NEW DELHI – India’s film community on Friday reacted with dismay and rallied behind popular Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt after the Supreme Court upheld a weapons conviction and ordered him to report to prison within a month.
Character actor Jaya Bachchan, a lawmaker in Parliament, said she would meet with the governor of Maharashtra state to plead for Dutt’s cause.
“I am going to appeal to the governor that Sanjay be pardoned. He has suffered a lot and is a changed person,” Bachchan, the wife of legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, told reporters Friday.
Top Bollywood stars and directors tweeted their support for Dutt after the court sentenced him to five years in prison for illegal possession of weapons supplied by Mumbai crime bosses linked to a 1993 terror attack that killed 257 people.
Leading actors Ranbir Kapoor and Vidya Balan were among the first of a stream of Bollywood A-listers to visit Dutt’s home to offer sympathy and support to the actor and his family.
Film director Mahesh Bhatt tweeted: “Heart broken. Just heard that Sanjay Dutt has to go to jail for 5 years. I expected mercy! Alas it did not happen.”
Dutt, 53, originally had been sentenced to serve six years in prison on the charge of possessing an automatic rifle and a pistol that were supplied to him by men subsequently convicted in the bombings. He served 18 months in jail before he was released on bail in November 2007 pending an appeal to the top court.
Dutt has maintained that he knew nothing about the bombing plot and that he asked for the guns to protect his family — his mother was Muslim and his father Hindu — after receiving threats during sectarian riots in Mumbai.
Dutt is the son of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, two legendary Bollywood stars. They fell in love in 1957 during the making of an early blockbuster film, “Mother India.” Sunil Dutt later entered politics, and served as a Congress party lawmaker and a federal sports minister.
The trial into the Mumbai bombings lasted more than 18 years, during which Sanjay Dutt pursued his acting career, acting in several blockbuster films and earning a huge following. He gained enormous popularity for a series of Hindi films in which he played the role of a reformed thug who follows the teachings of nonviolence advocate and Indian independence hero Mohandas Gandhi.
Trade analysts said Dutt’s jail term will be a huge financial blow for the industry.
Two of Dutt’s films are being readied for release, but several other projects are midway and are likely to be delayed as he serves the remaining three and a half years of his sentence.