Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt back in jail

 

Actor Sanjay Dutt, one of Bollywood's biggest stars, has returned to prison to serve the remainder of a five-year sentence for firearms offences during the Mumbai bombings 20 years ago, forcing at least one film onto the back burner.

Dutt, popular for his role as a do-good gangster in the Munnabhai films, was sentenced to six years jail in 2007 for acquiring illegal weapons from men convicted for the 1993 attacks that killed 257 people.

He served 18 months but then was out on bail, fighting the conviction until a court in March ordered him back to jail.

Projects worth up to 2.5 billion rupees ($46 million) and the fate of several Bollywood movies hung in the balance after the March ruling, but the actor was said to have wrapped up filming for most pending projects in the last few weeks.

But at least one film, the third Munnabhai comedy in which Dutt was to reprise his role, has been put on the back burner.

Dutt returned to prison late on Thursday night. He was later expected to be moved to a jail in the western city of Pune.

Clad in white kurta pyjamas and sporting a traditional Hindu "tilak" mark on his forehead, Dutt waved at waiting reporters before leaving his house amid heavy security. The actor was accompanied by his wife and sister.

Television showed Dutt being taken to a Mumbai court. He was swamped by media at the court complex and had to beg reporters to move back so that he could get out of his car.

"I have to surrender," the actor said, gesturing with folded hands. "Please move back! I need to go upstairs."

The beefy action hero was the most high profile of 100 people involved in the Mumbai bombings trial, which ended in 12 people receiving the death penalty and lifetime sentences for others.

In 2007, Dutt was cleared of conspiracy charges in the attacks but found guilty of illegal possession of an AK-56 rifle and a pistol, which he claimed he required to protect himself and his family during a period of rioting in Mumbai.

In March, the Supreme Court reduced the 53-year-old actor's sentence to five years and ordered him back to jail, but in April it gave the actor four extra weeks of freedom to finish some of his Bollywood films. A last-ditch petition was dismissed by the court on Tuesday.

Dutt is best known for his turn in Lage Raho Munnabhai, a comedy about a gangster espousing Gandhian values that won the popular film prize at the National Film Awards for 2006.

Reuters

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