Subhash Ghai’s Khalnayak with Sanjay Dutt in the lead role released on June 15, 1993. This was around two months after Dutt was first arrested on April 19, 1993, for his involvement in the Bombay bomb blasts which happened on March 12, 1993 (Bombay is now Mumbai). The story goes that Ghai had shot multiple ends for the movie, and after Dutt’s arrest he used the one which showed Ballu, the character played by Dutt, in a positive light.
That’s the thing with reel life, if the director does not like the end, he can change it. Real life should work a little differently, that’s what you and I might think. But it doesn’t always work like that. At least, not if you are Sanjay Dutt.
On March 21, 2013, the Supreme Court of India, convicted Dutt for illegal possession of arms and sentenced him to five years in prison. Between then and now a small cottage industry seems to have evolved which is trying to tell the world that Dutt is innocent and is trying to change the end of a long judicial process which has finally delivered some justice.
This cottage industry includes those working with him in the Hindi film industry. They cannot believe that Sanju Sir, as they like to call him, will have to go to jail. Rakhi Sawant, who is largely famous for what the Hindi film industry refers to as item numbers, has even volunteered to go to jail instead of Dutt. “If there is any provision in the law, then I’d like to request the court to send me to jail in place of Sanjay. Not because he is a big actor today, but because he has a family and kids at home to take care of,” she has remarked.
Support has also come in from Marakandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, who on other occasions has spoken out strongly against media’s obsession with celebrities. Katju is also a former judge of Supreme Court. He wants Sanjay Dutt to be pardoned.
He has offered various reasons for the same. In the last twenty years Dutt has suffered a lot. He had to take the permission of the Court for foreign shootings. He has two small children. And to top it Dutt has through his film revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of Gandhiji, the father of the nation. Justice Katju in his appeal to grant pardon to Dutt had also said that “his parents Sunil Dutt and Nargis worked for the good of society and the nation.”
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has jumped into the rescue Sanjay Dutt bandwagon as well. “Sanjay Dutt is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist. Sanjay Dutt, at a young age, in the atmosphere of that time, thought that perhaps the way Sunil Dutt had been raising his voice against communalism and favoured the minorities, then perhaps he could be attacked. So, as an obvious reaction of a kid to do something, if he has committed a mistake then I feel that he has undergone the punishment for it,” Singh said.
Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, who normally goes cholbe na cholbe na against everything, has also come out in support of Dutt. “Today, I fondly remember Sunil Dutt ji. He used to come to my residence whenever he was in Calcutta. If he were alive, he would have no doubt made all efforts to see that Sanjay does not suffer any more. My heart echoes the same sentiments ,” the Trinamool Congress chief wrote on Facebook, getting nostalgic.
Let me demolish this arguments one by one. In 1993, Sanjay Dutt was 33, going on 34. He was no kid, as Digvijay Singh makes him out to be. On the other hand Ajmal Kasab, who was recently hanged to death, was actually a kid, when he carried out the gruesome act that he did.
In the last twenty years Dutt has suffered a lot, feels Katju. But so has everyone else who was accused in the Mumbai bomb blasts case. Yusuf Memon, one of the accused, who will serving a life sentence, is schizophrenic and the Supreme Court dismissed his plea seeking relief from his conviction and life sentence.
During the last twenty years Dutt managed to marry twice (Rhea Pillai and now Manyata earlier known as Dilnawaz Sheikh ). So much for him suffering. And as far as kids go, if people were pardoned because they had kids, nobody in India would ever go to jail.
The movies Katju is talking about are Munnabhai MBBS and Lageraho Munnabhai. Dutt did not make these movies, he just acted in them. The movies were the vision of director Rajkumar Hirani, who also co-wrote them. In fact, Dutt was not even supposed to play the role of Munnabhai in Munnabhai MBBS. The original choice was Shah Rukh Khan, who later declined due to a back injury. So Sanjay Dutt was simply lucky to have first landed and then played the role which made Gandhi fashionable again. And that is no reason to let him go.
