The Sins of The Son

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In 1993, Dutt was 33. He was too old, too buffeted by grief and experience to still be called ‘baba’.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, followed by the riots of 1993 had forced India to confront the question of its religious identity once again, and in horrifyingly brutal fashion. Did being Hindu mean causing harm to Muslims? Or did it mean extending support to those who needed help? Dutt’s father, as popular a social worker and MP as he was an actor, had decided in favour of the latter. Hindu-Muslim marriages were not too unusual, particularly within the Hindi film industry. At the time of the riots, Sunil Dutt, by then a widower for a dozen years, could be found helping violence affected families in the Muslim neighbourhood of Behrampur. He had the constant support of his youngest daughter, Priya. All three children were aware that their father was growing older, frailer. Priya spent more and more time taking care of him while he took care of others.

It wasn’t just Sunil Dutt’s health that was waning. He seemed to have lost the respect of his fellow politicians. In a particularly humiliating instance, Sharad Pawar made Dutt wait for him in a lobby for over three hours. Thugs, displeased with his pro-Muslim work, had begun to threaten the Dutt family. Following an attack on his person that January, Sunil Dutt asked for extra security detail to be posted outside his house. But Sanjay thought his father might not be able to do enough to protect the family. Threatening phone calls had been made; his sisters, he was warned, were targets for kidnap and rape. It was enough to make him want to buy another gun — a fourth, unlicensed automatic weapon to add to his three licensed firearms — one that, as Shanti Bhushan believes, would be “better suited to dealing with a mob”.

Despite the immense difference in the magnitude of their crimes, an uncannily similar instinct had spurred the two men at either end of this supply chain of weapons into action. Dawood Ibrahim too was goaded by the ostensible desire to protect his sisters. Hussain Zaidi, the crime reporter and author of Black Friday, described a package Dawood had received full of red and green bangles. The tinkling glass came with a note —“jo bhai apne behno ki hifaazat na kar sake, use yeh tofha mubarak”.

On 16 January 1993, Hanif Kandawala and Sameer Hingora, proprietors of Magnum Video and Dutt’s friends, arrived at his house with a man named Abu Salem and told Dutt they would bring him new weapons. The next day, the three men returned with another companion. From their car, which they had parked in Dutt’s tin shed, they produced three AK-56 rifles, magazines and about 250 rounds, with some hand grenades. Accounts of this meeting differ among the men who were present. Hingora alleges that when they reached Dutt’s house, the actor was on the phone with Dawood’s brother, Anees. He further claims that Dutt enquired about the arms concealed in the car, showing knowledge of the plot to smuggle weapons into Bombay. Dutt’s lawyers have denied both these counts. However, TEHELKA’s earlier investigation unearthed that Dutt had in fact admitted to calling Anees, a confession that the CBI inexplicably decreed irrelevant, erasing the MTNL call records from Dutt’s landline to a number in Dubai.

From the safe harbour of the present, however, it’s easy to forget just how plagued Bombay was in the 1990s by gang violence, kidnapping and extortion. Film journalist Rauf Ahmed describes the atmosphere that had gripped the city as a “fear psychosis”. “You’d wake up and hear that Gulshan Kumar, whom one met at all the parties, had suddenly been shot dead outside his office. Manisha Koirala’s brother was killed. Hrithik Roshan’s father was shot at. It was all to show the royalty of Bombay who really was the boss.” That said, it couldn’t be denied that the film industry and the underworld were dancing a particularly intricate pas de deux.

8 COMMENTS

  1. A very touching portrayal of Sanjay Dutt , I wish you would take the time out to so lovingly detail out & humanize the lives of the other accused & sentenced folks………oh actually I am sorry I asked,they are the non famous, poor ,non entities of the world so why should you waste your precious time & brain space to do so….

    • Are you reading Tehelka for the first time ?
      Plz do some constructive criticism.

      Nishita, im sure the article must be insightful & well researched.
      But I have 5 more tabs opened in my browser window, & 5 more tasks on my to-do list. And I cant take out time on weekends & evenings to read this.
      And for Sanjay Dutt?

      Maybe I can make more time. But not for Sanjay Dutt.

      • read the article at least before you comment, your remarks show the comments of a lazy sod who hasn’t even read what he professes to comment on !!!

  2. Hey Nishita
    Loved the complete writeup and kudos to the details which you put in about him…Reading your complete article is like reading a complete excerpt of his auto-bio graphy… No doubt Sanjay made a come back everytime and this is probably the weakest moment of his life..

    If his arm possession is more of a self-defence act…and considering the situation back in 1993, and Bollywood involvement with underworld, he has done the right thing..Any normal human being wuld have done the same, if he had that kind of connection..!!

    It’s true that nothing is beyond the law and one of the major reason his escape from all this is tough because if his high-profile identity… But if we sum up all the odds here and his change of personality over the time..He should not be published again..!!

  3. Well written, Nishita..but u should’ve done much more research into his early life..he was still an active drug addict during his mother’s death & the release of Rocky(1981)..he was doing films in this situation for 2 more years..then dad Sunil Dutt send him to the rehab centre in US in 1983..he came back clean after 2 years..was sitting at home with no work for around 6 mnths..no producers really wanted to try him again..his come back movie was ‘Jaan ki Baazi’ in 1985..but it was Mahesh Bhatt’s movie ‘Naam'(1986) brought him back to the limelite and established him as dynamic actor rather than a glorified star kid..

    P.S: The irony is tht, dad Sunil Dutt was the hero in the bollywood version of Nanavati story, Yeh Rasthey Hei Pyar Ke(1963).

  4. Thank you for the piece which was on Sunil Dutt really!! Brought back fond and wistful memories of an Indian for whom secularism was a living value…

  5. Very well written..As a fan I love Sanjay Dutt and his films. I love his father and the works he had done. But then to say he should be pardoned would be unfair for all those many innocent victims behind bars who doesn’t have the means and the resources he has access to. One has to pay for what he or she has done. And possession of illegal arms in such sensitive times was against the law. But then as a Law student, I understand the circumstances under which he acted. Bombay in 1993 was thick in communal riots and his mother was a Muslim and threats were made against his family. As a son, his acts of protecting his family at any cost was justified but then his associations and the means to do it was not right. its been a long time. 20 years have passed. Despite all of this, he gave us some memorable and loving movies. I think may be serving the 3 years in jail will ultimately help him become free and lead an uninterrupted life as the author says..

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