Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt surrendered on Thursday to serve three-and-a-half years in jail for illegal possession of weapons, in a case linked to deadly bombings in Mumbai 20 years ago.
Accompanied by family and friends, the 53-year-old was greeted by a crowd of journalists at the gates of his home before travelling in a convoy of cars to a court in the city’s south, where another huge crowd swarmed around his vehicle.
Dutt was initially unable to leave the car because of the chaotic media mob that police struggled to control. He eventually entered the court with his sister and wife, and from there he was to be transferred to jail.
Dutt was convicted in 2006 of possessing guns supplied by gangsters who staged the 1993 bomb attacks that killed 257 people, but he was freed on bail after serving 18 months in prison.
In March this year the Supreme Court upheld Dutt’s conviction but cut his jail term from six years to five. He was later granted four extra weeks of freedom to work on unfinished movies.
The court on Tuesday refused to hear a plea of a film producer who sought more time for Dutt to surrender so he could complete two films still being shot.
Analysts estimate about 2.5 billion rupees (HK$357 million) are riding in Bollywood on the muscular star, who is best known for playing a mobster with a heart of gold in the Munnabhai movie series.
Filmmaker and close friend Mahesh Bhatt, who joined Dutt on his journey to surrender, said the actor was “crumbling” on Wednesday night but appeared much stronger on Thursday.
“There was a new resolve in him to face with dignity the sentence and go through it smiling, and that was a relief to everybody around,” said Bhatt.
On Wednesday Dutt withdrew a plea to give himself up in a different city, which he had made citing threats to his life.
Officials said Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail had received an anonymous death threat letter targeting the actor, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
A string of Bollywood celebrities visited Dutt’s home in Mumbai’s trendy Bandra suburb before he turned himself in. A Hindu rightwing group protested outside late on Wednesday demanding he receive the death penalty, reports said.
A heavy police presence stood guard at his residence and at the court Thursday.
The actor, whose parents were two of India’s biggest stars, shot to fame in the 1980s in a string of action movies in which he performed his own stunts, earning him the nickname “Deadly Dutt”.
Dutt, whose mother was Muslim and father Hindu, was acquitted in 2007 of more serious charges of conspiracy in the deadly blasts, which also wounded more than 700 people.
The attacks were believed to have been staged by Muslim underworld figures in retaliation for religious riots in which mainly Muslims died, following the razing of an ancient mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state.
Dutt was found guilty of possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol, which he insisted were only meant to protect his family in the tense atmosphere in Mumbai following the mosque’s destruction.
At a news conference following the hearing in March, the father-of-three wept as he declared himself “a shattered man” and some prominent figures have called for him to be pardoned.