Not apologising was one thing.
After all, as his father Salim Khan said, "What is the point of an apology extracted under duress?"
But by not answering the summons of the National Commission of Women, and its state chapter — as he failed to, for the second time on 7 July, Salman Khan has crossed a line.
Apologising is a personal decision at the end of the day, choosing to ignore the orders of a national agency is not.
Ever since the ill-fated press conference for Sultan, where Salman Khan made the comment about the film's exhausting shoot schedule making him feel "like a raped woman", there has been plenty of discussion dedicated to what the actor should or should or not.
Was Salman being malicious when he made his rape remark?
Was he being callous or insensitive?
Yes, in not taking into account the heinous nature of rape and the terrible toll it exacts on its survivors, and using it in a flippant context.
Did Salman himself feel that his remark was inappropriate?
Yes, or he never would have immediately retracted his words, saying to the gathered reporters: "I should not have said (that)." He further explained that all he had meant was that the physical demands of playing a wrestler on screen left him, sometimes, unable to walk.
But has he alluded to the incident after the furore over it started?
No. His father spoke up for him, apologised on his behalf. His brother Arbaaz Khan said that there was no malicious intent behind Salman's comment. And in the face of Salman's silence, several others — eager to curry favour — have rushed to defend him: 'Raped' was used in the way we say, 'I'm screwed or fu**ed' when in a stressful situation; does that mean we're actually fu**ed? (let's leave aside the very different connotations of 'I'm fu**ed' versus 'I actually felt like a raped woman' — which is what Salman said).
The defense of Salman took a turn for the surreal with Pooja Bedi and Rakhi Sawant leading the brigade.
"If I say I feel fat as an elephant will Peta India file a case against me?" wondered Bedi, on Twitter, while Sawant went public with her belief that Salman's voice had been dubbed over in the interview and he never made the remark at all.
In the meantime, the only reference to the controversy triggered by his comment Salman ever made was at IIFA, where he said on stage, to requests from fans for a speech: "Knowing me, the less I speak the better".
What does Salman's repeated refusal to apologise for his comments show?
Salman may believe he has done no wrong in making the rape remark — he may believe, like a whole lot of other people do, that much is being made out of an innocuous comment, the kind many of us (no matter how egalitarian our outlook) make on occasion. He may believe that his celebrity status is being used against him — after all, as lawyer Rizwan Siddiquee pointed out, the NCW has let Kamaal R Khan get away with derogatory comments about women for far too long; why only pull up Salman?
He may believe that having already retracted his words at the press conference, there is no necessity for him to go over the same ground.
Here's the thing though, thousands of young men all over the country ape Salman Khan. They idolise him, visit the theatres in droves when his films release.
They generate those big box office returns for his movies.
When Bhai gets a certain haircut, they get the same one.
When Bhai wears a certain kind of t-shirt, they get those too.
And we aren't even going to get into how may of them have the same blue-and-silver bracelet as Salman has been sporting for the past few years.
To them, Bhai is a hero. And he can do no wrong.
So yes, while film stars like Priyanka Chopra are right when they say that we should be focusing more on tackling actual incidents of rape rather than a throwaway remark Salman made, they forget that rape doesn't take place in a vacuum. There is a context in which it occurs, here is a mindset that lets it occur time and again.
And when you make remarks about rape casually, even if you meant no harm — if you have millions of fans looking up to you, it becomes your responsibility to tell them, that it is wrong. That it is never, ever okay. And that you are sorry if you ever gave the idea that is was okay, through your words.
There were those who called Salman out on his comments — Sona Mohapatra, Kangana Ranaut, Aamir Khan. Rishi Kapoor perhaps had the most balanced view: "Analogy boliye ya similie, jo de raha thha, he (Salman) didn’t mean it... (But) if he’s done something that has hurt people, then he should say sorry. Why would he not? If sometimes you hurt somebody’s sentiments, you say sorry. There’s nothing wrong with that. Aapne galti ki hai, toh qubool maang li jiye," said Rishi at an event, when he was asked about the controversy.
That Salman Khan never felt the need to say sorry is — at the end of the day, and no matter the many reasons for or against it — his prerogative.
But by not showing the courtesy demanded of a recognised national-level organisation, he's sending out a very wrong message indeed.
First Published On : Jul 8, 2016 11:52 IST