Every time I'd speak to Sanjay Dutt during his years and years of trial and tribulation he would end the interview with one question.
"Am I going to be a free man, Subhash? I am not a terrorist." He sounded like Shah Khan in My Name Is Khan.
The line comes re-visiting in Raj Kumar Hirani's new biopic on Sanjay Dutt which has taken the virtual world by storm. The biopic which shows Ranbir Kapoor making a vigorous effort to impersonate Sanjay Dutt, clearly wears its heart on the sleeve. The producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the director Raj Kumar Hirani and the leading man Ranbir Kapoor clearly adore Dutt to the point of blind subjectivity.
The trailer implicitly tells us that Dutt in all innocence wasn't aware of the repercussions of his actions. That whatever he did in life with guns, girls and drugs was all done in a state of unknowing innocence. Forgive me Father, for I know not I have sinned.
This is a very dangerous and naïve of looking at serious crimes committed by a thinking adult who must be held accountable for his actions.
An old friend of Dutt who is no longer on talking terms with him says, "Baba, Baba, Baba! I am fed of Sanjay Dutt being pampered by all his loved ones. First his mother (the legendary actress Nargis) protected him from punishment whenever his father (actor-parliamentarian Sunil Dutt) tried to discipline him as child and teenager. Thereafter this diaper-wrapping whitewashing has gone on forever. It seems the biopic also wants us to believe Baba can do no wrong. That he, poor soul, just ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. How can a grownup 59-year-old not take responsibility for his actions specially an action that killed hundreds?"
This former friend is right. I remember Sanjay's father the upright idealistic Sunil Dutt telling me how much he had suffered because of his son's misadventures. Of course, Dutt Saab believed Sanjay to be innocent of malicious intent. And to the extent that Dutt could not estimate the ramifications of his recklessness, he was innocent.
But this "innocence" cannot be glorified the way the film seems to doing. By all means, show him to be a victim of his foolhardy nature. But at the end of day he must be allowed to own up to his mistakes. This, the biopic doesn't seem to be doing.
During one of our many interviews in the past Sanjay Dutt said, "Subhash, I've left it(his fate in the legal proceedings) to fate and destiny. I haven't hurt or harmed anyone on life. God is great. One day justice will be given to me. If I sit and think about it my work gets affected. I've just left it to God. I still have to take official permission before I travel outside the country. When I land on airports abroad and my passport shows a special permission for travelling the immigration people wonder what's happening. They start asking me questions suspiciously. Now it's up to the Indian authorities whether they want to do something about the situation or not…. With the legal hassles happening I can't concentrate completely on my work. The case is constantly at the back of my mind. But I must say the courts have been truly generous. They've allowed me to go on working. God willing, I'll soon be acquitted . Then I can make a fresh start and focus completely on my work. I want to start all over again. Ab bas ho gaya. I don't know how I continue to be in-demand as an actor in spite of my legal problems. It's the goodwill of producers and my fans, I guess. Somewhere they believe in my innocence."
This goodwill that Dutt believed in has actually damaged him beyond repair. Baba can do no wrong. Baba is a baby, strong yet vulnerable… The entire industry believes in Dutt's innocence. The film is likely to portray him as a victim.
And no one is allowed to say that's a wrong moral stance to assume. The other day when someone on Twitter called out on the film whitewashing Dutt's image Rishi Kapoor pounced on the naysayer showering abuses on him.
What is most dangerous is the pretence of innocence being put up by Sanjay Dutt's friends. They all know he was in jail for terrorism. But they all feel he didn't know what he was doing.
Exactly the logic applied by human rights activists who defend the radicalization of Kashmiri boys.
(Subhash K Jha is a film critic and movie expert)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)