Monday, August 06, 2007

Goodbye, Gandhigiri

Bollywood bad boy Sanjay Dutt (in pink at left) was sentenced last week to six years in prison for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai bombings. My interest in Bollywood peters out around 1980, but Sanjay's father, Sunil Dutt, was one of the great stars of postwar Indian cinema, and his mother, Nargis, virtually invented the modern Bollywood heroine in her landmark films of the 1950s with Raj Kapoor.

That Nargis, born a Muslim, and Dutt, a Hindu, met on the set of "Mother India" in 1957 made them emblematic of the nation's aspirations to unity and post-Partition peace. Sanjay's most famous role was that of Munna Bhai, a Mumbai mob boss who 'converts' to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi ('Gandhigiri'). Which gives his arrest for receiving arms from his Muslim underworld buddies an especially ironic twist: aspiration turned to fantasy turned to farce.

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