Mumbai: With Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan having courted controversy by entering the intolerance debate, Salman Khan has found his own way to raise the hackles of politicians, the media and members of his own film fraternity.
On Wednesday morning, after shooting a scene for Sultan in Karjat, Salman was caught on camera expressing his desire to leave the country. The reason: Neither intolerance, nor the beef ban, but because of the heat.
“It’s too hot these days,” he said mopping the sweat off his brow en route his trailer and added, “I’ve been talking it over with my brothers, and I might have to go to some other country.” The remark that soon found its way to TV screens across the country has swiftly knocked all the talk of intolerance off primetime news.
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli was the first off the mark. “Moving out of the country is a personal choice. But to tie that with the heat in India is not right. In fact, Mr Khan could have moved out in 2002 when India suffered a major nationwide drought.” When reminded that the 2002 drought occurred during NDA rule, Kohli quickly dismissed it and asked, “Well, what about the Emergency?”
Sakshi Maharaj went a step further saying, “This is the country that has given him weather warm enough to roam around shirtless and become famous for being shirtless, and now he calls it heat? The Sun is sacred to Indians and if he doesn’t like it, he can go to Siberia.”
A ‘foreign agent’ was how Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut described Salman, writing in a Saamana editorial that “Green energy is the need for India and solar is a big part of that. By insulting the heat, Khan has insulted the Sun, because he is trying to derail our solar power mission.” Meanwhile, an opinion piece on Firstpost asked Salman to ask himself exactly where in the world global warming wasn’t on the rise.
And could Bollywood be far behind? A few poorly-framed tweets from Kamaal R Khan later, Anupam Kher weighed in calling Salman’s remarks ‘an insult to the nation’. The veteran actor announced a protest march, scheduled for 31 May, 2016 in New Delhi, where protestors “will demonstrate how it’s not at all hot and that Salman’s claims are baseless”.
“Where is the evidence? Where is the evidence of this ‘global warming’?” raged an eminent TV news anchor, while the hashtag #SweatySalman trended across Twitter.
But support for Salman wasn’t far behind either, with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi expressing solidarity with the actor at a function in a Bengaluru school. “Some people say that global warming is happening all across the world. But that’s of no concern to me. A farmer I spoke to in Tera village in Raebareli district told me that it was getting hot. And I believe him.”
“You must ask the Prime Minister why air-conditioning is only for the ‘suit-boot’ crowd,” he continued, “Why can’t a common man like Salman receive air-conditioning?”
Even within the entertainment industry, there was support for Salman with all manner of former Bigg Boss contestants tweeting their support, followed by #ACforSalman. In a promotion for his upcoming film Ranbir Kapoor told CNN-IBN, “I’m not completely sure of what the issue is or why there is so much controversy, but Salman is a good man. And he wouldn’t say something unless he believed it.” When asked for his own view on the heat imbroglio, Ranbir offered no comment.
By Wednesday evening, Salman had had enough, and addressed the media to state, “I love my country, heat, dust and all. But those gathered outside my house shouting abuse at me all day prove my point. Please give them some water; they must be dehydrated from all this terrible hea-…”
Wisely, he stopped himself.