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When the entire film fraternity came out in support of Sanjay Dutt, who was accused under TADA in connection with 1993 Mumbai Bomb Blasts

With his hopes dwindling of getting his son out of the jail, the long-time Congress MP Sunil Dutt, who had been a fierce critic of Shiv Sena and it ideology, decided to visit Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 1995, to request him to extricate his son, who had been languishing in jail for the last 13 months.

Every time a catastrophic tragedy befalls Bollywood, members of the fraternity unite to ward off the threat that appears to upend the industry, even if that means siding with someone who is accused of serious crimes. Yesterday, a legion of Bollywood celebrities took to social media to extend their support and express their solidarity with actor Rhea Chakraborty after she was arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau for her possible involvement in procurement and consumption of drugs related to Sushant Singh Rajput death probe.

Scores of Bollywood celebrities, who would otherwise indulge in bitching or making gossipy claims about each other, came together, to defend the embattled actor, notwithstanding the grievous charges levelled against her. In a show of support to the actor, prominent Bollywood personalities took to social media, uploading posts in which they asked their followers to “smash the patriarchy”.

Some of them even went on to normalise drug peddling, its procurement and consumption, claiming that Rhea’s arrest is unfair because she was accused in the alleged suicide case of actor Sushant Singh Rajput but has been apprehended in connection with a drug case. Others, reluctant of openly supporting an accused arrested in the drug case, questioned the spectacle of media trial to extenuate the actor and paint her as a victim.

Bollywood supported Sanjay Dutt, who was accused under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA)

However, this is not the first time that the Bollywood personalities have come out in support of one of their own. About 26 years back, the entire Bollywood industry pulled together in support of actor Sanjay Dutt, who was arrested for keeping illegal weapons at his house given to him by Abu Salem, one of the gangsters responsible for orchestrating the gruesome Mumbai Bomb blasts in 1993.

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On July 4, 1994, Sanjay Dutt was remanded to judicial custody for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai Bomb blasts. He was arrested under the provisions laid down by the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act(TADA). By evening, the news trickled in throughout the industry. Shah Rukh Khan, who was shooting for a commercial shoot, hurried to the Dutt residence at midnight. Director Ramgopal Verma and actors Jackie Shroff and Gulshan Grover hightailed it to Mumbai from Hyderabad.

A meeting was convened by the Cine Artistes’ Association at chief Asha Parekh’s house the next day. The shock of Sanjay’s arrest had sent ripples across the movie industry. By next morning, i.e July 6, the entire Bollywood industry was mobilised to extend their support for the actor.

Shootings of the ongoing movies, commercials were cancelled forthright. Artistes and technicians from the industry gathered at a suburban hotel and from their went to Thane Jail, where Dutt was held, to hand over a letter to the jailor. The turnout was astonishing as several top Bollywood personalities, from Dilip Kumar to Yash Chopra and Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, to Saif Ali Khan, Mahesh Bhatt, Saira Banu, Karishma Kapoor, Amrish Puri, Randhir Kapoor and several others had come to the Thane Jail as a mark of solidarity for Sanjay Dutt.

Film director Mukul Anand had printed 1,000 posters overnight declaring “Sanju, we’re with u.” Controversial Film producer and director, Mahesh Bhatt, went on to slam the law for jailing Sanjay Dutt. “How can a law that applies to Dawood Ibrahim apply to Sanjay Dutt?” Bhatt had then asked.

Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar(from left to right) (Source: DNA India)

The Bollywood solidarity at Thane Jail was just the start. Industry stalwarts had planned several strategies to evoke public sympathy for the actor. About Rs 7 lakh were raised to print posters and media campaign in support of Sanjay Dutt. Music companies gave their hoarding space while theatres agreed to interrupt shows with slides in support of the actor. A well-coordinated campaign was run to enhance the battered image of Sanjay Dutt by focusing on the social causes he had been associated with in the past.

Sunil Dutt pleaded with Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray for release of his son

With his hopes dwindling of getting his son out of the jail, the long-time Congress MP Sunil Dutt, who had been a fierce critic of Shiv Sena and it ideology, decided to visit Sena chief Bal Thackeray in 1995, to request him to extricate his son, who had been languishing in jail for the last 13 months.

While Maharashtra had traditionally been a Congress stronghold, Hindutva and right-leaning ideologies were beginning to take root in the state in the early 90s. Though Congress had its government at the centre, Maharashtra was ruled by the coalition of BJP and Shiv Sena in 1995 when Sunil Dutt approached Bal Thackeray to get his son released.

Later in the Rajat Sharma show, when Dutt was asked why he had chose to visit Balasaheb Thackeray even though he had strongly opposed him in the past, Dutt replied, “During that time Shiv Sena was in power in the state and Bal Thackeray often used to proclaim that he had the keys of the government in his hands. So naturally anyone will reach out to the person who has the key to the government,” Dutt had said.

It is being alleged that Sunil Dutt had visited Bal Thackeray and pleaded with him to get his son released from the jail. After Bal Thackeray’s alleged intervention, Sanjay Dutt was released in 1995 after spending 18 months in the jail.

Sanjay Dutt with Balasaheb Thackeray(Source: Indian Express)

It was reported that soon after his release from the jail, Sanjay Dutt’s first stop was at the residence of Bal Thackeray to thank him and take his blessings. Dutt has since then expressed his gratitude for the Shiv Sena chief for his intervention and getting him out of jail. In November 2012, at the time when Bal Thackeray was in critical condition, Sanjay Dutt was quoted by the Times of India as saying, “Balasaheb is a father figure to me. He stood by me at a time when no one else came forward to support me.”

In 2006, the TADA court found Sanjay Dutt guilty of Arms Act but acquitted him under TADA. Later, he was sentenced for 5 years in jail for illegal weapons possession in a case linked to the 1993 serial blasts that killed 257 people in Mumbai.

Bollywood made a hagiography on Sanjay Dutt to whitewash his past crimes

However, Bollywood’s long-drawn attempt to scrub Sanjay Dutt’s image clean continued with a biopic made on the controversial actor. A hagiographic movie based on the life of Sanjay Dutt was made, which tried to pass off the actor’s wrongdoings as his impetuous and thoughtless caprices. The movie was branded as a tear-jerker that was significantly economical with the truth, often misrepresenting and in some instances omitting the actual turn of events, made with the express desire of minimising the vices of Sanjay Dutt and exaggerating his somewhat modest virtues.

While the critics close to the Bollywood industry hailed the movie and acting of Ranbir Kapoor, who played the character of Sanjay Dutt, the biopic received severely critical reviews from the audiences, who claimed that the movie was a shoddy attempt at whitewashing the image of Sanjay Dutt and exculpating him of being involved in any way with the ghastly Mumbai Bomb Blasts 1993.

It is, therefore, not very surprising, that the entire Bollywood industry, has swung into action, to defend actor Rhea Chakraborty in the wake of her arrest in the drugs case linked with the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. When the Bollywood had no qualms in being associated with an accused, who was at the time, charged of as serious crime as supporting Terror activities, then supporting Rhea Chakraborty for a piddly little crime as alleged involvement in drugs procurement is a no brainer.

And today again it is Shiv Sena that is in power along with Congress and NCP.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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