Actor Sanjay Dutt was told that the Supreme Court has upheld his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai Blasts case, and has handed down a reduced sentence of 5 years of imprisonment, while shooting for “Policegiri”, a T P Aggarwal & Rahul Aggarwal production for which he is just about to wrap up his parts of the film. Since he has already served 18 months in jail, it now means he will have to spend another three and a half years in jail. The verdict left the entire Policegiri team shocked and shattered in sympathy for Sanjay, but the chance of filing a review petition against the verdict within the next four weeks gives room for hope.
I recall Sanjay as a brash young boy of 20 taking his baby steps in filmdom, when his careerwas being launched by his father the late Sunil Dutt in his film Rocky. He was into drugs and reckless too, without a goal in life. Both Dutt-saheb and Nargisji were very perturbed about this state of affairs, but hoped things would improve. I also remember the first time when I had gone over to interview Sanjay at the behest of his father Dutt-saheb and believe it not, a drowsy Sanjay even refused to talk to me, and Ihad to persuade his mother Nargis Dutt to sit down to talk to me.
With the exception of films like Naam, and Khalnayak, and perhaps the Munnabhai series, Sanjay’s films have never clicked in a big way at the box office, and he could never capture the No. 1 slot in the industry, though he could have if only he were focused on it. It was his sab kuch chalta hai attitude that prevented him from becoming a reigning king at the box office, like say a Salman or Shah Rukh Khan, who arrived on the cinema scene a decade after Sanjay did.
Everyone from politicians to celebrities and even the public are now wading into the fray, in an attempt to clear misinformation and FUD against Sanjay Dutt. Ans a Free Munnabhai Petition started by a fan mustered thousands of signatures within moments of getting launched.Iconic personalities across the
board are publicly are expressing their dismay, not only the stalwarts from the film industry who rarely ever passionately speak out are airing their views, but
even national leaders and mass favorites are appealing for clemency to him. It is worth noting here that Sanjay Dutt was acquitted in all TADA and blast cases, and while the only charge against him is the illegal possession of arms, these weapons were never used to threaten or destroy anyone. The court has also categorically stated that he was no terrorist.
Support has literally been pouring in from the film industry since the news has been out, and it is not just from Bollywood, costars, directors, friends or juniors, but from the south-Indianfilm industry as well, a majority of whom have taken to social networking sites to express their views.
Superstar Rajnikanth has been quoted as saying, “I was very disturbed when I heard about my friend Sanjay Dutt’s verdict. The current support and appeal for his pardon is giving me hope. I pray to god that he gets redressal.” Iconic star and Union Minister Chiranjeevi and his son Ram Charan who is working with Sanjay in Zanjeer, have also publicly stood by the actor in his time of crisis. Jaya Prada went on to say that: “He is an innocent person.
Knowingly or unknowingly, it has been written in his fate that he has to struggle like this. His father Sunil Dutt was a patriot who served the country. Ibow to the court’s decision, but Sanjay Dutt is very close to my heart. We worked together in so many films. ” Mohanlal says, “He certainly deserves our compassion and help to put this chapter behind him once and for all. I sincerely hope and pray that he is shown the leniency he truly deserves and is granted a pardon.”
This outpouring in response to the SC Order and the demand for clemency has also stirred upa hornet’s nest. Journalist Mohan Siroya comments, “I fail to understand why the entire industry and even some intellectuals are failing to differentiate between ‘Celebrity empathy’ and the ‘rule of law’.
“The argument that he made a mistake in law but deserves a pardon in view of his illustrious family background and good behavior after the first 16-month jail term while on bail is at best specious and ‘ghisa pita’. The law itself has already taken note of this, first dropping all charges under TADA, but maintaining charges of illegal Possession of Arms, hiding of that fact, and getting evidence destroyed under the Arms Act. Lawfully the Jail term for this crime is 10 years.
The Bombay HC considered his family’s contribution to the nation and his good behavior, and reduced this sentence to 6 years. The SC has shown further consideration and now reduced this term to 5 years. And now, because he is a ‘celebrity’, we want him to be given clemency for this balance 3.5 yrs he has to serve out.
“If this ‘celebrity’ status becomes a factor to dilute the law of the land, then think of no ‘Jail’ at all to the likes of some Khans, who have cases of various hues pending against them. Salman, for example, has charges of ‘homicides’ pending against him for his careless and drunken driving, and for illegally hunting and killing a Chinkara. Stars do have money and status, but should they also be accorded the power to usurp the law of the land and get away with lighter sentences, or be given clemency? We cannot forget the fact that Sanjay Dutt did hobnob with terrorists like Abu Salem, or his own accomplice Yusuf Nalwala, who for just burning Sanjay’s AK rifles has been awarded a life sentence as against a mere 5 years for Dutt.”
The latest update as of now is that at a hurriedly addressed press conference, Sanjay Dutt stated that he now does not want to ask for clemency and will let the law take its own course. Unfortunately, poor Sanjay’s move is being misconstrued by cynics as an attempt to gain sympathy nationwide. Earlier, in an official statement, he had said: “I have already suffered for 20 years and been in jail for 18 months. If theywant me to suffer more I have to be strong. I am heartbroken because today along with me, my 3 children and my wife and my family will undergo the punishment. I have always respected the judicial system and will continue to do so, even with tears in my eyes. I am going to complete all my films and won’t let anyone down. I am overwhelmed by the support of my fans the industry and the media, who have always stood by me and supported me. I know in my heart that I have always been a good human being, respected the system and always been loyal to my country. My family is very emotional right now and I have to be strong for them. I am shattered and in emotional distress. God is great and he will guide me through this.”
With the Supreme Court giving him four weeks’ time to surrender, the actor is in a race against time to try and complete all his commitments. In 1994, when Dutt was first sent to jail, Anil Kapoor replaced him in Trimurti, Akshay Kumar’s role in Amaanat had to be enhanced, and films like Mahanta, Vijeta and Shatranj were delayed.
Today, Sanjay has about INR 250 Crore riding on him, with four films under production: Raju Hirani’s PK, T P Aggarwal’s Policegiri, Apoorva Lakhia’s Zanjeer and Karan Johar’s Unglee. Sanjay has told his producers to finish as much shooting as possible before he surrenders. When he got bail for the first time in 1995, since he had to attend court regularly during the day, he shot his films in the night for nearly a year-and-a-half before he got an exemption from the court. So what will happen to the 250 Crores at stake lying locked up in his incomplete films ? Your guess is as good as mine !