Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sanjay Dutt - Family Biography

Sanjay Dutt - Family Biography

Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt

Sanjay's Family

Sanjay Sunil Dutt was born in Bombay/India on July 29, 1959. His parents were legends of the Hindi Cinema: Nargis and Sunil Dutt.

Nargis (June 1, 1929 – May 3, 1981), born in Kolkata as Fatima A. Rashid, daughter of director, singer and actress Jaddanbai and sister of actor Anwar Hussain. She started acting in movies when she was a child, already having taken up her artist name Nargis (= narcissus). Her first leading role she got at the age of fourteen in Taqdeer. In the 1950's Nargis and Raj Kapoor formed a very popular jodi on the silver screen and were said to have a romance in real life, too, though Raj was already married. While shooting for Mother India (1957), an Oscar-nominated film which made Nargis an undying star in Hindi Cinema, Nargis fell in love with Sunil Dutt who played her son in that movie. They got married on March 11, 1958 and got three children: Sanjay, Namrata and Priya. After settling down, Nargis' appearances on screen became very rare, and 1967 after Raat Aur Din she ended her film career to dedicate her life to her family and to her charity activities. After suffering from pancreatic cancer Nargis passed away in 1981 - just five days before the release of Sanjay's debut film Rocky. In the village Mandhaulli near the district Yamunanagar (Haryana), a memorial on the banks of the river Yamuna reminds of Nargis who until today is ranking as one of the most charismatic and seductive actresses the Indian film industry ever had.
(Information about Nargis:
Ikonz January 2007. Click here to find wonderful screenshots of Nargis.)

Sunil Dutt (June 6, 1929
– May 25, 2005), born as Balraj Dutt. Originally from Khurd in the district Jhelum near Rawalpindi (today in Pakistan), he lost his father at the age of five and was separated from his family during the Partition. Later they were reunited in Ambala near Yamunanagar. He went to Bombay to study arts at Jai Hind College where he was discovered while acting in the students' theatre. After a career as a broadcast moderator and the completion of his studies he established himself as a film actor in the mid-1950's. As Birju in Mother India he made his breakthrough in 1957. While shooting this film, Sunil saved Nargis' life when she was caught in burning haystacks. They fell in love and got married on March 11, 1958. They got three children: Sanjay, Namrata and Priya. Sunil continued a successful career, developing a great versatility as an actor, working even as producer and director and founding his own production house Ajanta Arts with which he often made entertainment tours to the jawans at the northern border. After Nargis' death of cancer in 1981, he initiated several charity projects in her memory and took on politics for the Congress, being elected as a MP several times, finally as Sport Minister. 1993 he ended his career as an actor and only once returned back to the sets: as his son Sanjay's film father in Munnabhai MBBS (2003). On May 25, 2005 Sunil Dutt's heart stopped beating while he was sleeping in his house. All India sorrowed for this great man.
In 1996, Sunil Dutt got the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award:
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5.
In 2001, the Zee Cine Lifetime Achievement Award followed:
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4 - Link 5 - Link 6 - Link 7.
He also got the Screen Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Dutt Family in the early 70es: Priya, Nargis, Sanjay, Anju and Sunil

Sanjay has two sisters, Namrata, called Anju (born January 5, 1962, married to Kumar Gaurav, called Bunty; two daughters: Saachi and Siya), and Priya (born August 28, 1966, married to Owen Roncon, two sons: Siddharth and Sumair), who as Congress MP followed in her father's footsteps. (Here she's talking about her father and her brother.) Sanjay is married for the third time, after Richa Sharma and Rhea Pillai now with Dilnawaz Shaikh, called Manyata. From his first marriage he has his daughter Trishala (born August 10, 1988).

To his first wife Richa Sharma, an actress from a NRI family in the USA, Sanjay got married on October 12, 1987 in New York. Shortly after having given birth to Trishala, Richa fell ill with a brain tumor. After several operations and a long-termed chemotherapy there was hope that Richa could finally win over the cancer. But in the end of 1995, the tumor returned. After a stroke in August 1996 there was nothing left the doctors could do for her. On December 10, 1996 Richa died. Though her marriage with Sanjay had been over for quite a long time, Sanjay felt responsible for her until the end and supported her as much as he could.

