Does Sanjay Dutt deserve sympathy?

March 21, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

First, the facts — the 1993 Mumbai blasts killed 257 people, more than 100 people were convicted, and it took more than 20 years to deliver justice in a case that has all but faded from the nation’s collective memory.

And yet, if you looked at the headlines on Thursday, you would be forgiven for thinking the Supreme Court ruling was only about actor Sanjay Dutt. And the only tragedy was the one that had befallen Dutt and his family members.

As news of the court ruling trickled in, words of sympathy gushed from Bollywood, with film-makers such as Mahesh Bhatt and Karan Johar expressing solidarity with Dutt, and saying he did not deserve this.
Dutt was in his 30s when he was arrested, mature enough to know he was committing a crime. But do things change just because he’s an actor?

Everybody makes mistakes; some more serious than the rest. And we have to pay for them. Should Dutt be treated differently from other criminals just because of his position?

It’s not the first time a Bollywood star facing a prison term has been portrayed as a victim. With the possible exception of Shiney Ahuja, who was accused of raping his maid and was ostracized by the industry, fans and the media have been sympathetic to film stars. Salman Khan, for example, was involved in a hit-and-run case and was found guilty in a case of poaching but his popularity has increased over the years.

Bollywood stars are larger-than-life personalities in India and fans are often indulgent and willing to overlook their flaws. But that shouldn’t extend to breaking the law.

(Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay )

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