Sanjay Dutt’s sentencing to six years in jail has sent shock waves through the Hindi film industry, with producers of at least three films involving the actor wondering about

the fate of their incomplete projects, pegged at around IRs 1 billion. And whether people get to see a third sequel of the much-loved Munnabhai series remains a big question mark. The actor was sentenced on July 31 to jail for possessing illegal arms in the 1993 Mumbai terror bombings.

“I think film producers must be in a state of shock. Apparently Rs 1 billion was riding on his shoulders,” trade analyst Taran Adarsh said. The minimum budget for a Sanjay starrer is said to be IRs 150 million. Close associates and friends of the star are unhappy with the sentence given him.

Veteran Malayalam superstar Mammootty, expressing sadness over the verdict, said, “Even though before the law all are equal, I sincerely feel this should not have happened to him.”

Yesteryear’s popular actress Saira Banu, a close family friend of the Dutt family, was quite emotional.

“I am heartbroken. Whatever punishment has been meted out far exceeds the error. People have forgotten the atmosphere at the time of error (the riots that followed the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992). We were under constant threats,” Saira was quoted as saying.

“Sanju rescued injured people from the streets even when bullets were flying and took them to hospital. People make errors in such situations. My god, what a punishment!” she added.

Filmmaker Kunal Kohli told a TV channel, “Sanju has already paid for what happened. It’s really sad and upsetting as someone as kind hearted as Sanju is going through this.”

Unless the SC intervenes in his favour, his incomplete projects might well not see the light of day.

Meanwhile, Nepal reacted with shock and awe to Dutt’s sentencing.

“I was shocked to hear about the sentence,” said filmmaker Nabin Subba. “Though I had thought he would be jailed, I did not expect a six-year prison sentence. I felt it was not proportionate to his crime.”

Subba said he felt troubled at the thought when Dutt would be freed, he would be in his 50s. “For a actor, it spells the end to his career,” Subba said.

However, he added it was a personal feeling. The verdict, he said, also indicated that in India no one was above law. “The law treats you the same whether you are a politician or star or common man,” he said.

Actor Nikhil Upreti said that while he sympathised with Dutt as a fellow actor, the verdict proved that the law made no distinction between the rich and famous and the man on the street.

“I appreciate the fact that in India, no one is let off if he is found guilty,” Upreti said. “But in Nepal, the bigwigs are never brought to justice. They continue to enjoy powerful posts with no

one daring to take action against them.”

While appreciating the Indian legal system, Upreti, however, added he couldn’t believe that Dutt had committed such a big crime to deserve six years in prison.

“He did it partly out of ignorance,” Upreti said. “And then, he tried to make amends.” — HNS