I haven't changed, Says Salman

India Times Oct 26, 2002
MUMBAI: His ground floor flat at Galaxy apartments on Bandra sea face is teeming with friends who welcome him "back to civilisation." The man behind the bar counter in the living room is busy filling glasses with whiskey and soda. After more than a fortnight, it is party time again in the Salman Khan household.
If you expected a remorseful Salman to amble up to you then you are sorely mistaken. After more than a fortnight in jail, he has lost a couple of kilos. That's about the only change in the most controversial actor in Bollywood. In between signing a few papers brought in by a police inspector and constant pecks on his cheeks from an unending stream of friends, the 37-year-old actor fielded several questions from Sunday Times on Friday night with commendable cool. Excerpts:
What exactly happened on September 28 night?
I had gone to the Rain bar where I had a few Bacardis and was returning home late night when the Toyota Landcruiser suddenly swerved into the American Express laundry on Hill Road. The whole thing happened in a jiffy. The next thing I saw was that a man was dead and a few others were injured.

Who was at the wheel?
My driver Ashok Singh. I was sitting behind.
Kamal Khan, who was with you, has told the police that you were at the wheel. Eyewitnesses apparently told the same thing to the police.
That is not true. Ashok was driving. And he was not driving very fast as some newspapers have reported. I don't know what happened. But I suspect that the brakes failed. I learn that Toyota had a similar problem with thousands of such vehicles manufactured by it.
If you are not guilty, why did you run away from the scene? Why did you not rush the injured to the hospital?
That's exactly what I wanted to do. Incidentally, the bakery in which the injured worked is where I get my bread from and laundry where the accident took place is where I get my clothes cleaned. But the crowd started throwing stones at me. I was hurt at several places all over my body. In the melee, somebody even snatched my wristwatch and my wallet. I wanted to rush the people to Holy Family hospital close by. In the past I had rushed accident victims to hospitals. But that night I had no choice but leave much against my wishes. I cried a lot. The site of the accident keeps coming back like in a filmi flashback.
It is said that your brother Arbaaz came to the scene of accident to take away the tapedeck. Also, why did you not visit the victims in the hospital and help them financially? Was it not callousness?
It is nonsense to say Arbaaz came looking for the deck. He did no such thing. As for my not going to the hospital, I was advised by my lawyers that would have been misconstrued as influencing witnesses.

Why did you not go to the police station immediately?
I want to make it clear that I handed myself over to the cops. In fact, between September 28 and October 7, when I was re-arrested, my lawyers advised me to apply for anticipatory bail. I said 'no' to them. I said let the cops do what they want. I cooperated fully. If I wanted, I could have saved myself all the bother by making phone calls to a couple of really influential persons. I cannot name them, but they are really powerful people. But I did no such thing.
Did your celebrity status prove to be a handicap? There is a perception that you have some problem with Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is in charge of the home department.
Yes, you pay the price for being a celebrity. Salman Khan is the greatest actor in Bollywood. As regards Mr Bhujbal, I have no problem with him at all. He did not interfere in my case at all. The cops were just doing their duty, I guess.
It is said that you were in a particularly depressed mood on the day of the accident since Bombay Times had carried an interview with Aishwarya Rai in which she talked of the end of her relationship with you. An entirely different rumour was that both of you actually planned to get married that day and even a kazi was readied, but Ash developed cold feet.
Ash's interview did not affect me. And this thing about the marriage was ..well, at best.. a rumour.

But is the Salman-Ash love story still open or closed?
It was closed a year-and-a-half back. That chapter is now closed. (Pauses and takes a deep drag at his Marlboro).
Why do you have this image of a brat?
I am not a brat. I am just mischievous. I do in real life what I do in my films. If someone misbehaves with me I don't keep quiet.

After being put in jail, have you become a changed man? What is the single biggest lesson you learnt from the accident episode?
I have not changed at all. I am the same Salman and will be the same. As for the lesson part, I learnt that ultimately, it is each to his own.
Were you singled out because you were a Muslim?
No. The cops were just doing their professional duty. My family is the best example of secularism. My father is a Pathan Muslim and my mother a Maharashtrian Hindu. Her maiden surname was Nadkar. My family members are married to persons belonging to different religions and we celebrate all festivals. While in jail, I read the Ramayana and the Mahabharat.
What was the jail experience like?
I had been to jail before too. I was strong. I had a separate cell for security reasons. In Thane jail cell which was about 8 ft by 6 ft I was given a blanket. All the inmates were living like that. In police custody, I had to share the toilet with a large number of people. I shared my home food with other inmates. I have no complaints.