Mumbai, Sept. 26: Sanjay Dutt’s theatre debut just got delayed.
A Marathi play where the actor was to have performed with his fellow inmates of Pune’s Yerwada jail was cancelled abruptly today following concerns about a possible terror attack.
The fundraiser show — Teemiratun Tejakade (From darkness to light) — would have been the Bollywood hunk’s first on a theatre stage.
The 53-year-old, convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, was due to perform with 50 fellow inmates at Pune’s Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir in the charity event for the jail’s prisoners’ welfare association.
The play, where Dutt was to enact a solo-act skit, was scheduled to start at 4 in the afternoon but was cancelled after a top-level meeting of Maharashtra police.
“There are security issues which I cannot disclose at this point. So we have decided to conduct the programme after a few days. We will return all the money paid by the donors for this charity,” Maharashtra additional director-general (prisons) Meeran Borwankar said.
The security concern also meant Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde would have to wait to see Dutt act on stage another day. Shinde and Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan were among those who were to attend the performance by the actor, who had been coached by his Munna Bhai director Raju Hirani.
Dutt’s wife Maanyata and sister, Congress MP Priya Dutt, were in Pune to watch him perform but returned to Mumbai after the show was called off.
A senior police source told The Telegraph there was information about a possible attack by the Indian Mujahideen. “We were told that in the course of his interrogation, (arrested) Indian Mujahideen operative Yasin Bhatkal revealed that the venue of the show could be a possible target and that IM operatives had already conducted a survey here,” the source said.
Bhatkal, arrested on August 28 from the India-Nepal border and now being questioned by the National Investigation Agency in Delhi, is an accused in the 2010 Pune German Bakery blast that killed 17 people, including several Calcuttans.
He has reportedly told investigators that he had an apple pie and a cold coffee at the joint before planting the bomb.
A Maharashtra police officer claimed that Dutt, who is serving a 42-month sentence under the Arms Act, has also been receiving anonymous threats.
The actor, who has applied for parole, is expected to be granted a two-week furlough soon. “Furlough is a matter of right and is to be granted to the prisoner periodically to enable him to retain family and social ties and avoid the ill effects of continuous prison life. The period of furlough is treated as remission of sentence,” the police officer said.
Dutt has sought furlough on medical grounds after it became clear that getting parole would be a long process. He wants to consult doctors for his high blood pressure.