Sanjay DuttFor Sanjay Dutt, last week’s sensational revelations about his taped conversations with Chhota Shakeel, a prominent Karachi-based don, has proved that if art often imitates life, in his case it is the other way round.Having played, with acclaimed conviction, an underworld figure in a series of movies – Naam,,Sanjay DuttFor Sanjay Dutt, last week’s sensational revelations about his taped conversations with Chhota Shakeel, a prominent Karachi-based don, has proved that if art often imitates life, in his case it is the other way round.Having played, with acclaimed conviction, an underworld figure in a series of movies – Naam, Khalnayak, Vaastav – the ending this time may not be what is cinematically correct in Bollywood terms. The legal implication of the latest episode involving Bollywood’s bad boy is unlikely to have a happy ending.Spoil sport: Unlike 1993, there may be little public sympathy for Sanjay Dutt this timeSanjay’s conversation with Shakeel – a Dawood Ibrahim lieutenant and one of India’s 20 most-wanted criminals involved in anti-national activities- tapped by the Mumbai Police in November 2000 and serialised last week in the media, sent shockwaves through an already beleaguered film industry.The tapes caught Sanjay along with filmmakers Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Gupta and producer Harish Sugandh speaking to Shakeel about Dubai SIM cards, a recalcitrant colleague, killing of rival gangster Abu Salem and realistic murder sequences. Says Rakesh Maria, chief investigator in the 1993 bomb blast cases which had put Sanjay behind bars: “Sanjay and his ilk are a symbol of a heady mix of criminal power and glamour which helps to pave the way for the underworld menace.”For Sanjay, whose career has been punctuated by drug addiction, a fascination for weapons, doomed relationships and now a criminal record, this is easily his most dangerous liaison and is the most intriguing aspect of the case.advertisementGrace ending: Sanjay Dutt sought Bal Thackeray’s (centre) blessings soon after his release from jailSanjay gives every impression of being a Jekyll and Hyde character who can be loveable, loyal and hugely talented and yet remain obsessed with living life on the edge. The police transcripts clearly suggest that he revels in his relationship with the underworld, that anything illicit and dangerous seems to turn him on.What makes it paradoxical is that his star has never been brighter since his 1993 arrest. After his lengthy stay in jail, Sanjay defied fate and his detractors to rake up three hits – Daag: The Fire, Haseena Maan Jayegi and Vaastav – and two average grossers, Khubsoorat and Kartoos.So what makes him keep returning to the dark side? Tanuja Chandra, who made Dushman with Sanjay, says he is very childish and short-tempered and has a fascination for the risky side of life. “I think he is very irresponsible but he is not a criminal,” she says.Sanjay DuttThat Chikna you know, calls up Karisma on the phone and abuses her. He tells her that his men will come and **** her and go. The f*****, what is this? How can he do this … you think and tell me, bhai.Chhota ShakeelHe won’t be around for long. Just pray, we are at it … If he had come … you people would have had some good news to hear … would have been good if he were to come to meet you … we would have traced him on the second or third day … I told him the same thing … the devil’s breath is warm and hot … but when it will cease nobody can predict …Police Interpretation: Chikna refers to Abu Salem. The D Company is after him. The discussion is about killing Salem.Sanjay DuttI am in Nashik, bhai …You were to send that chip, bhai?Chhota ShakeelShould I send it? Do you want one from here (Karachi) or Dubai?Sanjay DuttSend it, bhai.Police Interpretation: The chip refers to a SIM card to be sent from Karachi or Dubai to prevent its interception.Sanjay DuttThat Govinda, he’s a big f*****. He doesn’t come on time. I have been working with him … He comes at 2 p.m. for a 9 a.m. shift.Chhota ShakeelWhich movie is this one? Jodi Number 2?Sanjay DuttYes, bhai.Chhota Shakeel(laughs …) He will come all right and on time for our movie.Police Interpretation: Complaint about Govinda’s ways. Shakeel later called the actor and told him to report for film shoots on time and not to create trouble for the director and producer.His close