Digivijay Singh in his statement seems to be justifying Sanjay Dutt possessing illegal weapons for self defence. What he forgets is that we are not talking about some desi katta or a revolver here. We are talking about AK-56 rifles. Its worth remembering that the year was 1993 and not 2013. “And AKs were not weapons you almost ever saw outside some militant districts in Punjab and Kashmir,” writes Shekhar Gupta in a column in The Indian Express.
And as far as the nostalgia of Mamata Banerjee goes there are people who might still feel nostalgic about the late Head Constable Ibrahim Kaskar of Mumbai police. As S Hussain Zaidi writes in Dongri to Dubai – Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia “In the predominantly Muslim stronghold of Dongri, Ibrahim’s baithak was the first place people went to if they had a problem. It was privy to everything-from people discussing their choking lavatory drain to the excitement of the elopement of lovers or cases of police harassment.” Kaskar’s son is Dawood Ibrahim. So should sons committing crimes be let go because their fathers happened to be nice men? Maybe Justice Katju and Mamata Banerjee can give us an answer to that.
In fact, it would be safe to say that Sanjay Dutt was very lucky not be convicted under the the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (or what we better know as TADA). Dutt was arrested in 1993, for acquiring three AK-56s rifles, nine magazines, 450 cartridges and over 20 hand grenades. One doesn’t need so many weapons and ammunitions for self defence. This despite the fact that Dutt already had three licensed weapons. And when was the last time you heard anyone keeping hand grenades at home for self protection?
Some of these weapons were later stored at the home of a woman called Zaibunissa Kazi. This included two of the three AK-56s rifles that Dutt had got. Kazi was convicted under TADA. Same was the case with Baba Mussa Chauhan and Samir Hingora, who delivered the consignment of arms to Dutt’s house. And so was Manzoor Ahmed, whose car was used to ferry the arms out of Dutt’s residence.
But the special TADA court did not convict Dutt under TADA. This is very ironical given that those who got the arms to Dutt’s house were convicted under TADA. So was the women in whose house the arms were placed, after they were moved from Dutt’s house. He had also admitted to being directly in touch with Anees Ibrahim, the main conspirator Dawood Ibrahim’s younger brother. Further, CBI did not challenge the TADA court’s decision which relieved Dutt of charges under TADA, in the Supreme Court.
In fact Satish Manishinde, Dutt’s lawyer later admitted in front of a spy camera in a sting operation carried out by Tehehlka that “The moment she (Zaibunissa Kazi) was convicted, I thought Sanjay too would be convicted under TADA .” No wonder Kazi’s daughter feels “I wish I was a celebrity or my mother was a celebrity or a sister of an MP. Even my mother would have got the kind of support Sanjay Dutt is getting. If it is on humanitarian grounds then why only Sanjay Dutt, why not Zaibunisa. Isn’t she a human? Isn’t she a citizen of this country?”
As a line from the song Yaaram written by Gulzar, from the still to be released Ek Thi Daayan goes “koi khabar aayi na pasand to end badal denge”. Everyone who is trying to appeal for a pardon for Sanjay Dutt is trying to change the end of a long judicial process which has finally delivered some justice.
To conclude, let me say this loudly and emphatically, if Sanjay Dutt is innocent, then I am Amitabh Bachchan.
The article also appeared with a different headline on www.firstpost.com on March 29,2013.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek. He can be reached at [email protected])
Saurabh Shukla in a stupendous performance as Judge Tiwari in the recent hit Jolly LLB tells Jolly, the protagonist of the movie (played by Arshad Warsi), “Kanoon andha hota hai, judge nahi! Judge ko sab dikhta hai. (The law is blind not the judge. The judge can see everything).” The Supreme Court judges have shown that they are not blind and that they can see things as they are. And so Sanjay Dutt is finally going to jail. Its taken twenty years, yes, but justice though delayed has been delivered.
Somehow this hasn’t gone down well with a lot of Indians and there has been tremendous outpouring of public sympathy in support of the 53 year old man the world loves to call Sanju baba, acknowledging that the man never grew up. The are multiple arguments being made against Dutt’s sentencing.
