In an interview to Simi Garewal, Hindi film industry’s favourite Sanjay Dutt had remarked about his life, “I don`t remember any phase in my life where there have been no problems.”
This sentence of his is more relevant now than ever before, as the actor stands on the threshold of another three and half year imprisonment term. The Supreme Court, which on March 21, 2013 sentenced the actor to the punishment, had done so under the Arms Act for illegal possession of weapon - AK 56. Sanjay Dutt’s imprisonment, back in April 1993, too, was due to the fact that illegal arms were recovered from him. A series of events linked him to the masterminds behind the serial blasts that rocked Bombay and left it in tatters, marking that Black Friday as one of the murkiest chapters in the history of the country.
Hailing from a blue blood family in the industry – the son of two superstars Sunil Dutt and Nargis – Sanjay Dutt’s career in films has been scrutinised for the minutest of flaws all along. Despite the fact that his acting skills had been brutally stomped upon by critics when his debut film ‘Rocky’ hit the theatres, Dutt went on to stun them shut with h
is performances in ‘Naam’, ‘Vidhaata’, ‘Main Awara Hoon’ and so on.
Thereafter, the devastating spiral of drugs dragged Dutt down. His films suffered and so did his health, and before long, the actor found himself in the throes of intense agony – and in order to escape from the same, he went deeper into drugs, thereby kicking into motion a vicious, deadly cycle. Sanjay Dutt, however, turned out to be the inspiration for many – the man successfully left his drug addiction behind in the rehabilitation centre in America where his father had sent him to. Once back in the country, the actor restarted a mostly successful career.
However, this new beginning in Sanjay Dutt’s life soon suffered a huge blow. While serial blasts ripped Bombay apart in 1993, Dutt was found in possession of illegal weapons. These were procured through a chain of relations which ultimately travelled to Abu Salem, one of the men linked to D-company. Dutt was convicted, sent to prison and released on bail. During this period, ‘Khalnayak’ hit the theatres. Sanjay Dutt’s villainous act in the film coincided with his arrest and acted as a major boon for ‘Khalnayak’, setting the cash registers ringing.
An audio tape of an alleged conversation between Sanjay Dutt and Chhota Shakeel, the Bombay underworld don, found a lot of mention in the media in 2001. Apart from speaking about a co-star’s punctuality issues, nothing substantial could be deciphered from the tape. However, the incident continued to haunt Dutt for a long time.
Cut to Sanjay Dutt’s domestic life. In 1987, the actor entered wedlock with actress Richa Sharma. After almost a decade of marriage and a bringing into the earth a daughter named Trishala, Sharma died of brain tumour. After his wife’s death, Sanjay Dutt had a bitter courtroom battle with his in-laws over the custody of Trishala. He eventually lost the same and his daughter continued to stay with his wife’s family in the US.
Sanjay Dutt re-married, this time to a model, Rhea Pillai, in 1998. After a few years of marriage, the two split and made their divorce official in 2008. Sanjay Dutt then tied the knot with Manyata (Dilnawaz Sheikh) in 2008 amid many controversies. While some rumours claimed that Manyata was already pregnant with Dutt’s child when the two married in a private ceremony in Goa, others linked her to the Mumbai underworld. The couple welcomed twins in 2010 and had been comparatively out of the radar of controversies after that – till this latest verdict from the Supreme Court.
Many bigwigs of the Hindi film industry have come out tall in support of Dutt and have expressed sadness at Sanjay’s fate. Many have said that they hoped there would be some sort of mercy shown to Dutt. However, the fact still remains that the actor was
found in possession of the illegal arms that he has been convicted for. He has time and again referred to the incident as a “mistake”, and has found many voices from the film fraternity endorsing his perspective.
Controversies have marred the actor’s image ever since he first stepped into the film industry. Now that he looks at three and a half years in jail ahead of him, will he be able to redeem his image once he is out? The verdict of the Supreme Court is final, though he has the option of filing a review petition. He might be a celebrity, but does that guarantee him insulation from the law? Only time can answer the plea of Controversy’s Favourite Child, maybe!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)