“Nayak nahin, Khalnayak hun mein”
(I am not a hero, I am a villain)
Bollywood’s beloved ‘Khalnayak’ Sanjay Dutt surrendered on Thursday, choosing not to seek pardon from the court that sentenced him to prison for buying an assault rifle which was used in the 1993 Mumbai attack. “There are many other people who deserve pardon,” the actor told reporters as he broke down before them.
Since the news of his conviction and sentence become public, fans and fellow actors expressed anger and shock. People sympathised with Dutt, not only for the husband and father he is, but more because he is their Sanju Baba — their Rocky, Munna Bhai and Raghu. Although Dutt has earned fame in various roles ranging from romance to comedy, his most successful on screen persona has been that of a gangster, thug and police officer, for which he has also won the title of “Deadly Dutt”.
The reactions in India vary; his Bollywood comrades and supporters outside of showbiz say Dutt is one of the “nicest guys” around and doesn’t deserve this. But Janata Dal (United)’s Secretary General KC Tyagi has asked if people would be asking for a pardon “had it been a Muslim instead of Sanjay Dutt”.
On this side of the border, our entertainment industry has different views.
Veteran actor Talat Hussain says, “Nobody is above the law — how can actors be above the law? This is sadly our [Pakistanis] approach; it’s not applied anywhere else in the world.”
Referring to Dutt’s Muslim mother, popular Indian actor Nargis, Hussain says, “Being half-Muslim, Dutt should know how to abide by the law. Nobody is pardonable when they’re implicated in such instances.” He cited the examples of powerful Western figures that have been tried for crimes to reiterate his point that everyone is equal.
Backing Hussain’s statement, film and TV actor Javed Sheikh says, “This case has been going on for years. Whatever the result may be, it’s for the judge to decide.” He expresses sympathy for the actor and his family. “Initially, he was in jail for 18 months. Now, he is married and has kids. This decision shouldn’t have taken so long. It’s a very hurtful experience.”
Comparing the neighbouring countries, Sheikh says, “If you own an unlicensed gun, you are held accountable. In our country, people who have grenades are roaming around scot-free and nobody is taking any action against them.”
Yesteryears’ TV superstar Rahat Kazmi echoes similar sentiments. “Rules must be followed. If that does not happen, anybody can commit a crime and you pay the price for it, because you are part of the society.”
Lollywood star Moammar Rana, a friend of Dutt, says, “Now with this age and episode, his career has ended. Sanjay is a gem of a person. This should not have happened. It’s totally wrong. It’s rubbish!” Rana recalls that his favourite Dutt flick is Deewane Tere Pyar Ke and wishes him the best of luck.
A die-hard Dutt fan from Lahore, freelance writer Osama Motiwala says, “I may be biased because I am a huge fan. But whatever I have researched proves that he is guilty and should be convicted.”
Dutt’s life story interests Motiwala, who says, “I have read his biography lots of time, I think he has led a very simple life. I like reading about his life — from politics to marriages, drug addiction to worldly life. He is a genuine person — he confesses to alcohol addiction unlike other superstars who don’t.”
One Twitter user touched upon Dutt’s Muslim connection. With a Muslim mother and Arabic names for his children Shahraan and Iqra, many say that the actor has a soft spot for Muslims. @Roohan2Ahmed posts, “He was sentenced because he has a soft corner for Muslims — the sentenced was the evidence of Indian injustice.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2013.
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