I guess Viviek just did another scummy thing using the Aish-Salman story? Not surprising, he has been breaking boundaries and making public what should be private for the past 16 years. The Viviek press conference was the start of the road that lead to what we have now with Kangana spewing hate at the world and the media gobbling it up, and believing it. NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS: This post is purposefully about 2003 and the aftermath. So ideally, any comments will place the whole situation in context of the original situation, Viviek and Salman and Aishwarya, the media, private and public divides, and abuse.
Disclaimer: I have no particular connection, what I am reporting may or may not be the truth. All I can do is repeat the conflicting versions that were published, and provide a timeline for them.
On April 1, 2003, Viviek Oboroi was part of a press conference to launch a new Coca-Cola ad campaign featuring himself, and Aishwarya Rai (the existing female coke spokeswoman for the past few years). Before the conference, he tipped off a reporter and asked them to ask him about Aishwarya’s relationship with her ex Salman. When asked, he responded that this was not the proper place, but since the question came up, they were invited back to his house that evening for a second live press conference.
At the press conference, with TV cameras and reporters from every major outlet present, Viviek declared that Salman had called him 41 times the previous evening, abusing and threatening him. He also accused Viviek of having affairs with multiple actresses, including Aishwarya Rai. Viviek declared his intention of filing a police case and that he was afraid for his life.
Since this is in the early years of internet reporting in India, strangely this very well-publicized conference is left with very little coverage. There is a youtube video that records some of the Viviek statement. Another interesting indication that this was in the early years of coverage, the video is almost entirely in Hindi. So, unfortunately, I cannot provide a full transcript, just give a general sense of things. Viviek says that Salman called him the night before 41 times in half an hour. That he was abusive towards Viviek and asked him if he had relationships with several woman, and then descriped those women inappropriately. That Viviek told him he did not like this, that it was destroying his relationship with Salman’s family, and not right to talk about those women that way.
I’m relying heavily on rediff.com just because they were already providing online reporting (the first English language Indian news site), and they have maintained their archive. They provide additional information that I think is not included in the above video. Here is the brief record provided by Rediff.com:
Vivek Oberoi called a press conference on Tuesday where he claimed he had received threats from Salman Khan.https://www.rediff.com/movies/2003/apr/01vivek.htm
Salman, he alleged, had threatened to ‘kill’ him.
The actor said Salman called him on his cell phone throughout the night of March 29, accusing him of “physical relationships with Aishwarya Rai, Diya Mirza, Rani Mukherjee and Somy Ali, whom I met some seven years ago.”
Oberoi said Salman was drunk, abusive and threatened to come to his house and assault him. Salman called him 41 times that night, he added.
The actor had to fly down to Chennai on March 30. He said his friend Kshitij Mehta called and asked him not to return to Mumbai, as Salman’s bodyguards were enquiring about his whereabouts.
Oberoi then decided to return immediately to Mumbai and take matters into his hands. Salman, he said, was mentally disturbed and needed help.
He now plans to lodge a case with the police against Salman.
Almost immediately, the film industry lined up against Viviek. Some of them also in support of Salman, but primarily against Viviek. This kind of behavior, inviting the media and camera crews into your home to badmouth a fellow celebrity, not to mention needlessly bringing in the names of other actresses, was simply Not Done. There was no justification for it.
Suniel Shetty sounds regretful, “I don’t know what’s happening with Vivek and how he looks at life. Being an actor and a coartiste, he should not have taken the matter to the press. If he felt Salman had behaved badly, he [Oberoi] should have confronted him [Khan] physically instead of talking about it on television. I thought it was in very bad taste. Everyone believes Vivek has done it for publicity.https://www.rediff.com/movies/2003/apr/03react.htm
[Sanjay Leela Bhansali says] “I think Vivek Oberoi has committed the biggest blunder ever by any actor in Mumbai. He is so powerful. He knows kick-boxing and karate. [US President George W] Bush should call back his army from Iraq and send Vivek instead. I am very scared of Vivek. I will never be able to work with him now. I may shout at him on the sets and he may call a press conference against me. All the heroines should touch his feet for protecting their dignity.https://www.rediff.com/movies/2003/apr/03react.htm
“The media should be ready to cover every event at the Oberois’ residence,” adds Bhansali. “If Vivek’s dog has dysentery tomorrow, we should be prepared to hear Vivek talk about it on camera for three hours. The film industry functions on fraternal feelings. If there is a problem, we solve it in-house. Vivek has no business talking about Salman’s mental state. He should not have talked about his Coca-Cola campaign or Rani Mukherji, Diya Mirza and Aishwarya Rai at a time when he was supposed to be so distraught.”
