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Producers pin hopes on jailed Bollywood actor Dutt's new film

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt is escorted by his security staff as he arrives to surrender at a court in Mumbai May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Pr
Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt is escorted by his security staff as he arrives to surrender at a court in Mumbai May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Pr

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The makers of actor Sanjay Dutt's last completed screen role before going to prison are preparing for the release of "Policegiri" in July, hoping fans of the beefy Bollywood hero will boost ticket sales.

Dutt, 53, went back to jail on May 16 to serve the remainder of a five-year sentence for firearms offences during the Mumbai bombings 20 years ago. The actor wrapped up work on pending Bollywood projects in the weeks before he reported to prison.

"Policegiri", an action thriller that stars Dutt as an intrepid police officer, is the first featuring him in a lead role to open in Indian cinemas since his incarceration. Dutt had a brief guest appearance in "Hum Hain Raahi Car Ke", a romantic comedy that sank at the box office last week.

The producer of "Policegiri" said Dutt would be missed at promotional events for the film.

"I am hoping that fans will go out and watch this film," said Rahul Aggarwal, who is co-producing the film with his father. "There should be no sympathy, only affection for Sanjay Dutt."

The Bollywood industry had reacted with shock to news of Dutt's sentencing in March with the actor seen by fans as a victim of his fame. His hit film "Khal Nayak" in 1993 coincided with his initial arrest on conspiracy charges in the Mumbai blasts that year.

The actor is best known for his role as a do-gooding gangster in the "Munnabhai" films of the last decade. A third film in the series was put on the back burner because of Dutt's imprisonment.

But trade analysts are skeptical about the ageing Dutt's ability to best competition at the box office. The actor's last commercial hit was 2012's "Agneepath", in which he played a menacing villain with a shaved head.

"He isn't the young Sanjay Dutt of 'Khal Nayak' fame any more," Bollywood trade analyst Amod Mehra said. "He was a superstar then but look at his age now."

(Writing by Tony Tharakan, editing by Paul Casciato)

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