Yes, yes, I know, he made his first appearance on the silver screen already 1971 in his father Sunil Dutt’s film Reshma Aur Shera – a cute little boy beaming and trying to clap rhythmically in a qawwali scene. But his adult debut film came ten years later: Rocky, premiered on May 8, 1981; not really a success, but it nevertheless made Sanju a new heartthrob in the industry. Especially after he successfully fought his drug addiction in the early 80s and then impressed with his intense performance in Naam (1986), he silenced all the people who much too early had written him off.
In the following years he started a fitness trend which subsequently was followed by many of his colleagues. “Sanjay Dutt was the first to make a macho physique a fashion statement,” wrote the Stardust in 1997. “The Deadly Dutt has an animal sexuality about him that emanates as much from his perfectly sculpted ‘he-man’ physique as from his large, vulnerable eyes with their ‘little lost boy’ look. Add to that his smile, his hair and his recklessness and you have a lost lion cub that is just waiting to be mothered. Not many women have been able to resist that.”
Never did Sanjay show this combination of muscles and vulnerability more clearly than in Sadak (1991) which made him the most wanted action hero of the 90s. Other highlights of these years were Saajan (1991 – the role of a crippled, sensitive poet earned Sanjay his first Filmfare Best Actor nomination), Aatish (1994) and Khalnayak (1993) which became a synonym for Sanjay: the ‘antihero’ which won the people’s hearts though being a ‘villain’.
It was sheer, bitter irony, that Khalnayak just advanced to one of the biggest hits in 1993 while at the same time the fiction became reality for Sanjay when he was arrested and jailed, suspected of being involved in terrorist acts leading to the Mumbai blasts – an accusation he finally was to be acquitted of in 2006. At that time, he had made himself another popular identity besides the ‘Khalnayak’ – it was the loveable and golden-hearted Munnabhai he played in Rajkumar Hirani’s blockbusters Munnabhai MBBS (2003) and Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006).
At the age of 51, Sanjay Dutt still enjoys a firm position in the industry and is still a much sought-after actor who gets more film offers than he can accept. Besides, he has launched his own production banner Sanjay Dutt Productions; his maiden home production will be Rascals starring him and his buddy Ajay Devgn. Other forthcoming projects include Double Dhamaal and Karan Johar’s Agneepath remake where Sanjay plays the role of the villain Kancha Cheena.
So now, as my gift to Sanjay’s 30th birthday in the film industry (many, many happy returns of the day, Sanju!), I present you my slightly different film recommendation list – apart from the usual suspects (as named above):