Dutt’s the way
I think I am on a clean slate — Sanjay Dutt talks his highs and lows at FICCI Flo
- Published 12.02.18
His life’s an open book, he says. And he’s more than willing to hold it up as an example and talk about his ups and downs — film career to battle with drugs to his stint in jail. Sanjay Dutt, 58, still the ‘Deadly Dutt’ we’ve all loved, was in Calcutta on February 3 to talk about his life and the lessons to be learnt from it, at a session with Ficci Ladies Organisation (FLO) at JW Marriott. Sitting in the audience, t2 took notes during the hour-long chat, moderated by Malavika Banerjee, director of the Kolkata Literary Meet.
Malavika Banerjee: Your life has been like Snakes and Ladders, with impossible highs and unfathomable lows. What was your initial life like, especially when you were battling drug addiction and then going into rehab?
Sanjay Dutt: My mother (Nargis) was suffering from cancer and we spent a lot of time with her in New York. We lost her when we were very young. I got into drugs — it was a bad phase. I went to rehab in Miami and they gave me a list that had names of various drugs and asked me to tick what I had consumed… I ticked everything! (Laughs) The doctor was shocked that I was still alive… he told my dad (Sunil Dutt) that whatever I had been fed was what had kept me alive. So I think it’s our Indian food — all the mithais — that worked!
MB: All those on a diet, please note…
SD: But you don’t have to have mithai if you are on a diet… only if you are on drugs! (Laughs)
MB: How do you think your mother’s illness and the difficult times you faced pushed you into drugs?
SD: I am not going to use that as an excuse. Anyone who says that they drink or do drugs because of some setback, I want to say that you did it because you wanted to do it.
MB: You also lost your first wife (Richa Sharma) to cancer and then your father. Have the deaths in your life made you bitter or spiritual?
SD: You do get bitter… you go through a ‘Why me?’ phase. I think it’s important to accept it and not be bitter about it… you have to learn from it. I miss my dad a lot. The best thing is that, unlike my mom, he didn’t suffer. He went in his sleep. I just cherish every memory I have of theirs. One thing that keeps me going is that I know they are looking out for me.
MB: Even as you had your personal lows, your career was going very well… you had even started dancing! I believe during Tamma tamma loge, there were so many retakes that Madhuri Dixit’s knees started bleeding!
SD: I was very nervous doing that song (from Thanedaar, 1990), especially because Madhuri was there. There was this chair portion… that one shot that was very tough. But luckily, she was the one who made all the mistakes! (Laughs)
MB: Oh, that’s so easy to believe!
SD: That one shot went on from 11 in the morning to 11 in the morning of the next day!
MB: What was going through your mind when you were incarcerated for arms possession in the aftermath of the 1993 Bombay blasts?
SD: Initially, there was a lot of anger towards my family and me. A huge case was made against me, which of course, wasn’t true. My family was under threat… we tried reaching the authorities, but no one was accessible. One guy came up to me and asked if I wanted a gun. I am fond of guns, of the outdoors and I kept it. I didn’t know the law of the land.
Later, I got scared and destroyed it. And then I was arrested. Initially people were angry, but many later realised that I couldn’t have done this (had a hand in the blasts).
MB: People talk about privilege, but in your case, do you think your fame and your family ties were counterproductive?
SD: Yes, for me it went the opposite way. They didn’t do me any favours and I definitely didn’t want any favours. I just wanted to spend my days in jail as a normal convict. But I wasn’t allowed to do that.
MB: What was your first night in jail like?
SD: It was uncomfortable… I had to sleep on the floor. To be locked up in a cell is the worst part, but once you accept it, then you go with the flow. Luckily, they made me handle an in-house radio station where I used to play songs and also talk about reformation, staying away from drugs, non-violence…
MB: Is spirituality a part of your life now? I don’t think you do yoga or meditation!
SD: I am definitely not the yoga and meditation type. Ajay (gestures to his friend sitting in the audience) used to write to me in jail and tell me to meditate. I closed my eyes and tried to chant, but half the time I kept thinking, ‘Main yahan se kab niklunga?!’ (Laughs) You have to accept your fate. The day I stopped hoping… it took me about two weeks… I felt things became better. I am in a very competitive film industry, but I don’t hope for anything anymore. Once you go with the flow, everything happens. Agar aap jail ka khana kha sakte ho, toh baahar do waqt ki dal-roti toh mil hi jaayegi yaar (smiles). I do believe in karma. I think I am on a clean slate.
MB: You’ve been here for almost 40 years. Do you feel it’s the best time for the film industry? It’s structured, there are bound scripts, more professionalism…
SD: I come from the old school of thought and I don’t feel this is the best time. The time I was in was much better because there was more bonding, everyone would help each other. Now I see people doing things only for themselves. They are talking bad about each other, fighting….
MB: Hardly anyone came forward to support Padmaavat…
SD: I don’t know why the industry didn’t take a stand on Padmaavat. It’s the director’s (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) point of view… what’s wrong with that? Where’s democracy gone in this country? Why are people scared?
MB: Was any support extended to the team?
SD: I have always supported Sanjay Leela Bhansali… I have tried to help him in whatever way I could. But the industry could have come together and peacefully taken a stand. But no one seemed to be bothered.
MB: The other big issue in the industry is nepotism…
SD: I don’t understand what that word means! (Laughs)
MB: Though you come from a film family, you have come from a position of disadvantage every time…
SD: According to me, there is nothing called… what do you call it?… nepotism (smiles). We all had to go through the grind. Yes, my father did make a movie (Rocky) for me, but it’s just one film and after that, what? After that, it’s up to you… you either have it in you or you don’t. So what Kangana (Ranaut) said is absolutely wrong! It all depends on what kind of films you do… it has to be pan-India, it just can’t cater to the multiplex audience. These young boys today are scared of doing commercial films. The real audience is in the smaller places… jahaan seeti-weeti maare, paisa-waisa maare screen par… we want that kind of adulation.
MB: Is politics anywhere on the horizon?
SD: Politics is nowhere on the horizon! I tried it for a bit, with Samajwadi Party, but that was only for my case! (Laughs) They said do sau MP rahenge tumhare saath toh koi chhoo bhi nahin sakta hai. But why do you have to wear khadi kurta and laal topi? That pisses me off! Secondly, bhaashan dena nahin aata hai mujhe!
If not an actor, what would you be?
(In Munna Bhai style) Bole toh apun agar actor nahi hota toh apun pilot hota. I would have been the best pilot… I would have always flown above 70,000ft!
If Choli ke peechey is filmed today, which contemporary actress could come close to Madhuri Dixit?
Deepika Padukone… she’s beautiful. If I were a little younger, it would have been my fourth (marriage)!
Your favourite song picturised on yourself?
Kya yahi pyaar hai (Rocky).
Your most beautiful co-star — Madhuri, Aishwarya, Dimple or... ?
Aishwarya… she’s gorgeous. I met her the other day… she’s lost weight and she’s looking amazing!
Your favourite screen brother — Kumar Gaurav, Jackie Shroff, Salman Khan or Arshad Warsi as Circuit, even though he didn’t play your brother…
Definitely Salman! He’s been a younger brother to me and always will be, no matter how big a star he is. And of course Kumar Gaurav because I can bully him. I’m so glad he married my sister (Namrata).
Your choice of evening drink — Darjeeling first flush or single malt?
Vodka and ice!
Pictures: B. Halder
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