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Sanjay Dutt conviction: Does imprisonment make a dent in a star’s film career?

Apart from Sanjay Dutt,Salman Khan is also embroiled in legal tangles.

Written by Geety Sahgal | Mumbai |
April 28, 2013 11:17:44 am

Two of the film industry’s biggest stars are embroiled in legal tangles. While Sanjay Dutt has to surrender to the Mumbai trial court on May 16 under the Arms Act,

Salman Khan too faces charges in the 2002 hit and run case when his SUV mowed down four persons killing one and injuring three. The actor,who was earlier being tried for rash and negligent driving which carries a maximum sentence of two years had an enhancement of charges in January this year,with the court accepting that the police had enough evidence to book the actor for culpable homicide not amounting to murder,which attracts a punishment of up to ten years in prison! This is besides the 14-year-old black buck case in Rajasthan.

The court orders,especially the one sentencing Sanjay Dutt to three and a half years of imprisonment has raised pertinent questions about how a jail sentence can affect a star’s status.

If one recalls,Sanjay Dutt was first arrested under TADA in 1993 three weeks before Subhash Ghai’s Khalnayak was to release. Imprisoned on and off for the next four years,Sanjay Dutt lost out on several films including Subhash Ghai’s Trimurti,in which he was replaced by Anil Kapoor. But once released from prison on bail in late 1997,Sanjay Dutt returned to the big screen with Afzal Khan’s Mahaanta and Ram Gopal Varma’s Daud. Although the film flopped,the actor’s career took a leap two years later in 1999,with Mahesh Bhatt directed Kartoos followed by Khubsoorat and Vaastav. The rest,as they say is history.

This time,however the scenario has changed. The actor faces a long haul in prison,he is no longer young and Bollywood has changed. Though film-makers have shown solidarity with Sanjay Dutt and are confident that the impending imprisonment will not make a dent in his career or affect his popularity,trade analyst Taran Adarsh thinks differently.

“In 1993 Sanjay Dutt was playing the leading man and age was on his side. Now,he is playing supporting roles and there are so many alternatives for these parts. I don’t think any filmmaker is likely to wait for three years. A jail sentence will definitely make a dent in his career in a big way,” opined Adarsh.

However,trade analyst Vinod Mirani says that as long as an actor is successful,no imprisonment can affect his popularity or career.

“The problems will be more personal than professional. Sanjay Dutt will keep getting work despite his conviction because of his immense popularity. The same would apply for Salman Khan,” said Mirani. Filmmakers too share the same opinion.

Anurag Kashyap for example,admits that India is a country where people are obsessed with films and enamoured with film stars and they don’t have time to think why a Sanjay Dutt is being sent to jail or Salman Khan if it comes to that. Sanjay Dutt’s career may remain unscathed once he comes out.

“I would say more than affecting their careers,it will affect the film industry. If anything happens to them,the industry is going to be severely affected as there are crores riding on their shoulders. Also,the fact remains that anybody who goes to jail,not just Sanjay Dutt or Salman Khan,it is the family and everyone connected to them that is shattered and gets affected,” said Kashyap.

Most Bollywood film-makers like Mukesh Bhatt,Ramesh Taurani and Milan empathise

strongly with Sanjay Dutt,and are confident that the actor will bounce back despite his imprisonment.

“My gut feeling tells me that once this cross is off his back for good,it will be yet another great phase of work and popularity,” said Luthria,who has not worked with the actor in any project.

Mukesh Bhatt,in whose films (Sadak and Dushman) the actor has worked in,also echoes the same thoughts. “Sanjay Dutt is a fighter and he’ll come back stronger. I am sure he will be let off after two years for good behaviour,which is not a long time to be away from the industry. He is much younger than what Amitabh Bachchan was when he made a comeback after a gap of five years,” said Bhatt.

Producer Ramesh Taurani is of the opinion that Sanjay Dutt is a big star and nothing can affect the popularity of stars. “There will always be roles for stars,” said Taurani.

As for conviction hitting his future brand endorsements,it is known that Sanjay Dutt,along with his wife Manyata were endorsing jewellery products from the Gitanjali Group,including Sangini diamond jewellery and Rotary watches.

The actor may not be in the A list of brand endorsers,but with the verdict,advertisers who were contemplating to feature the Dutt couple might reconsider their decision.

That the actor’s brand endorsement are likely to be affected was confirmed by adman turned film director Abhinay Deo,who has created several campaigns. “Brand endorsements do not like people with issues to endorse their products. Sanjay Dutt’s going back to jail will definitely affect his endorsements.”

While Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan enjoy the industry’s support and love,Shiney Ahuja was not as lucky. The actor was arrested in 2009 after his 20-year-old domestic help had accused him of rape. Shiney Ahuja was subsequently convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment,but was later released on bail after serving over three months in jail. The actor’s Ek Pal,which was completed in 2007,is yet to release. Interestingly,the actor found a producer in Puja Bedi when he was out on bail in 2010 and went on to do her film Ghost. The film tanked,and Shiney Ahuja who is still out on bail has slipped into oblivion. Jahnu Barua who helmed the project says that the case affected Shiney Ahuja’s career badly because of the offence he allegedly committed and more importantly,he was not a big star. “Our big stars can get away with anything.

In the West if a star is convicted people boycott him,but here in India it is the other way round. They become more popular,” said Barua

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