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The Sanjay Dutt Interviews: Excerpts From Subhash K Jha Interviews Over The Years With The Star

Tell me   about your most  memorable  birthday?

They’ve all been  memorable in their own   way, even the ones  that came in my worst days. I don’t like  a  big birthday bash . I just want my near ones  on my birthday. It’s tough  to remember my past. But I want to move on.

It’s very difficult  to imagine  Sanju Baba  being 50-plus.

At heart   I’m still Baba.  But when I look into the mirror it’s a reality. And I  do feel  50-plus. But not  old.  I’ve been in the film industry  for so long .Yes,  it’s been a  long innings.During the last  18 years I’ve been  fighting for  my freedom  and I feel the burden of  the struggle now.I want to be  free, Subhash.I   want to walk into any consulate and get my  visa.  I  want my passport to be  with me.  I want to  visit any country  I want. Most important  of all I want the court cases  to end.

I believe you’re trying to get back into shape again?

Do you mean  my life  or body? My physique….well,  I  sometimes forget I am 49. But I’m getting there, I promise you. Hopefully  by December-January I’ll be  back in shape. I’ve this personal trainer named Lawrence from  Los Angeles . He’s fantastic.  He makes sure  I’m not overdoing it.

Your life has gone through tremendous upheavals in recent  times. Do you think the worst  is  over?

The best thing I did  was to get rid of the  undesirable  people in my life. But I wish them well  in life. I’ve no animosity  against them ,though they seem  to have a lot against me.  Even my enemies, I wish well. God bless them.

Are your wild days over?

Absolutely over.  I’m so  happy, touchwood. God has been kind to  me.

Do you feel less stressed  in life?

Yes. God has been great.  There’s good work coming my  way . I’m happy because I’m getting substantial roles. I had to finish my  backlog and start fresh. That  was  really important for me. 

You’ve now started  life on a  clean  slate…

I’m so relieved, I can’t tell you.  I’m finally able to sleep  peacefully at  night. I want to thank the whole industry  for standing by me. I  feel I’ve entered a   whole new world now.I’m very happy in my marriage with Maanyata. Everything seems  so  right for the first  time in my  life. I just want to do great work and  be  around friends who are like  my brothers. 

Your  sisters  were not happy about  your marriage?

This is  the  happiest relationship I’ve ever been in,and I’d expect my sisters  to be happy for me.Going by my past  record,  I don’t blame  anyone for being  suspicious of  this relationship.My life  has been  a rollercoaster .For my family specially my  sisters,  this  was just another mistake that I was making.  But I feel no one,not even the closest member  of  the family, has the  right  to interfere  in my personal life. 

You really stood by Maanyata?

That’s the least I could do. She has  proved   herself  over and over  again,  though I’ve told her repeatedly  that she  doesn’t need  to prove herself to me  or  to any member   of my family. But she’s a very  warm  giving and family-oriented person. And to her , winning  over  my  family  was very important. And she  proved  herself  . I’m  very proud of her.

Wasn’t your sisters’ approval  of  your wife and  marriage important to  you?

It was  important. But  don’t forget, they’re younger than me.  And I felt they had no right  to disapprove  of something I was doing  in  my own life.  Whether  they liked it or not they had to accept it. Anyway I love  my sisters and I knew with time they’d come around. The tangles are finally being resolved.

Are your  sisters more accepting  of Maanyata?

I think so. But let’s see…..

Tell me why do you think Maanayata is  the right  partner  for  you?

I’ve somewhere in my heart always  wanted   a woman like Maanayata. In our society a woman  has to make a  lot of sacrifices  for her man. And Maanyata has  done that. I’m not  the easiest  of persons  to handle. Maanyata is just right for  me. Nowadays I just wait  for the day to be over, so I can get back home  to her .  And I want to start a  family with her as soon as possible.

What  was  your reaction  to  a part of your family going against  your wife publicly?

My sister  Priya has  denied  it.  And  even if she said  it, I forgive her  for it. With my  parents gone   I’m  the oldest member of  our family. Like  any  parent  forgives  and supports his  child I  do the same  for  my  family. If Priya  has any  ill-will or anger towards me  and my wife,  we both  forgive her. Priya  is  blood. Nothing can change that.However Maanyata  is  Sunil Dutt and Nargis’s daughter-in-law, no two ways about that. And  there’s only one Mr & Mrs Dutt in Pali Hill. That’s me and Maanyata.  Girls  who  move into a  new family after marriage should assume their new  surname and all  the  responsibilities that come with  it.

Is that a  message  to Priya?

It’s a  message  to my sisters and  all those  girls who hang on their parents’ surname.  That’s  become a fashion these days. But I feel that disrespects  the  person they’ve  married.

Strong words.

