UPDATED with bail information below: Salman Khan is one of the titans of Bollywood, with blockbuster films that include last year’s No. 2 highest-grosser Kick, along with previous top earners Dabaang, Bodyguard and Ek Tha Tiger. The actor’s next major release, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, is set for July 17, the beginning of the lucrative Eid-al-fitr holiday which Khan has typically owned over the past several years. Is that now in question?
Today, Khan was found guilty of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” in the death of a homeless man stemming from a 2002 hit-and-run driving incident in Mumbai. He has been sentenced to five years in prison and was to be escorted to jail this afternoon local time, but a bail plea from his attorney stayed that for two days. Indian media has been ablaze with the decision in the 13-year-old case, covering from the courthouse as the verdict and term were handed down — and with news programs saturated in the aftermath. In a testament to the star’s popularity, #SalmanVerdict was trending at No. 1, not only in India and the UK, but worldwide this morning. He is expected to appeal with the long-gestating case possibly set to go on for several more years.
Khan’s formal bail hearing is set for Friday. An extended incarceration could greatly impact Bollywood business. Khan, along with Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, is one of the industry’s biggest draws where box office is up to 90% driven by local movies. They have a rabid fanbase which spreads throughout the diaspora, making it a global event each time one of their films is released. Recent news that the first promo for Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a romantic action drama also produced by Khan and co-starring Kareena Kapoor, is set to debut on May 22 has already made headlines. But local reports now say the film is still in the last stages of shooting. Same goes for his next project, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo. Khan, Bollywood analyst Amod Mehra told India.com, had committed to four other pictures including Dabaang 3.
There is currently no word on whether there are plans to alter the rollout for Bajrangi Bhaijaan. A spokesperson for distributor Eros International was unavailable at the time of writing. It would, however, seem unlikely. Apart from a detour in 2013, Khan’s movies typically release at the beginning of the Eid holiday in India and throughout the diaspora, an extremely profitable box office period. Bajrangi Bhaijaan is set to go out on July 17, in step with the first day of that celebration of the end of Ramadan.
The sentencing today stems from an incident in September of 2002 when Khan’s Toyota Land Cruiser ran into a Mumbai bakery. The car ran over five people sleeping on the street, killing 38-year-old Noor Ullah Khan. Khan has said his driver was behind the wheel while the prosecution alleged the star was driving under the influence of alcohol. The judge today agreed.