It has all the makings of a Greek tragic tale by Phrynichus. Only that it is playing out in India. In the last few days the entire nation has been debating whether Judge Kode was right in sending one of India’s most popular film stars to prison for six long years, for possessing a gun. It looks like a very harsh, hard-nosed sentence and has left a majority of people divided and immensely sad. Though not a great Hindi movie buff, I felt very bad.
Sanjay Dutt is not your average film star. With a reputation of being a thorough, kind gentleman, he is son to the legendary Sunil Dutt -- an iconic star, parliamentarian, human rights activist, philanthropist and a hugely secular figure. His mom Nargis, a very successful actress in the 1970’s married Sunil Dutt in what is still called the ultimate fairy-tale love story. A Hindu-Muslim union in the 1958 India underlined the pluralistic ethos of good old days. And then suddenly tragedy struck!
Nargis died of cancer, only a few weeks before her favorite son Sanjay Dutt's debut film Rocky was released in 1981. Somewhere Sanjay -- of rock star looks, of high profile society, of distinguished pedigree -- lost it. His wife succumbed to tumor after a protract illness in US. Sanjay did drugs, mishandled relations, divorced his second wife, went to a rehab and famously rode around the bye-lanes of Bombay at night on his Harley. He was dubbed the original bad boy of Bollywood -- India’s dream film industry.
Everyone in media and the film industry will vouch for one thing though: At heart Sanjay Dutt is the golden guy of Indian cinema. Something that was not lost to even the tough, no-nonsense judge. Sanjay is humane. He is loving but unfortunately a little naïve. Perhaps his gullibility became his undoing. He bought a gun, one fine morning in 1993. Apparently for self-defence. The rest, they say, is history. According to the great Aristotle, "The change to bad fortune which he undergoes is not due to any moral defect or flaw, but a mistake of some kind.” He here denotes the Greek tragic hero.
Sanjay was arrested in1993 for procuring the gun from the underworld. The same gangsters blew Bombay up sometime later. He spent 16 months in jail. Again a first for any major Indian filmstar. His father’s ordeal to extricate him from the legal mess mellowed the star. Post jail, he was a reformed man. Modest and unpresuming than ever before, he delivered some of the biggest hits of his career. Sanjay’s stature rose. He was again a superstar. A brand. The corporate world wooed him. The media was flattering. There was a new female in his life. The sky was blue. Then again tragedy struck!
Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American writer, author of The Great Gatsby once said. Sanjay is one such bloke. While sending the gentle giant to jail with a stringent sentence, the judge was being a little too tough on him. Perhaps this is the underlying exactness of any tragic tale. Some would argue that the law is equal for all. But the moot point remains: Can we view criminal intent and a simple mistake with the same lens? Can we lump them together! The answer in any civilised society would be a big 'No'.
In hindsight, I reckon all of us make mistakes in life. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment. The highest form of self-respect is to admit our errors and make amends for them. I think Sanjay Dutt has already atoned for his mistakes.
I hope Dutt is given some relief by the Apex court. No more Greek tragedies for the kindly hero.