 It’s a fact, harsh as  it may sound. If  my wife said  she wants to keep her surname the way it was  before  marriage I’d  have been  offended.

 How  do  you manage a  balancing act between  your wife and sister?

There’s no balancing act. My wife is  my wife. She’s the  no.1  priority  in my life.  Any  spouse  feels  the same  way. For Priya  her husband Owen  is   no.1 priority 

Your sisters haven’t accepted your wife?

Do  you have any sister? If you do  you’ll know  no  sister gets along with  the brother’s wife.  But  if  my  mother  was alive  she  would’ve been  more than happy to accept Maanyata. She’s a  home-maker, just  like my mother.

So why can’t your sisters see that?

 There’s no feud  in  the  family. It’s sad  when I’ve to  read  her  family  differences expressed  in  the press. Yes,  like any family we’ve our  differences  of opinion.  My wife  doesn’t speak about  my family  in  the press,  out of  love and respect  for  my feelings. God willing,  my sisters too will  see things the same way.

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Were  you deeply disappointed when  you were denied  permission to  contest elections?

I really respect  the honorable  court’s verdict,  not  just for  their  decision now  but from the time I’ve been in and out of courts. I  really  respect  Justice Kode. He was  the person instrumental  in  getting me   out of  the  terror case.  I  remember  Justice Kode telling in court  what I most wanted to hear. That  I  wasn’t a terrorist.  It  was  the happiest  moment  of  my  life. That day I  missed  my father. Because he  lived only to  hear  those words.And although the honourable Supreme Court   did not think  it  wise for me to contest election because  it would’ve opened  up a  pandora’s  box, it did give me  a  character  certificate  where  it’s said that  I come from a good family and that I’m  a good humanbeing,  a  good actor  and that I’m not  a habitual offender. That  character certificate means more to  me than winning  an elections.I’ve waited  for  sixteen  years  for  the  honorable courts to give   me that certificate.

But surely  there must have been a sense of dismay  when you were barred  from contesting the elections?

Ultimately  my name and  my family’s name being cleared  was  more  important than  fighting the  elections.   After the  honourable court’s verdict  in Lucknow everyone in  our Samajwadi  Party  was in tears. I rushed  back to Delhi   where Amar Singhji  was very depressed. I immediately made it known there was  nothing  to be depressed about because I  wasn’t going anywhere.

Are  you at  peace  with yourself?

I was out control as a  child.  And I  take responsibility  for  what happened to  me . I was in and out of jail.  Today my tomorrows  don’t seem  to  be that insecure. I sleep  better. 

Why are you so hard to pin down?

Because I’m pinned down to a thousand problems. Running between my court hearings and shootings is like trying to balance two big boulders on my shoulder. Sometimes I just feel like giving up. I’ve been fighting to prove my innocence for eleven  years. I’ve been lately   caught up with what’s hopefully the final lap of the case. Apparently  the judgement will now have to wait until  after the elections. I can’t take the agony of waiting any longer. I haven’t even been able to enjoy the success of Munnabhai MBBS .

You hardly  give your career the attention it deserves.

 I know. But what do I do. I’ve been running in and out of courtrooms  for so long I’ve forgotten what a normal life is like. Someday I’d like to write a  book on what I’ve gone through. It will be far more interesting than any film I’ve done. I’ve been damaged so much I don’t know why I haven’t broken down.Now I just want the ordeal to end.  I can’t bear to see the agony in my father’s eyes.

You and  Sunil Dutt came together as father and son  in Munnabhai.

Well…technically we were together in my dad’s Reshma Aur Shera where I participated in a Qawwalli sequence as a child, and then my launch-film  Rocky where  though he played  my father  his role ended before I came on. Initially when I had to face the camera with him for Munnabhai I felt  a certain  awkwardness—you know how it is. But Dad is so cool. Before we shot together he called me to his makeup van and helped me  chill out.  That did it.

Right from J.P. Dutta’s Hathyar in 1989 why  have you been typecast as a gangster?

I’ve no clue. Maybe my personality suits such roles. But now I’m being offered roles of the comic gangster. After Munnabhai and Plan I’ll play a clumsy gangster in another film.   You could say it’s   my  comic-gangster trilogy.  But if you ask me, my favourite performances are Naam,  Vaastav and  Munnabhai.

Salman Khan  seems to have modelled himself on you?

I wish he would model himself  on my  better qualities . I do have  many  good qualities. Salman should keep a low profile and work hard and  get serious in  life. All the playing around isn’t finally worth it. Ultimately all of us want to be remembered as a good hardworking humanbeings. The hit-and-run incident wouldn’t have made such a media splash if  it wasn’t Salman Khan. But because he has been constantly in the news he went to jail and had to suffer.

Do you feel you could have  done much more with your career if all the  legal and personal obstacles?