“Vivek must learn discretion from stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Ajay Devgan. There is dignity in being a celebrity. Let us not lose that dignity. Didn’t Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand have differences of opinion? They never maligned each other.”
Most interesting was Abhishek Bachchan’s quote. Now of course we know of him as Aishwarya’s husband, but at the time they had worked together but never dated or seemed particular close. On the other hand, he was rumored to have fought with Salman about some unrelated issue at a party, definitely not a Salman friend or fan. And his response was firm and definite against Viviek:
Abhishek Bachchan has the final word, “In the film industry, there is a code of honour whereby all problems are sorted out internally.”https://www.rediff.com/movies/2003/apr/03react.htm
Salman’s immediate response was casual and dismissive:
After Vivek Oberoi’s outburst against him on television, Salman Khan appeared stoic and amused at his colleague’s bitter recriminations.https://www.rediff.com/movies/2003/apr/03salman.htm
“Don’t worry, it is nothing, nothing at all. Please don’t write anything about it. Vivek Oberoi is a kid who has just discovered the joys of stardom. He will learn with time. I will cope with this problem, just like I have with all my other problems.”
Just before flying off to London on the morning of April 2 to shoot for B R Chopra’s Baghban, Salman says, “Have you heard about Lord Buddha? There was a man spitting at him constantly. A well-wisher asked him why he was not reacting. And he said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Let the man get rid of all the filth inside him. All I have to do is wash my face.’ I am certainly no Buddha. But let me wash my face in peace.”
Salman is expected to return to Mumbai on April 9.
Vivek’s anti-Salman press conference created a stir in the media. “Whose name got him there, huh? If my name can get someone so much play time on television, it must mean something, no? If someone tries to pull you down, it means you are a lot higher. If he wants to put me down to bring himself up, let him do it. It is okay. I have no problem with that. I know my friends want to speak on my behalf. But I don’t want them to. They love me too much to say anything bad about me. In my 14-year career, I have done 100 films. If God is willing, no one can take what I have. My friends and family are suffering. But it is just a passing phase. I am leaving for London now. I am so petrified I have to run away!” jokes the actor.
The center of this issue, Aishwarya Rai, was thankfully safe from the media. Unrelated to the press conference or her relationship with either Salman or Viviek, she had suffered a bad injury while on location filming her upcoming movie Khakee. Her arrival in Bombay received much media coverage, complete with her rumored boyfriend Viviek rushing to meet her at the airport. Now she was in the hospital recovering and unreachable. She had 6 days before she had to make a statement. She outlines her issues with Salman and addresses the rumor that they are co-starring in an upcoming Bhansali movie, but never refers to Viviek or his press conference:
My duty towards all those who believe in me and love me compels me to make the following statement, even though I had always believed in the dignity of silence.https://www.rediff.com/movies/2003/apr/07ash.htm
In the wake of recent rumours regarding the proposed feature film Bajirao Mastani, I take this opportunity to clarify my stand and end all speculations!
Some recent reactions and retaliations unnecessarily involving me and my name, and I have been wrongly projected, as agreeing to work with Mr Salman Khan for the sake of this proposed feature film.
The truth is, from the very first meeting with Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali with regards to this feature film Bajirao Mastani since the past two months, I have categorically declined to work with Mr Salman Khan… and my family is witness.
Yes, Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali and I have a wonderful and fabulous working relationship so far, with memorable films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. But sadly, and for obvious personal reasons and disturbing reasons, I cannot accept to work with Mr Salman Khan.
