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Roller coaster to rival Bolly thriller

- Drugs, guns, blockbusters and three weddings

Sanjay Dutt’s life could rival any Bollywood film script, with more downs than ups. But each time, he has come out on top, beating the odds.

Long before Salman Khan, Sanjay — now a 53-year-old father of three — was Bollywood’s resident bad boy. The first-born of Nargis and Sunil Dutt had an addiction problem from his days at The Lawrence School, Sanawar. Even as he was battling substance abuse, Sanjay made his acting debut with Rocky, co-starring girlfriend Tina Munim.

Directed by dad Sunil, Rocky went on to become a blockbuster. But Nargis died of cancer three days before the premiere. His mother’s death drove the 21-year-old back to drugs and he served five months in prison in 1982 for possession of illegal substances. Tina ended their relationship and a broken Sanjay was packed off to the US for rehab.

Career-wise though, he was going great guns. In 1982, he shared screen space with Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar in Vidhaata, which went on to become the biggest money-spinner that year. With Mahesh Bhatt’s Naam in 1986, a new hero was born.

He married the little-known actress Richa Sharma in 1987 and delivered a string of hits — Kabzaa, Kanoon Apna Apna, Jeete Hain Shaan Se and Main Awara Hoon. The couple separated after a few years and he lost a bitter custody battle for daughter Trishala, who was brought up in the US by her maternal grandparents.

The blockbusters continued to roll — Thanedaar, Aatish, Yalgaar, Krodh, Zahreelay… — and he emerged as the most dependable hero of the time. Sadak and Saajan also won him critical acclaim. An alleged relationship with Madhuri Dixit made news.

In 1993 — weeks before his career-defining Subhash Ghai film Khalnayak hit screens — Sanjay was arrested for illegal possession of arms in the aftermath of the Bombay blasts. Fans saw a crying and cowering Sanjay clutching dad Sunil’s hand as the judge pronounced his verdict. He spent 18 months in jail. Bollywood was quick to distance itself and replace him in most films on the floors then. Ex-wife Richa died of brain tumour in 1996.

Emerging from jail as a shadow of himself, his first film, Ram Gopal Varma’s Daud, sank at the box office. Sanjay married model Rhea Pillai in 1998 and starred in a string of flops such as Kartoos and Khoobsurat. However, with Vaastav — a gangster film in which he played a young man forced to take up arms — he was back in business.

When it looked like the roles were drying up, he struck gold with Munna Bhai MBBS in 2003. Two years later, Sanjay and Rhea divorced. That year, father Sunil Dutt died.

In 2006, Lage Raho Munna Bhai made Gandhigiri fashionable, its release coinciding with the start of the Bombay blasts trial. He was cleared of the terrorism taint but jailed for possessing arms for short periods in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, he married Maanyata and became a dad to twins two years later.

Last year his only release was Agneepath.