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.
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.
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.
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.
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.