For the sake of my well-being, my sanity, my dignity and the dignity and self-respect of my family — ENOUGH! I will not work with Mr Salman Khan.
The Salman chapter was a nightmare in my life and I am thankful to God that it is over!
While I have maintained a dignified silence about him and his wrong-doings, he (his family and friends) has repeatedly attacked the respect, dignity and pride of me and my family (with irresponsible rumourmongering. I stood by him enduring acholism, misbehavior in worse phases and in turn, I was at the receiving end of his abuse (verbal, physical, emotional), infidelity and indignity. That is why like any other self-respecting woman and God is witness, I said enough and ended it almost two years ago but because of a dignified silence, all have misrepresented my stand and spread rumours about my character and baselessly alleged affairs and tried to spoil healthy working relations with costars. I do not want to get into the gory details and obnocuious experiences, which incite washing dirty linen and other ugly untruths.
I have just to clarify this! For a very long time now, they have time and time again, tried to wreck my peace and sanity both personally and professionally. But they all forget-no one can play god; because there is a God! That is the only truth. My belief in God and my family has stood by me in solidarity, giving me the strength to rise above it all. And I must add, that it has been very easy for some members of the film industry, media or social circles to flog opinions, when they have not been at the receiving end. And when so many of them God knows, have been witnesses and in knowledge of the truth. This is truly sad.
Contrary to the rumours, I do not call him. On the contrary, he has tried calling me and texting me on the pretext of his film Bajirao Mastani even using Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s identity. I have been compelled to make this otherwise trivial validation in print because of the continuous lies and false stories being circulated [by a strong clique].
Honestly, I do not have the time, energy and man power [in media or social circuits] to keep reiterating validations against every [and seemingly constant] false stories or allegations.
On the end note, I am choosing the kind of films, roles, and directors I want to work with and enjoy the experience of the film. This way I can cherish the making of each film and give my best to every role and assignment that I accept, with peace and happiness intact. And that is of earnest importance – peace within and all around.
I have just come out of a near fatal accident: accident miraculously only with an ankle fracture and a couple of wounds and abrasions; completely and act of God. And this is no exaggeration!
God is extremely kind and I sincerely thank my friends and well-wishers for all their prayers, blessings and good wishes – I cherish them dearly as I take this time to recover and heal. God bless all!
Sohail Khan responded, while not denying the abuse or the rest of the story, simply focused on Aishwarya’s claim that she was no longer in contact with Salman:
“Now she (Aishwarya Rai) weeps in public. When she was going around with him, when she used to visit our home so often like part of the family, did she ever acknowledge the relationship? She never did. That made Salman feel insecure. He wanted to know how much she wanted him. She would never let him be sure of that,” Sohail had spoken to the media post Aishwarya’s shocking revelations about Salman.https://www.news18.com/news/movies/when-sohail-khan-slammed-aishwarya-rai-for-making-salman-khan-feel-insecure-she-never-acknowledged-the-relationship-2025189.html
Sohail had also taken a potshot at Aishwarya for her alleged affair with Vivek Oberoi by saying, “Aishwarya Rai was in constant touch with Salman till recently on the mobile and that’s what upset Vivek.”
No one in any statement is denying that Aishwarya was abused by Salman Khan. No one is even denying that Salman called Viviek multiple times that night. And even Salman’s family and fans do not deny those facts either.
What was unknown at the time of Viviek’s press conference was his motivations, was he doing this because he legitimately feared for his life and wished to defend the woman he loved, Aishwarya, from abuse from her boyfriend? Or was he doing it merely for publicity?
The disinterested members of the film industry were unanimous in calling it out as a publicity move from the start. In the following days, Viviek failed to file any police report (as he said he would do). And Salman failed to ever physically attack him (as Viviek said he was afraid would happen). Meanwhile Aishwarya at the center of the controversy came closest to acknowledging the situation by saying she had “always believed in the dignity of silence”. Which seemed to be a statement against Viviek’s press conference, not in support.
What strikes me, in that little video clip I was able to find, is how casual Viviek seems. He does not appear tormented at revealing this painful personal chapter in his life, or afraid for his life (as he claimed to be). He seems almost cocky? Amused? Happy maybe?