As a consequence of Richa's illness Sanjay lost the custody for his little daughter. While Richa had been treated in the USA, the child had stayed with her family there in Bayside, Queens, New York. Soon the Sharma family reproached that Sanjay would spend too little time with his family, especially with his daughter. Sanjay countered indicating that he had to work at the Indian film sets to earn the money for Richa's hospital bills and that he nevertheless flew over to New York in every spare time he got. More was not possible. After Richa's death the situation sharpened. Sanjay was willing to let Trishala live with the Sharmas even though he missed her very much, but he preferred the American to the Indian school system, and what is more, he didn't want to uproot Trishala and separate her from the world she got used to live in. He only wanted to have the right to visit Trishala anytime and then also to be alone with her. When the Sharmas denied him this and sent him a legal note (July 17, 1998) divesting him of his visiting rights, a court case was inevitable which resulted in an amicable out-of-court-
settlement in the beginning of 1999 (more information please find here in the essay in Stardust 4/1999). In all this time and also afterwards Sanjay and Trishala were keeping contact by telephone and e-mail. Father and daughter love each other very much and share a wonderful relationship. Nowadays Trishala is studying Forensic Science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and Sanjay is very proud of his daughter.

Sanjay Dutt and his daughter Trishala, January 2007

Sanjay's second wife, the model Rhea Pillai, was a pillar of strength to him during his term in prison 1994/95 when he was booked under TADA and labelled a terrorist. Rhea stood by him as a rock, and to Sanjay she seemed "probably the best that ever happened to me". After he got bail and was released in October 1995 people therefore expected Sanjay to get divorced from Richa and to marry Rhea soon. But as Richa's physical condition got worse at that time Sanjay blankly refused to do so. He supported Richa until her last day, and even thereafter he concentrated on more important decisions in his life like his visiting rights for Trishala and his TADA case. In so far Rhea's and Sanjay's spontaneous
marriage on Valentine's Day 1998 in Mumbai Mahalaxmi Mandir still came as a little surprise. But this marriage too was not meant to last forever. After first rumours about a crisis in 2001 Sanjay and Rhea separated in 2003. Rhea later started living together with tennis player Leander Paes (formerly linked with Mahima Choudhary) and has a daughter with him, Aiyana. Whether they are married or not I don't know for sure; the reports are as controversial as the ones about Sanjay's divorce from Rhea which was reported already in 2005 while it definitely only happened in 2008.

Besides, Sanjay has always been linked by the media with other women, especially with his co-stars from Rati Agnihotri to Kimi Katkar and from Amrita Singh to Madhuri Dixit. These stories gave him an image as Casanova and stud he never got rid of. Sanjay always demented these affairs, and as this issue concerns nobody except the people involved I don't care a damn whether these rumours are true or not. And I definitely believe Sanjay's and Madhuri's consequent assurances that there never was a serious affair between them. There are only a few girls he really was close to like Tina Munim in the beginning of his career and, after the separation from Rhea, Nadia Durrani.

February 11, 2008 Sanjay tied the knot with Manyata (born as Dilnawaz Shaikh). This marriage became a court matter afterwards as Manyata's former husband Meraj Rehman filed a claim stating that he never legally divorced her. But in May 2008, the Mumbai Sessions Court declared Sanjay's and Manyata's marriage valid.

Sanjay's Life

Being a son to two Hindi Cinema legends, Sanjay is often said to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But he rarely ever got a celeb bonus, quite the contrary: To be son of two celebrities made life difficult for him from the very beginning. When he in 1964 was sent to Lawrence School, Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh, the teachers treated him very harshly there and he got beaten more often than any other pupils; obviously the teachers didn't want to be said to give a preferential treatment to the son of two film icons and thus chose the other extreme. Nevertheless Sanjay later was grateful to his father Sunil for having him sent to Lawrence School where, far away from tinsel town in Bombay, he had got the chance to become an independant individual. And obviously the school motto did shape him: "Never give in".

His art studies at Elphinstone College Sanjay cancelled after one year, realising that this definitely was not his cup of tea. Instead he told his father that he wanted to become an actor. Sunil accepted his son's desire and sent him to treadmill for two years, which means classes in acting, talking, horse riding, martial arts etc, before getting him his debut film Rocky which Sunil directed himself. Rocky (1981) was ill-starred, the shooting intersecting with Nargis' ailment with cancer, and the release been just a few days after she passed away and when the familiy was in a state of shock. Rocky was no big success but it drew attention to Sanjay; the girls loved him, and Sanjay was offered more roles. Sunil Dutt was honest enough to warn the producers about a problem which just became more serious at that time: For years, Sanjay had been on drugs. He had started taking drugs because it was "in" for the young guys in Bombay, and, as he later confessed, "nine out of ten don't get addicted. I was the one." Only after eight or nine years of heroine, kokaine etc Sanjay finally managed to ask his father's help. Sunil took him to the USA where during a long-term therapy in Jackson, Mississippi, Sanjay managed to kick drugs once and forever within one year. The crucial point was, as he later often confessed, that he himself had decided to start his life afresh: He wanted to be like all the other people who happily lived normal lives with their families without drugs. Since he became clean, Sanjay has always made it a point to openly talk about this phase in his life and to support anti-drug-organisations to prevent other people, especially children, from getting on drugs and to help drug addicts kicking the habit.

