Salman Khan: The superstar who lives dangerously

Salman Khan Image copyright AFP
Image caption Salman Khan is one of India's most bankable stars who has had several hits in recent years

The Mumbai high court verdict clearing Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run incident has come as a huge boost for the actor.

Khan, who was handed a five-year jail term in May for running over five homeless men in Mumbai, killing one of them, is one of India's biggest and most popular film stars.

The 49-year-old actor, who has acted in more than 80 Hindi-language films, is known for his romantic roles as well as action films and has won several prestigious Indian cinema awards.

Khan is that rare Bollywood star who has a huge fan following across the vast spectrum of Indian society.

His fans include the middle-class English-speaking audiences as well as poor slum dwellers for whom the 350-rupee ($5.20; £3.40) tickets do not come cheap.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Loud whistles fill the theatre whenever Khan shows his dance moves

His films are released to coincide with major festivals like Eid or Christmas, and are screened in thousands of theatres, which are generally packed for days.

Every time Khan romances his heroines on screen, his fans respond with approval; loud whistles fill the theatre when he shows his dance moves; and resounding claps encourage him whenever he beats up the "baddies".

But his fame has brought with it a long-held image of a larger-than-life macho superstar who lives dangerously.

While the hit-and-run incident has dragged on for nearly 13 years, Khan's fan base has remained loyal - in fact, it has kept growing steadily and the hits have kept coming.

Several of his latest films - Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger and Dabangg2 - have been huge blockbusters.

The eldest of the three sons of well-known screenplay writer Salim Khan, he is a hit on social media too - his Facebook page is liked by 28.2 million fans while on Twitter, he has 15.1 million followers.

Brush with law

But there is another side to Khan.

Stories about his brawls at parties have long filled the Bollywood gossip columns, and his link-ups with some of his leading ladies have also proved controversial.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Salman Khan has a huge fan following

In one notorious incident, an angry Khan was reported to have emptied a bottle of cola over the head of an ex-girlfriend in a restaurant.

Another relationship, with actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, ended acrimoniously with Ms Rai later making allegations that she was beaten up by Khan - a charge he has denied.

And the 2002 hit-and-run incident in Mumbai was not his first brush with the law.

Khan was arrested in the western state of Rajasthan for illegally hunting and killing a protected blackbuck deer in 1998.

He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in 2006, but spent less than a week inside before being released on bail. His appeal is pending in court.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A few years ago, Khan started the Being Human charity to help the underprivileged through education and healthcare

In the past few years, the actor has worked hard to shed his "bad boy" image - with some success.

His devotion to his family, particularly his brothers, is well known and he is reputed to go out of his way to help friends and even strangers.

A few years ago, he started Being Human, a charity to help the underprivileged through education and healthcare. The charity sells T-shirts and other products online and in stores, and the proceeds are used for charitable work.

His relationships with women also seem to have matured. Although he parted ways with actress Katrina Kaif some time ago, they remain good friends and the couple acted together in Ek Tha Tiger.

When the trial court convicted him in May, many said the misdeeds of his past might have finally caught up with him.

With the high court overturning his conviction, the pressure on the actor has eased for the moment.

But with the prosecution likely to appeal in the Supreme Court, Khan's troubles may not yet be over.

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