The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, March 16, 2003
Lead Article

In the spotlight
Playing cops and robbers in real life
Gautam Grover

  Sanjay Dutt
Sanjay Dutt

HE has played the self-righteous cop in film after film. But in real life, Sanjay Dutt continues to be hounded by the law. He has been accused of hobnobbing with the underworld, keeping unlicensed arms, conspiring with anti-national elements, running with the hare and hunting with the hounds...

Yet, every time he appears in court or is summoned to a police station, the media gets into an overdrive on heaping some additional charges on him. It is all very speculative. And that is what irritates the macho actor who has been fighting for his self-esteem for more than a decade.

"I cannot understand why everybody gets into a photo frenzy every time I come out of the court or the crime branch office," he complains. "I have been doing this for years. How does the picture change from what it was ten years back."

Indeed, the picture remains as grim as it was when he first apprehended and jailed in the Bombay blasts case in 1993. Technically, Sanjay is out on bail and he has to regularly inform the cops of his movements and seek court permission if he has to make an overseas trip.

He knows he is not a free man and the anxiety is now telling on his countenance. "Itís a lot of pressure," he admits. "I still havenít got used to it. The only relief I get is from work. Maybe, ten years ago I wouldnít have been able to do it. But now, I put everything aside, come and shoot for my films."


But then, ten years ago Sanjay was not 43 years old. "I think I have grown with time and experience, and become more mature," he broods. "I have learnt the lessons of life and try to put the bad memories away. I want to move on in life."

There are many bad memories. Despite being the only son of Mumbaiís most venerated film couple, Nargis and Sunil Dutt, he let everything fall through. His parents gave him a dream launch in a home production, Rockey in 1980, but his dependence on drugs got into his way.

The death of his mother (from cancer) prompted him to turn into a new leaf, go through a de-addiction course and take life seriously. But one tragedy (his wifeís brain cancer) after another followed, almost costing him his film career.

"Every time I thought it was all over and could concentrate on my work, something more drastic came up," Sanjay ruminates. "I began to even believe that there were hidden forces at work, trying to pull me down. Ultimately, I surrendered myself to Sai Baba ó let him decide my destiny."

But surely, he too has his share of guilt?

"I guess, my fault is that I am not a good judge of people," he states. "I am easily trusting. Anybody who speaks nicely or nice of me, I would fall for. People knowing my weakness, start using me. And it is only later, much later, that I realise I was being used. By then, invariably, it is too late."

Consequently, he has now become cautious and chooses to work with a select group of familiar people, no matter what others might say. He is not ashamed to admit that he is most comfortable working for directors like Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar as they are "friends who deliver".

"Besides, Iíve been in this line for 23 years," he justifies. "So I canít now be expected to go to any or every filmmaker and say, please sir, I am dying to work with you. I have passed that stage. Maybe, some directors expect this of me. I couldnít care much about them!"