The first argument being made in support of the man is that so many people who have committed other crimes have gone unpunished, so why should he be punished? The man behind the Bombay blasts (the city is now known as Mumbai), Dawood Ibrahim, is still a free man, so why punish Sanjay Dutt ?
A former magazine editor turned film producer who likes to see himself as a poet these days, tweeted saying that Dawood has the protection of many ministers, and Dutt doesn’t have much political support, and hence he is being punished. The tweet seems to have been removed since then.
This is a totally stupid argument to make. Since when did two negatives start to cancel out each other? Just because Dawood is still free, doesn’t mean Dutt did not commit a crime and thus shouldn’t be punished.
And don’t these people remember that in the 20 years that it has taken the Indian judicial system to arrive at a the decision, Sanjay Dutt has been a free man for nearly 18.5 years. During the period he has acted and produced movies and earned a lot of money. He has also married twice and produced progeny as well. So much for him being a troubled man.
The second argument being made particularly on television channels is about the money riding on Sanjay Dutt. What happens to all those movies which are being made right now with Dutt acting in them? Well, if Dutt has a major role, the movies get canned. If he doesn’t have a major role, then the producer shoots his part with some other actor. The losses faced by a few individuals shouldn’t be coming in the way of justice.
Also by signing Dutt to play a part in their movie, the producers were taking a risk. Dutt has been out on bail for a while now, and a bail can be cancelled. When a bail is cancelled the individual out on bail goes back to the prison. This isn’t rocket science. And every producer signing Dutt should have understood this risk that he was taking.
And now that risk has come to the fore, Dutt sympathisers can’t be asking but what about the money riding on him? The money riding on him was always risky. I would like to use an analogy which I have used in the past. The producers who signed on Dutt essentially became victims of what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls the turkey problem.
As he writes in his latest book Antifragile: “A turkey is fed for a thousand days by a butcher; every day confirms to its staff of analysts that butchers love turkeys ‘with increased statistical confidence.’” With the butcher feeding it on a regular basis, the turkey starts to expect that the good times will continue forever and the butcher will continue feeding it. But then a day comes when the butcher decides to kill the turkey and sell its meat. The producers assumed that Sanjay Dutt will always be out on bail and are now paying for that mistake. But like turkeys Dutt has also been slaughtered, suddenly and out of the blue.
As The Indian Express points out “The fate of three big budget films is riding on Sanjay Dutt with Zanjeer remake, Policegiri and Rajkumar Hirani’s Peekay, currently under production.” I am sure the nation can suffer this loss.
The third argument being made in support of Dutt, particularly by those who work for the Hindi film industry, is, that he is such a nice and a helpful man. He may be the nicest man in the world, but that doesn’t mean he did not commit a crime. And possessing illegal arms (a 9mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle) is no small matter.
As far as the general public goes, his gentle image is essentially an extension of two super-hit movies: Munnabhai MBBS and Lageraho Mubbabhai, where he played a lovable goon. But real life is different from reel life. Also to extend the argument every criminal’s mother must love him and find him to be a nice man, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a criminal.
Sanjay Dutt was first arrested on April 19,1993. Two months after his arrest Subhash Ghai’s badly made Khalnayak hit the screens and was a super-duper hit, such was the outpouring of sympathy for Dutt. The world also discovered “choli ke peeche kya hai!”, as if they did not know it already.
Sadly, no such anti-hero (the Bollywood term for a hero who plays a villain’s role) films are scheduled to be released. Dutt will have to thus spend time in jail, remembering his big superhit song from Munnabhai MBBS, which gave his career a much needed push. As the lines of the song written by Rahat Indori, one of the greatest living urdu poets, go:
Chanda mama so gaye sooraj chachu jage
Dekho pakdo yaaron, ghadi ke kaante bhage
Ek kahani khatam to dooji shuru ho gayi mamu
Subah ho gayi mamu, mamu, mamu
Subah ho gayi mamu, mamu, re mamu
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on March 21, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)