By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Munnabhai taught us about the importance of jadoo ki jhappi to heal pain.
Today he’ll be happy to know the entire film fraternity has come forward to hug Sanjay Dutt….or Sanju Baba as he continues to be called at the age of 53.
Why Baba, you may well ask. That’s because Nargis and Sunil Dutt’s adorable moppet never grew up. Once when Lataji was singing on stage for Sunil Dutt’s charity show , 10-year old Sanju Baba ran up on stage and joined her impromptu. The legend laughed.
No one is laughing any more.
I know there are a multitude of cynics out there who will say, ‘Really, he can’t afford to be a ‘Baba’ , as in a child, when he’s heading towards being a Baba on the other end of the spectrum.’
The cynics are right. If you can’t grow up in time, you better be prepared to be spanked. And what spanking destiny has delivered to Sanjay Dutt.
I’ve never seen an unhappier man trying so hard to be happy. Sanju could buy anything in the world. And he often did. Nothing gives him greater pleasure than to buy stuff for friends, family (specially his daughter for whom he goes berserk buying gifts) and himself. But his joy at purchased pleasures was always short-lived.
The court cases and the legal wrangles perpetually truncated his pleasure in the good things of life.
I’ve never spoken to this endearing child-man without his problems surfacing during the conversation…like a terrible disease whose pain you can assuage but never eliminate.
We’d be chatting about his movies and his friends and family (that’s all Dutt has ever concerned himself with) when suddenly he’d say, “You think I’ll get out all these legal problems? I’ve fought for so long I don’t know what it’d feel like to be absolutely free, to not have to think twice about getting permission to visit my daughter in the US, to not bunk shooting because I’ve to attend court, to just have a day when I don’t have to think I’m a marked man.”
After Munnabhai MBBS, Sanjay Dutt could’ve been the master of the box office. The undisputed supremo.
Fate willed otherwise.
“I can’t even enjoy the success of Munnabhai, Subhash,” he had complained when the first part of the Raj Kumar Hirani series came out four years ago.
After Lage Raho Munnabhai, he again complained of the same thing. And yet continued to shoot and lead a ‘normal’ life. But how normal can life be for someone who has the prison gates rattling in his ear?
Doing interviews with Sanjay has always been a near-impossibility. The questions asked are always five times longer than the answers given.
I nicknamed him the Great Mumbler. He enjoyed the joke on himself…always . I’ve never come across a more self-deprecating superstar.
While other Marquee Maharajas frequently feign modesty, Dutt is a true-blue Modesty Blitz. Sometimes his self-questioning and his concern for others hit me like a bolt.
Once when I observed that Salman Khan seemed to idolize Dutt and appeared to be following in his footsteps Sanjay grew uncharacteristically serious. The gravelly chuckle disappeared as he expressed concern for Salman and wondered how wrong it was if the junior colleague was actually following Sanju’s footsteps.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what I have,” Sanju had whispered softy into the phone.
That one sentence lingered between us through all our subsequent conversations that were breezy easy-going light-hearted but always tinged with sadness.
Sanju’s eyes and voice sought a reassurance that things would finally be fine between him and destiny. After his father’s death, Sanju took his responsibilities as the man of the Dutt household very seriously. He told me he felt like a father-figure to his two sisters and needed to get his life back into shape more for their sake than his own.
That wasn’t meant to be. Fate continues to deal a cruel hand to Sanju Dutt.
Have you seen Sanjay’s eyes and smile? They are straightway the mirrors into his soul—unspoilt, untouched and completely liberated of malice.
No wonder he’s equally loved by the senior and junior Bachchan. On one occasion each I’ve seen the Big B and Junior very uncomfortable doing a film.
So why did you do it? I asked them on both the occasions.
Simple, came the answer. Because Sanju said so.
There are many untold Sanju stories in the film industry about his largesse and generosity of spirit. The one that I’d like to tell you now is about this very very upright and righteous actress who was in a serious crisis. It came to a point where this spunky vivacious never-say-die actress was willing to leave the film industry .
Then someone suggested she speak to Sanju. Her problems vanished.
Sanjay Dutt is the ultimate Mr Fix-It in the industry. If a spotboy needed money for an eye operation, he knew where to go. If an actress needed to be bailed out of a crisis, she just needed to dial S for Sanju.
When the verdict on him was passed, the industry just ceased to function. Nobody wanted to do anything, not even shoot.
Have I seen so much goodwill for anyone in the entertainment industry? Frankly no.
But then I haven’t seen a good man subjected to so much suffering either.
That jadoo ki jhappi? Can it protect Sanju from more pain, please?
As he spends a lonely birthday behind bars, we can only say, keep that spirit high, Sanju Baba. You have a lot to look forward to once this ordeal is over.
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