When Sunil Dutt Pledge To Make At Least One Film Every Year As A Mark Of Tribute To Nargis
Today it is the fourteenth death anniversary of my dear actor cum politician friend Sunil Dutt who passed away on May 25 way back in the year 2004. To commemorate his death anniversary, JYOTHI VENKATESH who knew him very closely pencils in his thoughts about the great filmmaker cum actor.
I have not met Sanjay Dutt at all ever since I bumped into him at the Double Dhammal premiere but Unlike the stars of today who host parties where the press is treated separately outside the red carpet, his father Sunil Dutt reveled in throwing lavish parties where he used to drink along with the media guys at his spacious bungalow, where his son Sanjay Dutt had constructed a multi storeyed building Imperial Heights where he lives in the top floor. I remember he used to advice me to have wine instead of whisky because whisky is harmful especially after one crosses the age of 50.
I also remember the first time Duttsaab had asked me to go to his bungalow to interview his son Sanjay who he was planning to introduce in his film Rocky. This was in 1981 before Sanjay was exposed to the media. Duttsaab wanted me to be the first to interview his son. However, when I reached his bungalow, Sanjay was found fast asleep in the verandah and in spite of my knocking him, he did not wake up at all and I had to complain to Nargisji that Duttsaab had asked me to come down and interview their son Sanjay but he was showing no signs of waking up. It was Nargisji who ultimately managed to wake him up and coax him to give me an interview though he was not at all willing.
I just cannot forget how Sunil Dutt braved the grueling heat and travelled on top of a truck for his campaign when he was standing for elections as a Congress party candidate during the 1983 elections and I had even volunteered to canvass for him by going along with him in his constituency, especially to Bandra where a large chunk of Tamilians lived. Duttsaab was surprised when I took to the mike and spoke to all the Tamil voters to vote for him in chaste Tamil and they all clapped in return. Today, it is sad that an Urmila Matondkar in Mumbai or Sunny Deol in Gurdaspur do not at all need the media to canvass for them. In those good old days, the actors including Sunil Dutt and Rajesh Khanna did not carry along with them sturdy hatta katta bodyguards and bouncers an d what’s more were easily accessible for the common man. I remember when I had gone to meet him at his office in Bandra after the death of his wife Smt Nargis Dutt, Sunil Dutt had offered me a cup of tea and confessed, “I have so many things to do which I had left unattended earlier when I did not know what was happening around me. Though I confess I do feel lost because there is a vacuum in my life after Nargis’s death. In now realize that I should now devote time to do all those little things which I had wanted to do-settle deals and negotiations”. “I am happy at the response my son Sunjay has got at the box office for his acting in my film Rocky. I have asked him to sign only a few selected films because in this industry what matter not quantity but quality. Only if you think you can do enough justice to a role you should accept it, I told him”, he had added.
Dutt Saab also told me that he had already planned two films with Sunjay Dutt as the leading man and will be directing both the films. One of them will star Sunjay, Padmini Kolhapure, Mithun Chakraborty and South’s Sapna, another model turned heroine. “Under the aegis of the Ajanta Arts banner, I want to make every year at least one good film as a tribute to Nargis. Thankfully my banner is sound and safe because my last film Nehle Pe Dehla had turned out to be a super duper hit”.
Duttsaab had continued, “Take it from me; I would not make an art film without keeping an eye on the box office. A film should be commercially viable and in a position to recover its cost of production. Why should a film be made just for the sake of leaving it in the safe custody of the Film Archives? When I pledge to make at least one film every year as a mark of tribute to Nargisji, my responsibility is also increasing threefold. “I plan to first of all make a trust in the name of Nargisji. The proceedings of every film that I make will be credited to the trust which will undertake the job of fulfilling Nargisji’s ambition- that is bettering the lives of spastic children. I have also told the stars who would be working in my film that I wouldn’t be paying them at all. Most of them have agreed to work for me without charging me any money. And why should any star agree to work free of charge for me? Some of the stars would accept less than half of what they are charging outside for their services.
“On May 3, 1982, my wife’s first death anniversary, I plan to release the first of my planned films. This is about a widower and his daughter who is afflicted with cancer. I had planned the project even before Nargisji had died. It is just a quirk of irony that I will be launching the film after my wife passed away. Whenever my wife and I used to pass via Jaslok, she used to tell me with tears in her eyes that a day should come in India when even the poor man on the street will be able to get medical aid free of charge. Why should a poor man be deprived of an opportunity to be treated for cancer? A disease doesn’t select its clients. I want to make a hospital for the spastic children. It was my late wife’s pet project.”
