Tomorrow, June 6, will be the fourteenth birthday of the actor who turned politician Sunil Dutt who would have celebrated his 92nd birthday tomorrow, June 6th, had it not died on May 25th in 2004. To commemorate his birthday, senior journalist JYOTHI VENKATESH who knew him very well, in his thoughts about the great filmmaker and actor.
I miss the presence of Dutt Saab among us today, because there is hardly a star today who comes even close to his caliber and generosity. Although he was quite older than me, we met once under a blue moon. In fact, when he once asked me to meet him in his bungalow for an interview and I asked him if I could meet on a Sunday instead of the next day as it was a work day for me at the hotel and I wasn’t getting ? a day off from my boss Mr RK Choudhary, who during my work as Accounts Supervisor at the Hotel Oberoi Sheraton told me very strictly that I have to quit my job and concentrate if I want to do freelance journalism full-time journalism because sailing in two boats would not be beneficial to me at all.
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I haven’t met Sanjay Dutt at all since I met him at the Double Dhamaal premiere, but unlike today’s stars who have parties that keep the press separate off the red carpet, his dad has Sunil Dutt enjoyed throwing lavish parties at which he used to drink with the media in his spacious bungalow where his son Sanjay Dutt had built a multi-story Imperial Heights building where he lives on the top floor. I remember he always advised me to drink wine instead of whiskey because whiskey is harmful, especially after the ripe old age of 50.
I also remember the first time Duttsaab asked me to go to his bungalow to interview his son Sanjay, whom he wanted to introduce in his movie Rocky. This was in 1981 before Sanjay was exposed to the media. Duttsaab wanted me to be the first to interview his son. However, when I got to his bungalow, Sanjay was found fast asleep on the porch and even though I knocked him he didn’t wake up at all and I had to complain to Nargisji that Duttsaab asked me to come down and question her son Sanjay, but he did showed no signs of waking up. It was Nargisji who finally managed to wake him up and persuade him to do an interview, even though he wasn’t ready at all.
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I just can’t forget how Sunil Dutt braved the grueling heat and rode a truck for his campaign when he ran for Congress in 1983, and I even volunteered to advertise him by accompanied him in his constituency, especially to Bandra, where a large part of the Tamils lived. Duttsaab was surprised when I got on the microphone and after I announced Vazhga Thamizhagam (Long Live Tamil Nadu) Vazhga Maharashtram (Long Live Maharashtra) and admonished all Tamil voters to vote for him in chaste Tamil and everyone clapped in return. Today it is sad that Urmila Matondkar in Mumbai or Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur don’t even need the media to advertise them. In those good old days, actors like Sunil Dutt and Rajesh Khanna didn’t carry robust Hatta-Katta bodyguards and bouncers like a Salman Khan or even an Ayushmann Khurrana today, and they were easily accessible to the common man.
I remember when I met him in his office in Bandra one afternoon after the death of his wife Smt Nargis Dutt, Sunil Dutt offered me a cup of tea and admitted, “I have so many things to do that I have left unattended earlier when I didn’t know what was happening around me. Though I confess that I feel lost because there is a vacuum in my life after Nargis’ death. I now realize that now is the time to take my time to do all the little things I wanted to do – close deals and negotiations. I’m delighted with the box office response my son Sanjay received for his acting in my movie Rocky. I asked him to only sign a few selected films, because in this industry it is not quantity that matters, but quality. I told him that you should only accept it if you think you do justice to a role, ”he added.
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Dutt Saab also told me that he had already planned two films with Sanjay Dutt as the leading actor and that he will direct both. One of them will play Sanjay, Padmini Kolhapure, Mithun Chakraborty and Souths Sapna, another model who became a heroine. “Under the auspices of Ajanta Arts, I want to make at least one good film every year as a tribute to Nargis. Fortunately, my banner is healthy and safe because my last film, Nehle Pe Dehla, was a super duper hit. “
Duttsaab continued, “I wouldn’t make an art film without keeping an eye on the box office. A film should be commercially viable and able to cover its production costs. Why should a film be made just for the sake of keeping the film archive safe? If I promise to make at least one film a year in homage to Nargisji, my responsibility will be tripled. “I plan to trust the name Nargisji first. The flow of every film I make is credited to the Trust, which takes on the task of fulfilling Nargisji’s ambition – to improve the lives of spastic children. I also told the stars who would work in my film that I wouldn’t pay them at all. Most of them have agreed to work for me without billing me. And why would any star agree to work for me for free? Some of the stars would accept less than half of what they charge for their services out there.
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On May 3, 1982, the first anniversary of his wife’s death, Duttsaab planned to release the first of his planned films. It was Dard Ka Rishta about a widower and his daughter who had cancer. He had planned the project even before Nargisji died. It’s just ironic that he started the film after his wife died. Duttsaab once said to me: “When my wife and I drove over Jaslok, she told me with tears in our eyes that one day should come in India when even the poor man on the street would get medical help.” Why should a poor man be deprived of the opportunity to be treated for cancer? A disease does not choose its clients. I want to build a hospital for the spastic children. It was my late wife’s favorite project. “