friends are equally perplexed. Says Sanjay Chhel, filmmaker: “He is an intriguing, paradoxical figure who has the ability to rise from the ashes and yet manage to get himself into trouble almost constantly. Maybe, it’s because he thinks with his heart.”Whether he can recover from the latest setback is doubtful. His father Sunil Dutt, who was about to begin a peace crusade on the Gujarat issue, told India Today: “A s a father I say that Sanjay is innocent but I know that is not enough.advertisementLet the courts decide whether he is guilty or not.” Brave words, but the case against his son has taken a serious turn. Nine years ago, when Sanjay was arrested in connection with the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, it threatened to bring Bollywood to a grinding halt. The wheel, it seems, has come full circle.When Sanjay was first arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, there was genuine public sympathy, more so because of his lineage: the son of Bollywood’s Golden Couple, Sunil Dutt and Nargis. His continued incarceration made him a cause celebre and there were celebrations when he was finally released in 1995 – his first act was to seek Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s blessings.The crime that Sanjay was accused of was of illegally possessing an AK-56 assault rifle at the peak of the Mumbai riots. When asked if he owned such a gun, he denied it while simultaneously ar ranging for the weapon to be surreptitiously destroyed. Identical charges were framed against several others.Sanjay, many people felt, was a victim of circumstance. He had tragically lost his mother, had overcome a severe drug addiction problem and had seen his marriage break up. His father had offered to resign from Parliament and his family had been threatened by Hindu extremist organisations.So when the police came up with their allegations – among them the accusation that he had plotted to blow up the Bombay Stock Exchange – former actor and current Minister of Health and Family Welfare Shatrughan Sinha had retorted: “Don’t be ridiculous. He doesn’t even know what a stock exchange is.”Making Sense of Sanjay Dutt”As a father I say Sanjay is innocent, but I know that is not enough.”Sunil Dutt, father”That is his adrenaline rush. He can cry at the drop of the hat. I think he is irresponsible but he is not a criminal.”Tanuja Chandra, Sanjay’s Director in Dushman”His behaviour pattern shows self-destructive traits and his attitude towards life shows narcissism and immaturity.”Dayal Mirchandani, Psychiatrist”Sanjay and his ilk are merely a symbol of a heady mix of criminal power and glamour which has helped to pave the way for the underworld menace.”Rakesh Maria, chief investigator in the 1993 bomb blast cases” I wouldn’t like to believe the fact but the act fills me with rage and revulsion. Sanjay is an overgrown kid who is confident that he’ll beat the system.”Mahesh Bhatt, Sanjay’s Director in SadakThe case so farCase: Possession of unauthorised firearms – at the peak of the Mumbai riots in 1993 – thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 3 (3) of the TADA Act, 1987. Also, the arms were kept in the notified area of Greater Mumbai.Status: The trial in the case of the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, which killed 257 people, maimed 713 and damaged property worth Rs 27 crore in Mumbai, has reached a conclusive stage. Of the 121 accused, including Sanjay, 39 are still in custody. The CBI has submitted its version. The defence argument is on and is likely to be completed by the end of August. The CBI will have a chance to rebut on legal points only. The final hearing is expected by December. The CBI has examined 684 witnesses in all in the designated TADA court. The prosecution recorded 12,000 pages of evidence before closing its case on September 27. A total of 2,500 documents were produced.Sanjay seems to be living out some of his most successful roles-those of characters on the wrong side of the law. Talking about Vaastav, Sanjay had told India Today that Raghu, the character he plays in the film, was cuttingly close to reality. “It’s a brutally frank and frighteningly realistic overview of the underworld.” Yet, it is a role he plays to perfection.advertisementPerhaps that is what attracts him to the Shakeels of this world. Says psychiatrist Dayal Mirchandani: “His behaviour pattern shows self – destructive traits and his attitude towards life shows narcissism and immaturity.” Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt feels, “Sanjay is an overgrown kid who is confident that he’ll beat the system.”According to psychiatrist Harish Shetty, Sanjay is obsessed with “pleasure – seeking”. He adds, “Sensation seeking is an associated trait that makes one vulnerable. An unstable environment with turmoil and dissonance in the family can convert vulnerable persons into dangerous beings.”Most of the movie-going public have found it easier to see him as a spoilt brat, a macho but unintelligent victim of his own insecurities, immaturity and naivete. After the latest revelations, however, that will certainly change, as will the aura around Bollywood.The latest setback comes on the heels of another major shock to the film industry – the arrest of producer Nasim Rizvi and top – notch financier Bharat Shah under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act for aiding and abetting Shakeel’s activities.The Mumbai Police have 72 cassettes containing conversations of various film personalities with Shakeel. The Shah – Rizvi case has opened a Pandora’s box for the film industry. Says Bhatt: “I am deeply embarrassed and cannot defend the undefendable.” The pressure to act against all those caught on tape is growing.FILMOGRAPHY1981: Rocky Gets customary star son launch, successfully plays biker brat.1982: Vidhaata Plays grandson of mob boss Dilip Kumar; fights reallife drug problem.1986: Naam Returns clean after drug rehab; grabs limelight.1989: Hathyar Plays thakur scion used by the mafia.1990: Kroadh Is underworld don to cop brother Sunny Deol.1991: Sadak The Taxi Driver remake gives him his first smash hit since Naam.1991: Saajan A radical change in image makes him the hottest star.1992: Yalgaar Treads familiar territory as mobster son; flaunts newly acquired physique. 1993: Khalnayak Jailed for possession of an AK-56 rifle.Controversy packs in audiences.1999: Vaastav Plays middle-class youth-turned-cokesniffing don.FILMS IN THE PIPELINEKaante (2002): One of the six NRI bank robbers in a failed Los Angeles heist.Hathiyar (2002): Plays a corporator involved with the underworld.Rudraksh (2003): Has supernatural powers after he discovers his inner self.Sarhad Paar (2002): Plays prisoner of war in a Pakistani jail.Though Maharashtra Home Minister Chhagan Bhujbal denies any such pressure, he declares in the same breath that those found guilty will be punished. “We have the option to book some film personalities with links with the underworld,” says a senior officer in the Mumbai Crime Branch.Meanwhile, the CBI is analysing the legal implications of the taped conversation for the existing TADA case against Sanjay. He was released on bail on condition that he would not have any contact with others accused. But Sanjay’s advocate Satish Manshinde says, “Shakeel is not a bomb blast accused and talking to a gangster does not amount to a crime-morally maybe, but not legally.”Meanwhile, Bollywood has taken to the trenches – very few people are willing to speak on record. If the four persons involved with the tapes are arrested, Bollywood could be facing a serious crisis. The past five months have seen about 120 films fail miserably, causing a loss of around Rs 170 crore to the industry.Sanjay has five or six unfinished projects on hand, while Manjrekar and Gupta are involved in another four projects. Ironically, the latest project of Gupta and Sanjay is Kaante, scheduled for release later this month, and the industry is upbeat. Says Komal Nahta, editor, Film Information: “Any kind of publicity – good or bad-is considered to be good in the film world.”There is an intriguing question that remains unanswered. Why did the police sit on the tapes, recorded two years ago, without taking any action? The tapes were played at the Rizvi trial last week where journalists present got their hands on them.The Congress camp has already started to label it a political conspiracy aimed at undermining Sunil Dutt’s peace crusade. Whatever the reason for the tapes to surface now, this time round, there will be very few buyers of conspiracy theories. There is a question mark over the collective future of Manjrekar, Gupta, Sugandh and Sanjay. As there is over the world’s biggest movie industry.