Sanjay Dutt walks past a group of policemen outside Tada Court in Mumbai on 18 October 2006. (AFP)
As expected the Supreme Court of India upheld the High Court's verdict sentencing Sanjay Dutt to five years of imprisonment for his involvement in the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts. As further expected barring a major chunk of the Hindi film industry no one found anything wrong with the judgment. The Bollywood reaction to the decree has come from varying quarters but they all seem to be unanimous in their tenor; they don't like Munnabhai going to jail. Reading some of reactions I can't help but wonder why is it mostly the utterly nonsensical or the brazenly idiotic that seems to bind the old, the young and the infantile of Hindi cinema?
Sanjay Dutt had been originally charged with illegal possession of arms such as AK 47 and criminal conspiracy that claimed 257 lives and sentenced to six years. While the criminal conspiracy charge has been dropped the illegal possession of arms stands and the sentence has been reduced to five years. The actor has served 18 months of his sentence while undergoing the trial but court after court has found him guilty. In spite of such clear play of events actors and filmmakers like Hrithik Roshan or Karan Johar who were associated with Dutt or those like Vishesh Bhatt observed him closely still don't seem to get the graveness of the accusations. Johar was 'truly shattered to hear of Sanju's sentence.' Johar, who has known Dutt for a better part of his life and even help usher in a new phase in the actor's career with Agneepath (2012), believes that Dutt being the nicest guy he has known 'just doesn't deserve this.' On the other hand Hrithik Roshan can't comprehend the turn of events. Like Johar, Roshan, too, finds Dutt the most loved man and even though he knows that 'd law is the d LAW' he can nonetheless bet his life '2 say that Sanju sir doesn't deserve this!' Jaya Pradha, god save us, who's a Member of Parliament not only thinks that Dutt is 'innocent' but keeping his father and family in mind believes 'innocently may be has done something.'
The manner in which Bollywood usually reacts to such news is nothing less than sickening to say the least. The common aspect that runs through all such reactions is that Dutt has suffered enough for almost two decades and doesn't deserve the five years incarceration. Appearing in courts and the 18 months that Dutt spent in jail during the course of the case is being perceived has punishment enough. What would Ameesha Patel (Feeling an awful pit in my stomach at Sanjus judgment), Arjun Rampal (Just numbed by the news), Bipasha Basu (saddened n shocked with the news) and Sophie Chaudhary (Dutt has served time & paid the price mentally for 20 yrs) say to someone like Kirti Ajmera, a victim of the 1993 serial blasts who went through 40 surgeries and still waits for a miserly 25,000 rupees compensation? What has Sanjay Dutt suffered compared with the crimes he has been charged with? He was in jail for 18 months almost two decades ago and since then has enjoyed a great run. It's only in India and in Bollywood that actors enjoy increased popularity following their run-ins with law. Salman Khan can supposedly run over people in the middle of the night, allegedly kill black bucks and yet become synonymous with Being Human. Similarly Dutt entered his golden phase once he got embroiled in something so heinous. His success goes beyond his roles in Vaastav or Munnabhai series or how else does one explain Dutt's stint at Yerawada being talked about in the same breath as Mahatma Gandhi's time in the same prison! The very people whose hearts seem to be crying for someone who knowingly did what he did wouldn't be doing half as much had it been some small time actor. Vishesh Bhatt, a one-film old filmmaker and Mahesh Bhatt's son, even questioned whether the Supreme Court considered the harsh realities of Bombay in 1993 that lead Dutt to do what he did. Vishesh practically grew up in front of Dutt and tweeted his support for the star saying that Bombay was under Mafia rule, the police was compromised, celebrities were threatened and Sanjay Dutt faltered law. Someone please tell Mr. Bhatt that one Bhatt is enough to make stupid statements. If sister Ameesha is busy hoping for a miracle that would save Dutt her brother of Bigg Boss fame has started a signature petition to save India's most loved man. Some morons have endorsed the campaign as well.
There is no denying that Mr. Dutt hasn't suffered a lot in his life. But all the decisions that he took were his own and it's not like no one else lost their way around drugs or had to witness their mothers or wives succumbing to cancer. He was a 35-year highly successful actor who inspired millions by the manner in which he found his way back from the dark hellhole of substance abuse. Then he got on speed dial basis with people who could supply him with an arsenal of weapons capable of mass destruction. He was accused of knowing and even abetting those responsible for killing innocent Indians; charges which have been since dropped. Today, as a 55-year old Dutt has no right to react to Supreme Court's decision by saying that he has 'already suffered for 20 years.' And no sir, the justice system of this country doesn't 'want you to suffer more' when it upholds the judgment. Stalling the shooting of movies every time you were made to make court appearances isn't suffering and sure as hell ain't penance.