(In November 1984, in a Stardust interview "I want to live" Sanjay talked in an amazingly honest and self-critical way about his drug phase and rehabilitation in the USA:
Link 1 - Link 2 - Link 3 - Link 4)

After his therapy, Sanjay seriously considered staying in the USA and becoming a rancher, but his father managed to get him back to India. After his early and, because of his drug consume, mainly rather poor performances the film industry already had written off Sanjay. So they were deeply astonished when a quasi reborn and completely changed Sanjay, bursting with energy, returned to the film sets. When Mahesh Bhatt offered him the big chance with Naam (1986), Sanjay took it and, after his victory over his drug addiction, again proved to be a phoenix. Naam became a hit, and Sanjay's terrific performance triggered off his career. From now on he was to develop in every way and to become a versatile actor who can play, simply said, everything. (Even today, Sanjay refers to his role in Naam as to a key experience which opened his eyes for his true potential as an actor.)

Sanjay Dutt in Naam

But just shortly thereafter this career was threatened to come to an abrupt end. After his drug rehabilitation, Sanjay had started working out and pushing weights regularly to stay fit and to get in shape. Supposedly therefore he suffered from a serious
lung collapse on August 10, 1987, only nine days after his engagement to Richa Sharma in New York. Such a lung collapse is a very rare ailment which usually afflicts only athlets (the doctors assured that in no way it could be linked with Sanjay's drug past) and, in the worst case, can cause the patient's death. Fortunately, as he was in New York, Sanjay could be treated and operated in time and survived the critical phase. But afterwards he wasn't allowed to work physically for months and again was forced to stay away from the film sets for quite a long time.

But again Sanjay held his ground. As soon as he was allowed to he started his regular workout again to gain a fit and muscular body. Thanks to his dream physique and to his solid qualification in the martial arts, he was offered more and more action roles with the distinction of being not just brutal fighting machines. For, from the very beginning of his career, one of Sanjay's greatest strengths in front of the camera had been his emotionality. So his roles nearly always were a mixture of lots of goodness, little evilness, lots of action and a special share of heart and emotions. That was the way the public loved him, but it also accepted him in unfamiliar roles, be it the lame poet in Saajan (1991) or the comedian in Thanedaar (1990), a film in which he, at Madhuri's side in "Tamma Tamma", finally even silenced the critics who used to maintain that he could not dance.

In the early 1990's, Sanjay was on the peak of his career. He was a superstar, millions of women and girls just adored the tall, long-maned, brawny hunk, and films like Sadak (1991) or Khalnayak (1993) confirmed his exceptional rank as action hero. But then fate stroke him again, more brutally than ever. During the Bombay riots in 1992 and 1993, the Dutt family had gone out of their way to help the victims, who mostly were muslims. As fanatic Hindus started threatening the family with fire, rape and murder, Sanjay, fearing for his family, acquired an AK-56 to be able to protect them in the case of emergency. Shortly thereafter, the Mumbai Bomb Blasts on March 12, 1993 killed 257 people and left 713 injured. When the police was tipsed that Sanjay had got an illegal weapon from people involved in this terror act, the investigators targeted him. Knowing that he would be interrogated, Sanjay returned from an Aatish shooting in Mauritius to India. But at the airport he was arrested immediately and, after his confession, booked under the TADA Act and not, as he was told before, under the Arms Act. After being released on bail on May 5, 1993, the pressure on the authorities just grew stronger. Suspected of having been part of the conspiracy which led to the bomb blasts, Sanjay was re-arrested on July 4, 1994, and spent fifteen months in jail until, after many unsuccessful attempts by the Dutt family, the Supreme Court finally granted him bail and Sanjay was released on October 17, 1995. Since then, he was nominally free but his life was controlled, regulated and constricted by the bail rules. (And even after more than fourteen years the nightmare is far away from over. Even though, on November 28, 2006, Judge Kode finally acquitted Sanjay from all TADA charges and thus took the terrorist stigma from him which had made Sanjay and his family suffer so much, the Arms Act verdict of illegal possession of arms remained and resulted on July 31, 2007 in a sentence to six years rigorous imprisonment which Sanjay, however, has challenged; that's why he is free on bail again right now.)

(More information about the TADA case please find

While Sanjay after his release in 1995 fought to regain his place in the film industry (which wasn't easy as during the first four years, Sanjay was to spend all days in court and could work only at night), another personal catastrophy hit him hard. His wife Richa, having been much better after her cancer ailment, suffered from a new brain tumor. Though their marriage had failed for quite a long time, Sanjay supported her with unbroken loyality until she passed away in December 1996. But then a legal battle about the custody of little Trishala broke out. The Sharmas wanted to keep the child and even to withdraw Sanjay's visiting rights, and so Sanjay had to fight one more court case beside his TADA trial. It ended 1999 with a settlement between Sanjay and the Sharmas, saying Trishala was not to be uprooted and to stay in the USA but also assuring Sanjay's visiting rights.

