Sanju and friends

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By Celebrity Circus BHARATHI S. PRADHAN
  • Published 17.12.06

Imagine a court scene where Dawood Ibrahim furnishes proof of all the zakat he has given, along with signatures from all the lower downs who have benefited from his charity work. Try and picture Arun Gawli swaying legal sentiments by providing them with a list of the marriages he has conducted. Or, visualise Manu Sharma or Vikas Yadav winning the court’s sympathy by getting their dad’s political cronies to parade in protest against sentencing either of them, for they are such caring, wonderful human beings. Does a murder here or there really count when they’ve done so much good for their supporters?

The film world, the underworld and the murky underbelly of politics are all bound by the same symptoms — sycophancy takes you places and the ‘we’re-above-the-law’ flavour is distinct.

For years, the film industry has been battling the stigma of being a place that’s full of boors who are barely literate and who truly believe that they are a law unto themselves. But when educated Mumbai boy Suniel Shetty, a businessman to boot, starts a movement in support of Sanjay Dutt and passes the Shetty court sentence, ‘Sanju has suffered enough’, the film industry goes back to the time when actors were looked down upon as nautanki log whom you don’t take too seriously.

Mercifully, the public prosecutor’s threat that they’d be up for contempt of court made the Shetty gang backtrack. And so, December 12, the day Shetty had marked as solidarity day to gather the film industry for a signature campaign against sentencing Sanjay Dutt, came and went without the promised hysteria. When he announced this ill-advised campaign and got all the film associations into it, what in the world was Suniel Shetty hoping to achieve? Does a list of the charities done, or a good conduct certificate signed by those who stand to profit from an association with Dutt amount to an admissible legal argument? But the film industry has been going overboard in trying to make an argument out of the charitable side of both its bad boys, Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan, as if that has any connection with illegal possession of arms or drunken driving.

But what Shetty hoped to achieve was soon evident. Suniel Shetty was the businessman behind the recent GIFA awards in Malaysia, a baggy, poorly-arranged show by all accounts. Earlier, Shetty had even boasted that for the first time there would be performances by Salman Khan and girlfriend Katrina Kaif and Ash-Abhishek, etc. Ultimately, there were only solo shows by most of them with plenty of goof-ups on stage.

While most reports threw the sheer disorganised ways of the GIFA management under the spotlight, guess who came out in strong support of Suniel Shetty? Sanjay Dutt’s right-hand man, Sanjay Gupta! The you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours was in full display, as Gupta rubbished reports of a mismanaged function and talked of how lavishly and wonderfully they were treated. That a few chosen people who mattered were privy to first-rate treatment was never in doubt, Mr Gupta!

But Sanjay Gupta’s support (which may be read as a tacit nod from Sanjay Dutt himself) proved that Shetty was right after all — sycophancy does pay.

Unlike his hysterically misguided friends, Sanjay Dutt is making all the right noises. His appeal to his supporters (which came only after the public prosecutor’s threat) to refrain from a signature campaign and to reiterate his own faith in the judiciary, was politically correct. His hiring new, additional counsel like V.R. Manohar to bail him out of an immediate surrender is also perfectly aboveboard. Honestly, when Dutt has the means to explore the best legal options, why do Shetty and gang try to do a rowdy detour?

Meanwhile, Sanjay Dutt, who knows that even the minimum sentence means a short stint in jail, is finally doing what he ought to have done all along — he is completing all his pending work (dubbing for an ancient film like Sarhad Paar, shooting for Dhamaal and hopefully for Mr Fraud too), so that he goes in with a clean slate behind him. Now that’s the kind of action programme that will help Dutt win true support.

Hey, psst!

Whoever saw Abhishek Bachchan buzzing around Aishwarya like a protective bodyguard at the Baabul premiere, would’ve been in no doubt at all that the young man’s smitten badly. With dad Amitabh indulging him, he looks as delighted as a schoolboy who has been allowed a new box of candy. Aishwarya couldn’t have asked for a more attentive boyfriend, especially one who comes with the security muscle of the Bachchans. Abhishek not only arrived early but also ensured that Salman Khan was gently escorted to another row. It almost seemed like Abhishek had overseen the arrangements to protect his woman, not so much from the crowds, but from her unpredictable ex-flame!

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International