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Munnabhai may not find suitable successor

When TADA court sentences Sanjay Dutt to six years imprisonment for illegal possession of arms in the '93 Mumbai blast case, it seems as if history is repeating itself, reports Vajir Singh.
Hindustan Times | By Vajir Singh, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 31, 2007 10:25 PM IST

When TADA court special judge PD Kode sentenced actor Sanjay Dutt to six years imprisonment for illegal possession of arms in the 1993 Mumbai blast case, it seemed as if history was repeating itself — at least the economics of it.

Thirteen years ago, on April 19, 1993, when Dutt was arrested and sent to prison in the same case, as many as eight films got stuck — Ayub Khan’s Mahanata, Sultan Ahmed’s Jai Vikranta, Aziz Sejawal’s Andolan, Satish Khanna’s Anokhi Ada, Jyotin Goel’s Safari, K Murlimohan Rao’s Vijeta and Ramesh Sippy’s Zameen. While Zameen and Anokhi Ada never saw the light of the day, the others were released after much delay.

This time, Rs 70 crore is riding on three films that Dutt is acting in. The projects in trouble are Sanjay Gupta’s Alibaug (Dutt shot for a week for this film), Sanjay Gadhvi’s Kidnap (40 per cent complete), Abbas-Mustan’s Mr Fraud (40 per cent complete).

His other movies — Indra Kumar’s Dhamaal, Afzal Khan’s Mehbooba and Sanjay Gupta’s Dus Kahaniyaan — are completed and scheduled to release.

Two other films were announced with Dutt — Milan Luthria’s Beehad and Raj Kumar Hirani’s Munnabhai Chale America.

With Dutt in jail, who will fit into the shoes of Munnabhai?

The director even shot a promo for the Munnabhai sequel a few months ago with Dutt and Arshad Warsi. However, he is busy scripting another film with Shah Rukh Khan for another project.

"Hirani won’t think of making Munnabhai without Dutt," said a source. Hirani, who returned from the US a couple of days ago, could not be contacted.

If he were to make another Munnabhai with someone else, the choices from his age group are Govinda, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff.

"No one can take his place since he has the largest fan following. Today, he may not be able to carry a film on his own except Munnabhai at the box-office, but his presence makes a difference," said a trade informer.

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