Crash haunts Bollywood star

By Sanjeev Srivastava BBC correspondent in Bombay
BBC News Oct 28, 2002

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan says he is haunted by memories of the night his car was involved in an alleged hit-and-run last month.
The actor is facing charges of culpable homicide after one man died and four others were injured when his Toyota Landcruiser ran them over in Bombay, also known as Mumbai.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC days after his release from jail, the Bollywood superstar said he had not been able to sleep since the incident.

"Though I was not driving, it was my car which was involved in the accident and that fact will stay with me for the rest of my life," Mr Khan said.
Mr Khan was released on bail of about $500 last Thursday after 17 days in custody.
"It is easy for others to say it was an accident, a mistake. But it is never easy to see it is as just a mistake especially if a life has been lost," he said.
"The image which hurts me the most is that of the mother of the person killed in the accident.
"I have not even seen her because if I do that people will say I am trying to buy evidence."

Salman Khan

Blaming the media

Salman Khan is described as a superbrat by the Indian media.
He models himself on Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone - he even tries to speak with the same kind of drawl and loves to show off his muscular build.
But he looked a touch lean and run-down as he met me outside his seaside apartment in the city's northern suburb of Bandra.
His time inside, however, seems to have done little to reduce his tantrums.
The media, he says, is to blame for his image as a spoilt and arrogant star, who can neither control his drink nor his anger.

"They [the media] just hate me. Those in the press who do not have access to my private life have always been furious with me and it is they who have given me this image."
"Even in this accident case they showed such animosity and hatred towards me that they did not even take my side of the story. What have I done to deserve this?" he asked.
"Everybody just kept on saying I should be punished for being rich and famous.
"If indeed I was so rich, famous and powerful, how come I ended up in a jail? People with the power of the pen said I should be sent to a mental asylum, that I should be hanged.
"It's they who need to get themselves checked up. Those who have so weakened the power of the pen."


Describing his jail term as an "educational" experience which he was "destined" to suffer, Salman Khan said it was ironical that his car - which had never even suffered a scratch - was involved in such a tragic accident.
"What hurt more was that I was always picking up people unfortunate enough to meet with accidents. "But I could not do so when my car was involved in an accident and could not carry the injured to a hospital which was only 20 metres away," he said.
"The worst was when people said I ran away and I did not care.

"I stayed at the site of the accident for nearly 15 minutes. But then a mob gathered and they started throwing stones. One hit my knee, another my thigh and another my head.
"It was destiny. I had to see it all and suffer the pain."


While Salman Khan looked somewhat chastened following his jail experience, on more than one occasion it also appeared as if he was trivialising the tragedy.
Or maybe he was just trying to put up a brave front, trying to come up with some tongue in cheek remarks.
Some examples:
So what have you learnt? I asked him.
"That one should drive only a bicycle. Be friendly with the press and go to all political functions to be on the right side of the powerful."
In response to another question about whether his time in the prison gave him enough opportunity to think and reflect on his life, Salman Khan said he did not have to go to jail to think.
"I do enough of that at home. Why did I have to go to jail to think and reflect. In any case jail was like home only as I am quite an indoor person."
Later, he even said jail was something like a health farm - obviously referring to the disciplined life he had to lead in prison.

The Bollywood superstar, who has acted in about 40 films in a career spanning nearly a decade and a half, is known as much for his temperamental behaviour as for his stormy relationship with the reigning Bollywood queen, Aishwarya Rai.
Weeks before the car crash, Salman Khan had made headlines for his misbehaviour with Ms Rai, on the set of a film also starring and being produced by another Bollywood superstar, Shahrukh Khan.

Matters of the heart

Salman Khan had reportedly forced Aishwarya Rai to cancel her filming and then dragged her into his car before driving away.
"Can anybody force anybody to do something they don't want to do. So let that go," he told the BBC when asked to comment on the incident.
Mr Khan, who had asked me not to ask questions pertaining to Ms Rai, was quite short when asked whether he was too emotional and obsessed with the Bollywood actress and the former beauty queen.

"Who is going to decide whether it is right or wrong to be too emotional," he said.
He also denied the crash was the result of his obsessive love for Ms Rai, and an interview she gave saying she had broken up with Salman Khan because he beat her.
The interview was published by a Mumbai newspaper on the same day as the accident involving Mr Khan's car.
When asked whether he still loved her, the actor said: "I am not going to talk to you about this. It is only for me to know."