Mumbai: As Bollywood superstar Salman Khan spent his first (sleepless) night in a prison in Jodhpur, back home his friends, relatives and well-wishers continued to pour into his residence at Galaxy Apartments in Bandra here.
Salman's mother was not attending to guests. She had gone to sleep after hearing the numbing news about her son. But his father Salim Khan was there.
Shatrughan Sinha, a family friend and self-professed well-wisher of Salman, said: "My daughter Sonakshi (Sinha) reached Salman's home much earlier than me and spent a lot more time with the family. We are very close to the Khan family and have the highest regards for Salman and his parents.
"I spent a lot of time with Salim Saab on Thursday evening. It is always a pleasure to spend time with him. He is so well-informed. I call him Salim Pandit. The current crisis (Salman's imprisonment) has not made him lose his sense of humour at all. He was full of life and very optimistic about his son's release soon. We all are."
Sinha thinks the court verdict has been harsh and that Salman has suffered enough in this case.
"With due respects to the legal process and to the honourable judge, I feel Salman has suffered enough in this case. What is his crime? And it's not just a five-year sentence that seems very harsh to me. It is actually twenty years since Salman has been in and out of Jodhpur courts and prison. Plus the five years that the Honourable Judge has awarded him now. So it's, in reality, a total of 25 years' sentence," he said.
Sinha also questions why only Salman is being punished and not others.
"There were others with Salman that night when he is alleged to have gone hunting in Jodhpur. He couldn't have gone alone. His friends must have been with him in the alleged crime. Why have they been let off without a sentence?
Although, he said he was happy for the other four actors.
"Saif (Ali Khan), Neelam, Sonali Bendre and Tabu, are all wonderful human beings. But so is Salman. He is one of the kindest most generous human beings I've seen. Always ready to help the needy... Why give him a prison cell when there's so much he can do from the outside? Give him community work as punishment. He will happily do it," Sinha said.
The actor-politician, however, refuses to sympathise with producers whose films may be stuck if Salman is imprisoned.
"They knew what they were getting into. They knew there was a serious court case hanging over him. They went into their projects with Salman with their eyes open.
"We can't say, 'Don't send him to prison because the under-production projects will suffer'. Every convict that goes to prison leaves behind unfinished projects. Why is an incomplete multi-crore film more important than a house that an incarcerated architect leaves unbuilt, or a novel that an author leaves unwritten?" he said.
Sinha feels Salman is paying a price for being who he is.
"I really feel Salman is being punished for being who he is. If he was a commoner he would not have to suffer for 25 years for a crime he may or may not have committed."
Echoing Sinha, actor Samir Soni, whose wife Neelam was also accused in the same blackbuck poaching case, said: "Your stardom or celebrity status goes against you when people try to make an example of you to deter others. It's a double-edged sword, it's fine when it's with you but when it's against, it cuts deep. Salman paid the price for being Salman."
Salman was on Thursday sentenced to five years in prison by a Jodhpur court in a 1998 blackbuck poaching case.
His bail plea hearing is scheduled for Saturday.