And I think that is what turned people off, and which is hard to convey now, when almost all video footage has disappeared. The world and the film industry watched this and it just did not feel right, did not feel believable, did not feel sympathetic. That, I think, is what haunts his career to this day. How can you trust him, how can you work with him, when he is so joyful in destroying other people’s lives?
And then there is the epilogue to the story. Salman warned people away from working with Viviek, not behind closed doors but publicly. He did an interview with Anupama Chopra in 2012 where he acknowledged it, and said that Viviek was the only person who warned people away from. Viviek continued to get work however, and Salman did not blacklist those who worked with him (for instance, Viviek worked with Kareena Kapoor, one of Salman’s closest friends, in Kurbaan). Based on the evidence, Salman truly warned people, for their own good, that this was a person not to be trusted.
On the other hand, in 2007, Viviek took the opportunity during an award show, a time when he was guaranteed to be recorded, to apologize to Salman. Not just apologize, mime apology through big gestures so the camera and audience at home would be sure to know what was happening.
In 2003, Viviek’s behavior already seemed odd, and possibly self-serving. In the years since, Salman’s silence and lack of forgiveness, and Viviek’s seemingly cheerful acceptance of his own fault, have just served to make that “self-serving” interpretation the stronger.
Based on the evidence in front of us, I believe this is one of those situations where it is possible for 2 people to both be wrong in completely different ways. Salman was wrong because he was an abusive partner. Viviek was wrong because he was selling out other people for publicity.
Salman’s sin is primarily a personal one, done towards those close to him who can choose whether or not they wish to forgive his behavior. His romantic partners before and since Aishwarya either were not abused, or have chosen to forgive. One of them. Somy Ali, has even become an activist for abused woman and told her own story of abuse, at the hands of a household servant and a family member, NOT Salman (link here). She refers to Salman as a friend and a fellow social activist. (link here ) Sangeeta Biljani, Salman’s other public relationship pre-Aishwarya, considers Salman and his family as her closest friends in the film industry, almost 20 years after they broke up (Link here). And of course Salman and Katrina’s good relationship is an accepted fact. I don’t know whether or not he abused these women, but if he did, they have chosen for whatever reason to forgive him and, having no further details, I respect their choice.
But Viviek, in a strange way, sinned towards the public as a whole. He is trying to use our human interest in a human tragedy to further his own career, continues to do so. And he sinned against the media, using them as a weapon and a tool instead of granting them their own agency. And most of all, he sinned against the film industry. He opened the doors to let the world in, let the world judge the most private and personal of affairs, and feel they had a right to do so. The media, the public, and the industry hold themselves as victims of Viviek’s need for fame and have chosen not to forgive him.
There is one final person to consider, Aishwarya Rai. At the time, the media tended to blame her. There were three reasons for this, first that Salman had never been known to misbehave with any other woman, so she was seen as “inciting” him. Second, that Aishwarya herself was hard for the media to get a hold of, for example a year after all of this in 2004 she gave an interview to 60 minutes in which she was asked if she had a boyfriend and coyly responded “That’s for the autobiography”, with no acknowledgement of her previous high profile relationships (link here). The slippery quality of her public statements made it hard to believe her. And third, her own behavior seemed illogical, why were there reports of her over and over again taking Salman’s side against those who would save her if she hated him so much?
It is that third issue that is clearest to me. Aishwarya was an abused woman, and an abused woman does not act in a logical fashion. When Salman banged on her door for hours, it was the neighbors who called the police and not her. When he appeared on her film sets and dragged her away, she refused assistance from the security personal and left with him. Occasionally now there will be rumbles of blame towards members of the film industry for not taking her side, not “saving” her. But you can’t save an abused woman, not until she is ready to be saved. That is hard for the media to handle, even for Salman’s family to understand, how could she say she was afraid of him when she seemed to love him? And thanks to Viviek Oboroi, instead of her working through her confusing and conflicted emotions in private, the whole sad story was made public for us all to judge and blame.