Debate: In Defence of Sanjay Dutt and ‘Sanju’

Since June 29, Indian theatres have been filling up with people – all there to watch Raj Kumar Hirani’s biopic of the controversial Sanjay Dutt, starring Ranbir Kapoor.

This is not a review, instead, I want to talk about something I read recently – an article, titled ‘Sanju is no saint. He is a convicted criminal caught with AK-56′. The crux of the article is based on two things. One, a paragraph from a 1994 chargesheet from the illegal arms case, produced from a judgment issued by a  constitutional bench. Secondly, the fact that Dutt and politician Amar Singh allegedly secretly filmed then union minister H.R. Bhardwaj in 2009. Since these are all facts that we know and have read about a thousand times before, it felt as if the piece was written simple to revive Dutt’s problematic past.

Also read: Sanju Is an Expensive Gift from a Powerful Filmmaker to His Actor Friend

Although I am not a fan of Dutt’s, I do like some of his movies. But, I can now say that I have come to like the person he is (now). An an observer, I was very impressed with the way Dutt handled himself while he was incarcerated in 2013, and then again after he was released in 2016. I remember the press conference he held before surrendering himself in relation to the illegal arms case. Then, a broken, tearful Dutt had stated that he respected the Supreme Court’s decision.

He addressed the press again after his release in 2016. In this one, he talked openly about his time in prison and its impact on him. Dutt was highly transparent and open with both the media and the people of India about his transgressions. How many Bollywood stars can we think of who do the same?

Take Salman Khan, for example. He was acquitted in his drunk driving case, which resulted in a baffling judgment that implied nobody was driving the car that ran over people. In the black buck shooting case, he was convicted but obviously made bail immediately. The press only carried hazy pictures of Khan exiting the jail.

This is how Bollywood stars react when they are embroiled in a controversy. Avoidance and discretion are  keywords for them. On the other hand, Dutt made no show of hiding his tears, fear and repentance.

I am not saying that Dutt is a victim of his circumstances. Nor am I sympathetic towards his drug use or the fact that he stored illegal arms. I am simply saying that he has paid his debt to society and is now trying to move on – and we should let him.

Articles that rake up Dutt’s past don’t serve any purpose but to bring up the things that Dutt has already served time for – nor do they bring anything new to our discussion about celebrities or criminals or rehabilitation.

Let’s give Sanju Baba the peace he deserves and enjoy the film.

Ayushman Basu is a 25-year-old freelance writer currently in Mumbai, exploring the city. Find him on Twitter @ayushmanbasu

Featured image credit: Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt in Sanju/Youtube screenshot

If you would like to submit a rebuttal, send your piece to