve the ends of justice too, with details worked out so that the actor and everyone else learn the right lessons.

And no, this is not about the losses the industry will entail by his incarceration. Because this is not about just one Salman Khan!

In Dushmun, the hero begs the judge to send him to jail instead. But after the sentence is over, he is a new, responsible man, someone who has learned to discriminate between good and bad after realizing the error of his ways.

– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.

Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar

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