Maybe  you’re right. With the legal hassles happening I can’t concentrate completely on  my work. The case is constantly at the back of my mind. But  I must  say the courts have been truly generous. They’ve allowed me to go on working. God willing, I’ll soon be acquitted . Then I can make a fresh start and  focus completely on my work.

How are things going for you personally?

The legal agony is far from over. My life comes to a standstill the minute I think about it. It’s been going on for years. Now it seems the court proceedings might go on for another two years. I just want it to end, either way. I’ve to attend court once every 15 days. But I’m not allowed to go out of Mumbai without the court’s consent. Even to go to Pune I’ve to get legal consent.

You’ve done a whole lot of films with Sanjay Gupta, though none of them has been really successful.

That’s because he never found the right producers. That’s why I told him to produce his own film.  Then there’re no pressures from  anywhere. Unfortunately Sanjay has not been too fortunate about his producers like Satish Tandon of Jung  who  wasn’t basically a film producer. I guess Sanjay Gupta got into these kinds of projects for the same reason as Mahesh Manjrekar: insecurity. Why did Mahesh  make some of his recent films? I kept warning him that money isn’t everything. Career options should come first.

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You’re a very loyal friend. Do you have friends who’ll stand by you during crisis?

Absolutely. Mahesh(Manjrekar) , Sanjay(Gupta), Afzal Khan and Robin Bhatt are there. They’ve stood by me through every crisis. As for those who let me down, after living life in jail and going through legal hassles for the last nine years, I’ve learnt to let go.  Yes, there were many people who didn’t stand by me. It made me sad in the beginning. But  gradually the bitterness was washed away.

How do you explain the fact that you’ve  re-built your career so strongly in spite of being an undertrial?

I don’t know. It’s perhaps my parents’ blessing. But it’s amazing that filmmakers have so much faith in my inspite  of everything. Yeah, to an extent my Dad’s goodwill in the industry  counts. But let’s not forget, I’ve been part of this industry for twenty years. Constant interaction over so many years has helped keep up the faith.

What about your daughter from your first marriage? Will she be joining you?

No.  Trishala’s grandparents and I went through this court case in New York. The dispute was amicably settled. Now things are just fine. Trishala is a big girl now. She played a big hand in settling matters. She told  her grandparents that she loves her Dad but she can’t leave the US. That’s where her roots  are. That’s where she’s comfortable and I   can understand that.  Even the judge told me not to uproot her. She’ll come and visit me whenever she wants.

How does she react to all the gossip about you in the magazines?

She gets very angry. Me?  I just ignore all the scandal. It’s been happening for too many years now. I just don’t bother with it any longer. People have short attention spans. They read and forget in two or three days.

Are you still required to attend court regularly regarding your TADA case?

Yes,but now it’s once every fifteen days.But I still have to take official permission before I travel outside the country.When I land on airports abroad and my passport shows a special permission for travelling the immigration people wonder what’s happening.They start asking me  questions suspiciously.Now it’s up to the Indian authorities whether they want to do something about the situation or not.

It’s so strange.But there’s so much goodwill for you within the film industry while you are still an undertrial in the court of law.

I know.It’s really strange.I’ve been charged with trying to threaten the government of India and indulge in terrorism,and  a few days back the President of India invited me to the Rashtra Bhavan in connection with Mission: Kashmir. Can you believe it?!I felt so good.

The determination to play characters your own age seems to be part of your character.

Yeah that’s the way I am.One has to accept one isn’t 21 any longer.Audiences certainly don’t want to see me as a college kid on motorcycles and all that stuff.

Your fans say you look like a Hollywood star.

But no one has come up with an offer in Hollywood yet.I can’t start from scratch in a strange country.If I get a good offer,I’d certainly do it.Right now I’m excited about roles in Hindi films.

Interestingly though female fans see you as a centrespread attraction you never take your shirt off for  the camera.

I can’t just fling off my clothes for no reason just because I’ve a good body. I admit I’m shy.  I’m pleased with the place that I’ve made  in my profession . Now my personal  life is also not under so many clouds. Recently my daughter, who’s a young woman now, came from the US  to spend a  couple of months with me in Mumbai. We spent a lot of quality of time together. She’s grown up so much. She had serious one-on-ones with  me. I felt like a father when she opened her heart out to me.

Your audience  thinks your roles can only be played by you?

I’m flattered. And I’m grateful. I don’t take my so-called stardom seriously.  I just like to be who  I am regardless of ups or downs.  People love me the way I am. I can’t change myself to behave like a star.  I’m a guy who goes completely with the flow. I hang out with my  own set of  friends.  And they haven’t changed.  Sanjay Gupta has been a  close friend for years. I’ve been  in almost all his films. I don’t think any of the so-called top banners have contributed to my career. I like to be work with friends. I don’t care about being No.1 or No.2.  I am Sanjay Dutt and I want to remain  who   I am. I’ve an audience  and I’m thankful to them. I’m happy  to be  where I am.

