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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bollywood star weeps as he heads for prison

One of Bollywood's biggest film stars wept in court today after being sentenced to six years in prison for possessing weapons linked to a terror attack which killed 257 people in Bombay in 1993.

In a case which has gripped the Indian media, Judge Pramod Kode said Sanjay Dutt, one of the Indian film industry's most recognisable faces, had shown "scant respect for the law" by being found with the guns at his home, given to him by some of the plotters.

As the Judge handed down his testimony, Dutt stood weeping before him. "In no sense can this be said to be a minor offence," Mr Kode said, adding as he looked directly at the film star: "Don’t be sentimental - be calm and quiet."

The star's sentencing marks the end of an extraordinary Bombay-based trial over the March 12, 1993, bombings, which has lasted 12 years.

During the course of the proceedings more than 100 people were convicted over the attacks, a dozen of which were sentenced to death, while 686 witnesses were questioned and thousands of pages of testimony examined.

Dutt was found guilty last November of illegally possessing three automatic rifles and a pistol, but was acquitted of being directly behind - or involved in - the terrorist bombings.

After serving an initial 18 months after his initial arrest before being released on bail, today's sentence means Dutt will spend four and a half years behind bars.

In particular, his sentence is regarded as bad news for Bollywood - the Indian answer to Hollywood - as Dutt was regarded as one of the industry's best-known and most marketable figures.

Bollywood could lose about 500 million rupees (£6m) for two unfinished Dutt films, Alibag and Fraud, Komal Nata, who runs the Film Information magazine, told the AP news agency.

"It is a body blow to the film industry," Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt, who directed Dutt in the 1986 hit movie Namm, or Name, added.

A well-known action hero who found a niche in comedy over the past five years, Dutt’s case was closely tracked in a nation whose industry has boomed significantly over the last decade.

Despite being out on bail for over a decade, Dutt was able to complete a number of major film projects and only recently finished filming comedies like Dhamaal, or Loud Noise, and Phatafat, or Pronto.


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