Bad boy Salman Khan still a box office Sultan
HE HAS been accused of killing a homeless man, shooting dead an endangered animal and assaulting a former Miss World but it seems nothing can stop the box office appeal of Bollywood bad boy Salman Khan.
The Indian superstar's latest blockbuster has smashed records again, just over a fortnight after he sparked fresh controversy by saying his heavy training schedule for the film left him feeling "like a raped woman".
Sultan, in which Khan plays an ageing wrestler, enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend in Hindi cinema history, proving that for his legions of fans the body-building actor can do no wrong.
The actor known as "bhai", meaning "brother" in Hindi, enjoys a cult-like status in star-obsessed India, with the majority of his devotees young men who envy Khan for being unmarried at 50.
They are largely from Mumbai's mass of migrant workers who eke out a hardscrabble living in the sprawling financial capital but dream of a more glamorous life.
The majority are not on Twitter and are immune to social media outcries such as the one Khan sparked last month when his rape analogy made to a local news site went viral.
He has not apologised for the comments, as demanded by India's National Commission for Women. But his father, Bollywood screenwriter Salim Khan, made an apology of sorts on his behalf.
Khan has starred in more than 100 films and television shows since his first hit Maine Pyar Kiya (I Fell In Love) in the 1980s.
But his personal life has long been dogged by controversy.
Although he was cleared last year of killing a homeless man in a late-night hit-and-run crash in 2002, that decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
He is also battling allegations he used unlicensed arms to shoot an endangered Indian antelope for which he spent a week behind bars in 1998.
His image also took a hit when former Miss World and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai accused Khan of assaulting her during a relationship which ended more than a decade ago.
He has denied ever hitting any women.
The controversies have not stopped him becoming one of Bollywood's most bankable stars with Sultan making a splash at the box office since its July 6 release.
Director Kabir Khan, who worked with Khan on the movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan, believes his misdemeanours hint at a "vulnerability" that audiences relate to.
"He makes politically incorrect statements but that seems to endear him to audiences who see him the way he is," he added.
"His fans stand by him and overlook many of his indiscretions by saying his heart is in the right place."