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Bollywood's Dutt no stranger to controversy, jail

Throughout his life, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt has frequently faced adversity, but usually triumphed, with millions of fans solidly behind him.
By Krittivas Mukherjee | Reuters, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 31, 2007 03:33 PM IST

Throughout his life, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt has frequently faced adversity, but usually triumphed, with millions of fans solidly behind him.

But on Tuesday, the long arm of the law finally caught up with Bollywood's enfant terrible as he was jailed for six years for possessing illegal weapons acquired from gangsters linked to India's worst bombings in 1993.

His lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence, which came after a mammoth trial of those blamed for the blasts that killed 257 people in India's financial capital in 1993.

"He has the prayers of the entire film fraternity with him," Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty had told reporters before the sentencing. "We believe him completely."

The muscular, droopy-eyed screen hero, Bollywood experts say, found it difficult to handle the pressures of being the son of one of India's superstar couples -- Bollywood actors Sunil Dutt, a Hindu, and mother Nargis, a Muslim.

A former drug addict, he has led a troubled and well-publicised private life, but his fans have stood by him.

His problems started early in life as he is known to have taken to drugs while still in high school. When his mother died shortly before the release of his first film as a lead actor in 1981, his addiction apparently worsened.

LIFE IMITATING CINEMA?

Dutt returned to films after a stint at a rehabilitation centre in the United States where he met his future wife, Richa Sharma.

The couple married and had a child, but Dutt's happiness remained short-lived as Sharma died of a brain tumour.

More misfortune awaited Dutt as he lost custody of his daughter after a bitter legal wrangle with his in-laws and many of his films bombed.

But just when he seemed to be putting it all behind him and came up with a hit film, he was linked to the 1993 bombings and jailed during investigations.

Released from jail, Dutt remarried, but the couple divorced in 2005, the same year his father, who had become a federal minister, died of a heart attack.

In a country where the combination of pedigree and clout often leads to a bending of the rules, the actor -- known as "Deadly Dutt" for his macho image and portrayal of gangsters and the anti-hero -- has truly been controversy's child.

In 2001, he was investigated for alleged money-laundering deals between the Mumbai underworld and Bollywood. He was also alleged to have been caught in a taped conversation with gangsters accused of kidnapping, extortion and murder.

But uncannily, he has retained popular support and sympathy from Bollywood as most see him as a sober, good-hearted man whose troublesome youth refuses to leave him.

In fact, he has found more fame in the past few years, particularly after he starred in a film about a do-gooder gangster. Its sequel had him espousing Indian freedom hero Gandhi's non violent principles.

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