Showbiz

NON-FICTION: THE MAD WORLD OF SANJU BABA

Written by Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi|Published July 1, 2018

Kumar Gaurav, Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt at the shooting of Naam which was Sanjay’s first hit film | Photos from the book

Bollywood superstar Sanjay Dutt may have been upset over the release of his unofficial ‘biography’ ahead of the much-publicised biopic Sanju, but Yasser Usman’s Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy sort of helps the Rajkumar Hirani production. In what is his third unofficial biography of a major Bollywood star — after Rajesh Khanna and Rekha — the author takes readers back in time with the help of published interviews, conversations with friends, family and colleagues as well as news items and gossip pieces from back in the day. Dutt may not like the end result, but his fans certainly would, considering that the book will help them know much behind the actor’s usually smiling facade.

Dutt, aka Sanju Baba, can easily be termed one of the most loved and, equally, controversial actors in Bollywood; long before Salman Khan became the poster boy for ‘bad’ behaviour, it was Dutt who was known for his wild antics and erratic personality. Born to superstar parents Sunil Dutt and Nargis, one might have thought Dutt’s life and career would be smooth sailing. However, his reality has been as dramatic as any masala film replete with romance, action, suspense and even tragedy: he was deep into the drugs scene when drugs weren’t very common, he was always accompanied by the most charming ladies and it was on the advice of then prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, that he was sent to boarding school in an attempt to control his increasingly wild lifestyle.

Usmani reveals plenty of interesting facts about Dutt, beginning with his very name which was chosen after a contest in Shama magazine. Some fans might know that he won an air-guitar playing contest in the United States in 1982 — when he was 23 years old — but even the most ardent followers might be unaware that he smoked his first cigarette at the age of six in front of his shocked father, was a troublesome individual during his final years of college and started taking drugs at an early age — that too at home, where his mother, the actress Nargis, had no clue about his ‘hobbies’.

An unauthorised biography of Bollywood’s original bad boy

According to the research undertaken by Usman, fans will discover that Dutt’s college professors remember seeing him only once in class, that his mother told her cousin about his drug use before dying and that he remembered nothing about his mother’s funeral — held five days before his debut film Rocky premiered — because he was completely stoned during the burial rites.

Although Rocky failed to make much of an impression at the box office, Dutt continued to make an impression with the ladies and Usman notes that when a man behaved inappropriately with Tina Munim — Dutt’s co-star in Rocky with whom he was also in a relationship — the actor hauled the offender off and beat him up. The young man also engaged in a heated encounter with Rajesh Khanna because he felt the much senior actor was trying to steal Munim from him and also plotted with his friend, actor Gulshan Grover, to beat up fellow actor Rishi Kapoor for the same. Interestingly, it is Kapoor’s son, Ranbir, who is playing Dutt in the biopic Sanju.

The Dutts appear at court after Sanjay’s implication in the 1993 Mumbai terror attacks

Based on Usman’s fast-paced book, Dutt’s life can be divided into three categories: the 1980s, the ’90s, and beyond — because he was clueless in the ’80s, naïve in the ’90s, and underwent the biggest transformation in his career and in life after becoming everyone’s favourite Munna Bhai MBBS in 2003. However, the question remains: how was a man with so many issues able to survive, let alone succeed?

After Dutt’s drug use began to spiral out of control, his father sent him to a rehab facility in the US. There, he was presented with a list and asked to mark the drugs he had done. Dutt looked at the list and said, “I’m going to have to tick them all.” As he progressed with his rehabilitation, Dutt toyed with the idea of investing in a ranch and living in the US permanently, but then he was offered Naam and his film career saw its first big upswing.


Five Dutt facts from the book

• Sunil and Sanjay Dutt kept one seat empty for Nargis Dutt at the premiere of Rocky, as she had passed away before the film’s release.

• When she had yet to understand her son’s drug addiction, Nargis wondered to a friend, “Why is Sanjay’s room always locked when his friends are there? I hope he’s not gay.”

• The actor once smuggled heroin into the US in his shoes, while accompanying his sisters to see their mother in hospital.

• When friends and associates in the Congress party failed to help Sunil Dutt secure his son’s release from prison, Dutt senior had to seek the help of Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader Bal Thackeray.

• When reporters asked actor/politician Shatrughan Sinha if Dutt were complicit in the 1993 terror attacks, he replied, “Don’t be ridiculous. He doesn’t even know what a stock exchange [one of the bombed sites] is!”


He married the first of his three wives — actress Richa Sharma — around the same time, but both his personal and professional lives continued to swing erratically. Sharma moved to the US where she was diagnosed with cancer and Dutt began a relationship with actress Madhuri Dixit. Their films together — Saajan, Saahiban and Khalnayak — were storming the box office, but just as it seemed that at least one thing in his life was going well, Dutt became embroiled with the underworld, which led him to be named as one of the people involved in the 1993 terror attacks that shook Mumbai. The man who had often been shown on the screen putting bad guys behind bars was now himself imprisoned for illegal possession of arms and ammunition.

This marked the lowest point of Dutt’s life. He was disavowed by the film industry and his father — despite being a politician — was unable to secure his freedom. However, upon his release he managed to make a comeback that startled every doubter and naysayer.

Usman’s linear chronology of Dutt’s life makes it an easy book to read, but the content can sometimes be disturbing. From his distraught mother who believed he would be the death of her, to his little sisters guarding him as he went into drug withdrawal, to his first child who saw him so rarely that she called him ‘uncle’, it is a sad life to behold. However, Dutt bounces back time and again, which is what enables the reader to get past the more miserable parts of his history.

The reviewer writes on film, television and popular culture

Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of
Bollywood’s Bad Boy
By Yasser Usman
Juggernaut, India
ISBN: 978-9386228581
225pp.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, July 1st, 2018

About the author

Omair Alavi