This past weekend I was in Mangalore and happened to catch a movie called “Jolly L.L.B.”, starring Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. The movie was a satire on the Indian Judicial System and featured Jolly (Warsi) as an upstart Lawyer who engages in a battle of wills and wits against the highly experienced and renowned Tejinder Rajpal (Irani), all in the name of securing a reputation for himself.
As the events unfold, Jolly learns the hard knocks of the Indian Justice and almost has to reconcile to the harsh reality that there were two separate systems of justice – one for the rich and another for the poor; wherein the rich are often shown leniency and the poor more often than not have the book thrown at them.
But like any Hindi movie, Jolly comes out on top. While mediocre for the most part, a highlight of the courtroom dramedy came at the final act. Rajpal brusquely dismisses Jolly’s case in his closing arguments, insinuating the pavement dwellers that were killed by his client were culpable as the pavements were not meant for sleep. He then buffers his cynicism citing the youth’s impeccable family background and his lack of previous offences. But our hero, Jolly trumps Rajpal that while the pavements aren’t meant for sleeping, they aren’t meant to drive on either. Jolly triumphs and not only gets recognized, but also secures justice for the needy victims.
However, any remnants of having felt good at the happy ending in celluloid were erased after I saw Warsi’s reaction to Sanjay Dutt’s conviction in the ’93 Bombay Blasts Case being upheld by the Supreme Court. Here’s a tweet by Warsi expressing his emotions at the verdict:
“I am numb, I don’t know what to say. Sanjay Dutt is not a criminal. This is too harsh a decision.”
Wow Arshad! Really! Wow! The last time I checked, Sanjay Dutt DID admit to having possessed an illegal weapon. Even if we accept his defense of needing to protect himself and his family in the heated and vitiated circumstances that prevailed in Bombay then with a huge pinch of salt, why would a celebrity of his stature need an assault weapon that isn’t even issued to policemen or bodyguards? Why didn’t he just approach the police for protection instead of asking his “friends” like Abu Salem for arms? And what’s more damning is all this came to pass even when he had Sunil Dutt for a father. The same Sunil Dutt, who was an actor-turned-politician and could have easily secured security from the establishment.
And what’s more ironical is the fact that Warsi was lamenting the lack of justice in India and taking up cudgels for the common man while publicizing his movie. Below are quotes from an interview to The Times Of India dated March 15th, 2013:
“……It is a story of hope and the fact that truth always triumphs…. Every second person in India is Jolly. Like every other man, he wants to have a better life, wants to make some extra money and is struggling for it……….. They want to believe that justice will happen….”
Mahesh Bhatt, who is normally seen on talk shows giving full vent to his ire on many of the burning issues in the country, was self-admittedly “shocked” and lamented that the honorable court did not see merit of Dutt mending his ways and having spent a lot of his time and money in charitable activities.
The same Mahesh Bhatt who condemned the judiciary in not having had Kasab hung fast enough, mind you.
The overall mood echoed the popular western reality show “I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!”
This isn’t the first time when celebrities have “voiced their opinions”. Even a new born baby in India would know that celebrities give out statements only with their own interests in mind, ideally timed suspiciously with the impending release of their next venture.
We all remember the angst that came to the fore after the brutal Gang Rape of a Physiotherapy Student in a moving bus in New Delhi last December. Everyone who was anyone, especially people from the world of films and television were out in force to show their solidarity, be it on social forums like Twitter or on the streets with candle-light vigils.
Yet, the fact that there had been a stony silence on Shiney Ahuja when he had been accused of sexually assaulting his domestic help was quietly buried in the din of sound bites with each trying to sound more outraged than the previous one.
Even more disconcerting is the rehabilitation of Salman Khan in recent years. From being accused of shooting Black Bucks illegally, to having beaten up his then girlfriend Aishwarya Rai to getting embroiled in a drunken driving case where he ended up mowing down innocent pavement dwellers, he’s now the ultimate face of charity by celebrities in India. Not a single day passes without one incident of his kindness being reported in leading national Newspapers. His co-stars sing paeans to his large heartedness.
Yet, ask any of his contemporaries of his unsavory past, and you’d get the same old this-is-sub-judice-and-i-can’t-talk-about-it shtick. Wasn’t the 26/11 case sub-judice then? Wasn’t the Delhi Gangrape sub-judice too?
Even everybody’s favorite romantic actor Shahrukh Khan can get away with man-handling a security officer who had been discharging his duties under the pretext of having done it in the heat of the moment.
I hate comparing the Indian way of living to “first world” societies. But the contrast is stark when one sees a celebrity like George Clooney talking to the UN Security Council on the Darfur Crisis and not by running fiefdoms like Salman Khan does with “Being Human”.
Of course, the West has its own share of self-centered and spineless celebrities. But unlike here where half of Bollywood was in mourning for Sanjay Dutt, not a single prominent and socially conscious celebrity gave a damn about Lindsay Lohan being convicted for several drunken driving violations within months, while Dutt’s tryst with the law took twenty years to culminate.
Someone should probably knock some sense into these “role-models”. Being a public figure not only entails fame and adulation. It also comes with its fair share of responsibilities. It’s highly amusing when a Saif Ali Khan puts on this “Chhote Nawab” persona of having had a high class and royal upbringing, only to end up beating the daylights of a fellow diner who asked him to keep his voice down.
This isn’t a first, nor will it be the last of such flagrant display of tailoring the situation to suit one’s needs by Indian celebrities. While they are accusing the judiciary of harshness, what everyone forgets is that the Apex Court actually showed some lenience by having reduced his sentence to the bare minimum of five years with time served bringing it down to three and a half. Also, the glossed over fact is that Dutt was tried under a less harsh law, the Arms Act and not the more notorious law TADA under which many of his co-accused had received harsher punishments. Instead of indirectly soliciting public sympathy by asking people to “pray for him”, Dutt should be privately thanking his stars. Had he not been Sanjay Dutt, son of congress politician Sunil Dutt, he would have probably faced having to spend the remainder of his middle age behind bars.
The only positive to take away is that no matter how many appeals he filed, no matter how many review petitions he lodged, Sanjay Dutt’s Karma has finally leveled the score. For Karma doesn’t care if you’re X, Y or Z. Do good, and see the good come back to you. But don’t expect it to overwhelm the bad that you have done, for no amount of good deeds can bribe your Karma into overlooking your past transgressions.
P.S.: This was written on March 22nd. Exactly a month ago.