Like during his long months in prison, his family and his new girl-friend Rhea Pillai whom he married in 1998 were invaluable pillars of strength for him in these years. To cope with the tensions of his court cases, he not only worked out like a madman but also shot at the sets till he dropped. But success rewarded him for his labour, and after hits like Daag, Kartoos and Haseena Maan Jaayegi in 1999 he finally returned to the top with his fabulous and energetic performance as Raghubhai in Vaastav. Even the big Indian
movie awards now not longer could neglect him as they earlier regularly did. More great performances like in Mission Kashmir, Baaghi, Kurukshetra and Pitaah confirmed the exceptional rank among the Hindi Cinema actors Sanjay had gained at the turn of the millennium.

Sanjay Dutt in Vaastav

In the meantime he also had conquered new territories, e.g. as playback singer in his movies, and had founded the production house White Feather Films together with his friend, director Sanjay Gupta. Then in 2003, purely by chance, he got the role of his life. Shahrukh Khan had had to walk out of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Munnabhai MBBS due to his back problems, and Chopra offered the title role of a loveable rogue with a heart of gold to Sanjay who originally had been to play a smaller role in the film. Munnabhai MBBS thus became Sanjay's lucky chance on two accounts: his ravishing performance made him the incarnation of Munnabhai and more popular than ever, and on top of that, his father Sunil Dutt returned (in spite of a broken shoulder) to the film sets after ten years to play his film father. Sunil and Sanjay shared a relationship of incredibly deep trust, Sunil had been Sanjay's pillar of strength in all those years of crisis, never lost his faith in his son and always was proud of him which means the world to Sanjay. (His father's loss in 2005 shattered Sanjay seriously, but he still feels spiritually connected with his father and communicates insides with him.) So in the scenes they shared in Munnabhai MBBS they hardly needed to act, their emotions are genuine: the expression on Munna's face when he realizes how much he has hurt his father with his lies, or the reconciliating hug of father and son in the end, all the love and gratefulness Munna puts into this hug, that's not acted by Sanjay, that's genuine (the Making Of shows clearly how Sanju cried uncontrollably while shooting this scene) because for him, it wasn't his film father standing in front of him but his real father for whom he feels this love and gratefulness in real life, too. It is simply beyond belief that this was the only time these two fabulous actors ever shared screen time together, and watching the phantastic chemistry of father and son on the silver screen just hardenes the pain as it's clear that after Sunil Dutt's death in 2005 there is no chance to make up for this default.

Sanjay Dutt in Annarth

2006 became another crucial year for Sanjay. First the sequel to Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai, vaulted him to unforeseen heights of popularity. The Stardust magazine stated in its Yearbook 2007: "Who would've ever thought that the sequel to Munnabhai MBBS would end up making more money than the original? Thanks to Sanjay Dutt, a new terminology was introduced in the country - Gandhigiri. The man, who in real life was facing a charge of abetting violence, carried forward the message of peace and non-violence in his unique and inimitable way." All the more, millions of fans were praying in temples, mosques and churches in India and worldwide for Sanjay as the verdicts in the TADA trial finally were given out. Their faith in Sanjay's innocence was confirmed in the TADA acquittance on November 28, 2006, and they continue to stand by Sanjay even after his sentence from July 31, 2007.

As an actor, Sanjay Dutt has reached everything and, like Amitabh Bachchan, no longer has to prove his abilities. To quote the Stardust Yearbook 2007 once again: "His striking performances in films like Zinda and Tathastu also elevated his status as an actor of substance. No other actor of his age has been able to sweep the audiences like Sanjay and that's his biggest achievement."

In May 2008, Sanjay expressed for the first time political ambitions: "I certainly desire to continue to do what my father did as a social servant and serve people." He has several great film projects on hand, his market price as an actor has risen, he is solidly booked for the next few years, he is busy with his own banner Sanjay Dutt Productions, and he is writing his autobiography. In December 2008, the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IIMSAM) appointed Sanjay Dutt as its UN Goodwill Ambassador to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for eradication of malnutrition and hunger. In January 2009, he started working for the Samajwadi Party in the Lucknow constituency; because of his conviction, however, he was disallowed to contest the Lok Sabha polls by the Supreme Court on March 31, 2009. He's now the party's General Secretary.

Anyway, obviously Sanjay Dutt has no intentions to slow down - quite the opposite!

Sanjay Dutt in Lucknow, January 2009

What a life!

The Dutt Family in the early 2000's: (from left to right) Namrata, Siya,
Kumar, Sunil (sitting), Sanjay, Sacchi, Owen and Priya

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