Promoting his next release Knock Out, Sanjay Dutt has given loads of interviews lately. However, it was not all talk about that film – Bollywood’s original rock star has more to say about himself, as well as about the industry, maintaining that both have changed compared with earlier days.
Sanjay’s life has changed since he was relieved from the burden of the terror accusations. Asked whether, by living a carefree life, he’s reliving his youth, Sanjay explains, “There was a time when I used to go to court in the morning, be there 11 to 5. Then I would return home. At 6 I would hit the gym. At 8 I would be at the sets and shoot often till 5 in the morning. I would sleep for barely 2-3 hours, and I would be back at the court at 11. For two full years, this was my daily routine. Now I’m living my life like I would have lived it then, if things hadn’t gone that way. Making up for it, perhaps. I’m not deliberately doing it, but yes, that’s how it’s happening.” Even though his case is still pending in the Supreme Court, Sanjay is at peace today. “Nineteen years could have finished anyone. I swear there were many, many moments when I wanted to just give up. Let it be. But I don’t know why, something used to tell me, don’t give it all up, fight, fight till the last.” He shivers. “It was such a big… accusation. Being part of a terror activity? My God! When the judge said that you always wanted to hear this, that your dad always wanted to hear this, you are acquitted from the terror charge – that moment was the biggest, the greatest moment of relief in my life. It has no comparison. And I think it made me live again, it made me come back.”
Another reason for Sanjay’s peaceful mind today is his wife Maanayata who right now is expecting twins. He can’t stop raving about how she grounded him and made him a family man. He’s become more conscious of life after having lost so many years to his jail term and his court case, and is more responsible on the verge of being father again and reviving his production banner. That’s why he’d prefer not to be called ‘Sanju baba’; anymore. Though he agrees that one of the reasons why people still think of him as ‘Baba’ is his identification with the golden-hearted Munnabhai. Admitting that he’d not be able to play Munnabhai that way in his career’s early years “I guess I had to be a little mature to play all that”, he confesses, “Munna Bhai is perhaps me in some ways. It is also a life-changing role. It cleaned up the bad boy image that I had.” Isn’t he bored of the ‘bad boy with a golden heart’ image? “It’s part of my life now”, Sanjay laughs.
At 51, Sanjay feels fitter than he was at 21. “My current focus on gymming is also because, if you notice, in Blue and Kidnap, I’d let myself go a little. At that time the judgment was about to come out, to bring focus to cinema was difficult for me at that stage. It was like a sword hanging. Fitness was hardly the first priority. I had let myself go around that time, and I got a lot of mail, a lot of fan reactions, saying, ‘you started the bodybuilding trend in the industry, you worked so hard to build your fitness, we just can’t see you like this.’ I think I owe it to them. That’s why for the last 6-7 months, I’ve been on a very strict diet and I go to the gym twice a day.”
Politics, however, are no longer on his agenda. “I don’t think I’m ready to be an MP. If you are one, then you have to be fully committed. And I would have missed out on a lot of my movies.” He insists that he had joined politics only to support his close friend Amar Singh. “And in that context, in a way, I’m thankful to the honourable court for not letting me fight that election from Lucknow. When I think about it today, it’s the biggest favour they’ve done to me.”
Talking about his sister Priya, Sanjay remembers how he persuaded her to join politics after their father’s death. “When my father died, a lot of people wanted me to contest in his place. But my shootings were going on, a lot of other things were going on, plus Priya is a better candidate. She spent a lot of time with Dutt sahib on his padyatras and all that. But she was not making up her mind because of her pregnancy. But I had to convince her, that someone has to contest, this is Dutt sahib’s constituency, the lineage has to go on. And she’s doing a fantastic job.” Because of his marriage and his time in the SP, many rumours about a fallout between him and his sisters spread in the media. But Sanjay shakes his head, insisting, “There is no divide, we cannot be divided. There are fights among brothers and sisters in every family. Our fights come out in the open because I am an actor and she is an MP and we are Sunil Dutt’s children. But we’re blood, we can’t be apart.” Actually Namrata and Priya have been seen together with their brother and sister-in-law at several recent occasions, be it the baby shower for Maanayata or Sanjay’s special screening of Knock Out for his family and friends.
Asked about whether in his opinion celebrities are treated harder by the system than others or getting away from the law more easily, Sanjay says, “I think there are three types. There are these two – both of which happen – and the third is being made a scapegoat.” He laughs but becomes immediately serious again. “It wasn’t always like this. In my father’s time, when my mom was there, an actor was really respected. Respected in the sense, even by the politicians. I still remember, my dad and mom used to walk into Madam Gandhi’s house without an appointment. It was that closeness, that friendship, that level of respect for each other. That whole dignity and respect for an actor went down over time… We should not be treated this way, I feel. Maybe it’s our fault, our fraternity must also take ownership of why this has happened, why the level of respect has gone down. Everybody dances for money, goes here, goes there. That dignity gets impacted… I’ve never seen that happening in Hollywood – Tom Cruise dancing on an Oscar night because he’s paid $ 50,000? No, I’ve never seen that happen. There’s dignity. They sit down, they watch the show. I think that is the reason we are targeted.”
Is there still a ‘fraternity’ at all in the film industry? “It’s totally gone! It’s sad, but what to do. When we came into the industry, that was a fraternity. We were all so much together. There was just one show – Filmfare Awards Night. We went there together. There was dignity and bonding. But now, it’s become all about camps. Somebody’s in this camp, that camp… For people like me, I can’t understand it. I am not in any camp. I am there for all my colleagues, I love the industry. I don’t have any campwallah, that’s nonsense. I have not been raised like that. It was not this way when I joined films. Now it sometimes gets difficult for me.”
Sanjay is known for being on good terms with each and everyone of his colleagues. Though many of them let him down in his hours of crisis. “This jail term, to be honest with you, I learnt a lot from it. I learnt to be tolerant. I learnt to be forgiving. These qualities were never there in me before. I still remember when I was first arrested, the industry came in busses to the police station. Then some political types created some ruckus, and they all – the filmwallahs – ran away. I got really angry at that time. But later, when I thought about it, that why didn’t people stand by me – I asked myself, would I stand by them? To be associated with a ‘terrorist’ – it’s not easy. I learnt to just forget, forgive, and think, perhaps I may also have not stood by someone accused under a terror act”, he says, adding, “As a fraternity, if we all were together, these things would not happen, I feel. Try and put a Rajinikanth in a case like a terror act – we’ll see what will happen in Tamil Nadu. Nobody can. That is the power of a star. The fraternity in the South is so tightly tied with each other – you won’t find that in our industry. It used to be so, but no longer.”
You can check Sanjay in Knock Out, which releases tomorrow October 15th!