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In fact Sanjay Gupta has become  a big player through your continual support.

Arrey nahin , yaar! He’s a very talented boy. I’m grateful to him for giving me roles like Kaante and Zinda.  I’m always with  him. And I’m so happy that at  last he has proved himself with Zinda.

You’re getting to play your age these days?

You know, I’m not getting the kind of roles that require me  to dance around trees.  I’m 46  now. I need to  act my age. It’s very important for actors to accept the years. Once they do that they start growing as an actor. I  think  I’ve  accepted my age  in my recent films

When you lost your father….

I don’t feel he’s gone. His death happened so suddenly, I had to grow up suddenly. I ‘ve two younger sisters and I feel like their father.  I’ve no excuse to remain a kid  any longer. I’ve no  dad to  run  to with  my problems. He was there to bail me  out  of  every crisis.  Sometimes  when I’m sitting with my sisters it hits us that he’s no more.

Would you like to be in politics like your  dad and sister?

 Never. I don’t understand politics. I’ll always work in  films and  make people happy.

Your problems with the law persist…

Subhash, I’ve left it to fate and destiny. I haven’t  hurt or harmed anyone on life. God is great.  One day justice will be given to me.  If I sit and think about it my work gets affected. I’ve  just left it to God.

How can you work with so  much stress?

I  use work as a therapy. I go to the gym. I go out with friends, or just sit with my family…an occasional  dinner.

How often  do you meet your daughter?

I’ve a court matter to attend to. I can’t keep applying for  permission to go out of  the country. She comes  here for  holidays. I go when I can.

The Bachchans are very  fond of you.

Abhishek is like a younger brother.  In spite of being Amitji and Jayaji’s son he’s so   down to earth. That quality will take him a  long way.  When  his initial films failed I was the  only guy saying he was the dark horse. Today I’m so proud of him.  He’s got such terrific  films on hand.  I get angry with him when he does stupid roles.

 So do you.

I’ve  been here for twenty-five years. I can  afford to do stupid  roles.

Apart from Abhishek whom  do you like among  the younger actors?

After working with him in Zinda I realized how good  John Abraham  is. ..Hrithik is a good actor. But he  does such a few years.

After you who has the potential to be Sanjay Dutt?

You tell me.

Looking back do you  think going  into politics was  a mistake?

I  didn’t  go into politics. I  did what I had to  help Amar Singhji.  At that I didn’t realize it was  the wrong party (the Samajwadi ). Neither did he. Now he’s started his non-political organization. I  wasn’t there for politics. I  was there for Amar Singhji. And I’ll continue  to  be  there in  whatever capacity I am required. Helping people has always been my  first priority.Even when I campaigned  during elections  for   the Samajwadi Party I was actually looking after Amar Singhji  who  was very well.I was  more concerned about him than the party while he was slogging through his illness for the party. Now  see what the part has done for him. I’m glad he has dissociated himself from  it.

Your dad Sunil Dutt was  a fabulous politician. Do you think politics is your  cup of tea?

As  I said I did   it for  my brother. Otherwise  politics is not my scene. Even my father was  not really  a politician. He wanted  to help bring about a  change. When he  took up an agenda he saw it to the end  . He  promoted hockey  is  such a  big way. I think he was  more  a  social worker. Politics was just  a  platform to achieve  his means…Maybe you’re right. I  went into politics for emotional rather than practical reasons.

Your career suffered because of  politics?

Not at all. All  The Best did well . It came after  I  joined hands with Amar Singhji. Blue went over-budget .

Why don’t you do  a full-on action film?

I think the  action film  is going through  a crisis  in   this country. We’ve to reach the level of the action  seen in Iron Man and Avatar.Sadly   our cinema doesn’t have an  international market. I wonder why. If Chinese and Korean   cinema can  have a  global market, why can’t we? I  think we need to change  the way we make our films for the  global marketing.

You’re going  into  film production now?

Yes we  got delayed because of  the recession. I don’t want to make a small-budget  film. My first  film has to be a lavish spectacle.  I think  my film with David Dhawan would be the  first Sanjay Dutt Production. But first let the  industry recover. In my  30-year career I’ve never seen  such bad times in  the industry.

Are  you happy?

Very happy.  It has been  a 30-year innings. Things have changed  so much in the industry.I’m lucky to have survived.

On a  personal level?

 Oh I  am very happy.My wife Maanyata really takes good care of me.

 And  your relationship with your sisters?

Perfect. Every family has its ups and downs. Our differences came into the  news  because we’re  the Dutts.  Every  household has its fights. But  we can never be apart. We’re the same blood.

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