Not many celebrities have a Wikipedia entry on them. But Sidhharth Vashisht does, with his better-known name: Manu Sharma. And he had to fire his way through with his gun to get there. Sometimes he shot in the air. But in 1999, when he was 22, he shot Jessica Lall.
And life’s never been the same again. All the power and money of his father that probably got to his head has come to naught when the Supreme Court confirmed the Delhi High court judement awarding life imprisonment to Manu Sharma on April 19, 2010.
But was killing Jessica an aberration? Manu was like any other youngster of his age: outgoing and fun loving. But one thing, which probably separated him from others was his penchant for guns. Close family friends who saw Manu grow up say the influence of his father’s status and clout and influential friends like Vikas Yadav contributed to his fascination for guns. “Manu loved flaunting the tag of being Venod Sharma’s son. Keeping a gun was a part of it,” says a close friend who did not want to be quoted.
Narrating the story of the fateful day, another family friend says: “When Manu reached Tamarind Court that night, he had put the gun in the glove box of his vehicle, locked it and started walking. Since it was very dark there, he feared if his car got stolen he would lose his gun too and got his gun back. That explains his fondness for the gun.”
Manu was fond of drinking. “All the major controversies in his life took place when he was drunk. He along with the son of a senior Punjab IPS officer created a ruckus in Sector 5 (Chandigarh) in 1997. Some of his friends fired in the air too. However no case was registered,” says a family friend. All his infamous bouts of rage at Blue-Ice, the family-owned discotheque in Sector 17, also occurred when he was drunk.
However, there’s a soft side to Manu. He is said to be very attached to his mother and sister. “He loved his grandma and would sit with her for hours,” says a family friend. In 2006, High Court convicted him and he had spent a lot of time in jail. Did he change? For the world outside the jail, he might be a ‘public enemy’ but inside he is a model prisoner who is helpful and courteous. After years of doing court rounds, he is now well versed with the law and gives free legal advice to his fellow inmates. “He helps out other inmates with their hearings and bail applications. Not all prisoners can afford lawyers,” says a senior Tihar Jail officer on the condition of anonymity.
When he is not playing para-legal, Sharma is an accountant for the jail. “He helps us out with ledgers as he is good with accounts. He is courteous with the administration as well as inmates,” adds the officer.
However, the change seems superficial. When he was out on parole on the pretext of spending time with his ailing mother, he was caught shaking a leg and later got into a scuffle, along with a friend Sahil Dhingra, at F-Bar in Hotel Ashok in New Delhi in November 2009.