Sunil Dutt was always active before the camera. The day I visited him, he had just returned from the Seth Studios at Andheri where he was shooting for Raj Kumar Kohli’s latest venture Rajk Tilak. Apart from Raj Tilak, Sunil Dutt also starred in Raj Kumar Kohli’s Badle Ki Aag.
Sunil Dutt made it clear to me that he isn’t interested in switching over to character roles. “As an actor, I have played different kinds of roles. I have never had hang ups about acting in any film in any kind of role, other than that of characters. The reason that I have decided not to do any inane character roles is that I want to retain the image which I had when my wife left me.” Sunil Dutt admitted that an entirely new second generation has grown up now during the past one decade or two or so which is interested in seeing those dynamic roles which he had done in the past like the ones in Yadein, Khyandaan, Milan, Reshma Aur Shera and Yeh Raaste Hai Pyar Ke. “I am planning to revive my old films and release them after re- editing them to catch up with the new trends. Today the audience’s taste has changed for the better. I do not want to test their patience by releasing my old films as they were in their original formats.”
“Today the younger generation is exposed to the world cinema. The media is there unlike in the past when radio was the only medium of communication. Today teenagers see films on their video sets as well TV sets. They are aware of what is meant by close up and zoom lens and flash back. They grasp anything rapidly because the I Q of today’s youngsters is more than that of the yester year generation and the filmmakers have the added responsibility of catering to their tastes by taking rapid strides in the field. “In the kind of frame my mind was during the past one year or so, I couldn’t take time off to see some of the films we had made in our country. Though I have not seen films like Ek Duuje Ke Liye and Chasme Buddoor, I have heard a lot about these films. In fact, my own children Priya and Namtrata have also raved about these films. In order to know these trends in the industry today, I guess I’ll have to see some of the outstanding films made by our directors today.”
Though Sunil Dutt doesn’t admit it, one guesses that he is keen on establishing his banner by making meaningful films which are artistic and at the same time made with an eye on the box office because as he puts it, “Films should be viable commercially if the producer as to survive in his field”. Now that the youngsters have already invaded the scene and his own son Sunjay Dutt has been welcomed by the industry, Sunil Dutt is planning to concentrate in direction. Filmmaking has always been in his blood as has been proved by the fact that ahead of his time he had made masterpieces like Yadein, Yeh Raaste Hai Pyar Ke and Reshma Aur Shera.
Sunil Dutt is also contemplating upon giving a break to other new comers as well, like he has always done in the past. Who can forget the fact that it was Sunil Dutt who had introduced Vinod Khanna, Leena Chandavarkar, Ranjeet, Shakti Kapoor and many others to the screen? Though in Rocky he had introduced a new male face-his own son Sunjay, in his next venture, he says that he is planning to give a break to a new actress.
Sunil Dutt had told me that he will be introducing Sapna, a model turned actress from the south, who is a popular actress on the Tamil and Malayalam screen today with heroes like Kamal Haasan and Rajanikant. Recently Sapna was in Bombay to see Sunil Dutt and discuss at length about the role. If she is finalized for the film, she may breeze in on the Hindi screen as a Sunil Dutt discovery and pose a serious threat to Rati Agnihotri, another model turned star from South, who has gone places with the release of Ek Duuje Ke Liye, which is turn was the remake of the Telugu original Maro Charitra , also directed by K. Balachander. Alas, he did not live to launch Sapna as an actress in Mumbai. I miss Duttsaab badly. I remember when he was the Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, when I told him that I would be covering as a freelancer the International Film Festival in Goa when the venue was shifted from New Delhi to Goa, he fondly asked me where I would stay and who would foot the bill for my stay. When I said no one was footing my bill because I was a freelancer, and asked him to suggest a cheap venue, he offered to write a letter to the In Charge of the Youth Hostel in Goa where I could say by paying just Rs 100 per day for 10 days and cover the festival. Is there any maai ka laal star, who would today go out of his way to accommodate a freelance journalist? Jaane Kahaan Gaye Who Din? Three cheers to Barkhurdar Sunil Dutt Saab.
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