The Sins of The Son


Film makers mined the lives of gangsters for material. For them, Sanjay’s stories from jail — he served 18 months — of how the underworld recruits shooters from the children’s barracks were gold. As late as 2000, seven years after Dutt had first been implicated in the Mumbai bombings, shortly after he had served time and had been let out on bail, he was back in touch with gangsters. The transcripts for a drunken exchange involving, among others, Dutt, Mahesh Manjrekar and Chhota Shakeel are available online. Dutt has little to say to the gangster beyond such banalities as Govinda being a “chutiya”. Shakeel probes listlessly, “Aur kya chal raha hai?” Sanjay responds, “Bas chal raha hai bhai.” Neither wants to hang up, both star struck in their own ways.

In a section in Maximum City, Mehta describes how Sanjay, close to Abu Salem, had managed to get a friend, director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, off the extortion hook with a single phone call. In his call to Salem, Dutt had allegedly said of Chopra, “This is the one man who stood by me when I was in jail. You can’t touch him.” In a text message to TEHELKA, Chopra, who is currently in London, said he was “not qualified” to comment on the man who saved him from Abu Salem. Mehta’s description of Dutt as “brontosaurus-sized” and overly fond of “guns and muscles” and the masculine image of the Marlboro Man appears to fit in snugly with the impression from that drunken phone call: of a troubled, immature movie star playing with dangerous toys for kicks.

Amateur psychoanalysts would keep turning to Nargis’ death, in the days after what should’ve been the high point of her son’s triumphant return home, drug-free and on the verge of bona fide movie stardom. When Dutt has been down, life has rarely refrained from kicking. In 1987, nearly six years after his mother’s death, he married Richa Sharma. “It was nice to come home to someone,” he told Garewal. Two months after the birth of their daughter Trishala, Sharma was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She died in 1996 and their daughter moved to the US to live with her grandparents. Dutt had already been found guilty by then of illegal possession of arms.

Three years previously, he had been shooting in Mauritius when he heard he was going to be indicted under TADA and the Arms Act. He had asked a friend, Yusuf Nulwalla, to remove his AK-56 from his house, and Yusuf together with another friend, the steel manufacturer Kersi Adajania, saw to it that the gun was melted and thrown into the sea at Nariman Point. The police recovered the spring and some cartridges from the rocks. In the end, it was Sunil Dutt who had the moral courage to turn his son over to the police. He tipped them off about Dutt’s return from Mauritius and on 19 April, he was met at the airport by 200 commandoes.

When he saw his father again, Sanjay was in police custody. Sunil Dutt must have felt his back pressed to a wall when he gave Sanjay up to the police, but he still hoped his son was innocent. Had he done what the police accused him of, he asked. His son’s answer must have bewildered his already aching heart. “I have Muslim blood in my veins,” Sanjay said, “I couldn’t bear what was happening in the city.” It was a dramatic and, frankly, strange declaration. Dutt belonged to a thoroughly mixed family and his religious identity was equally mixed.

After his conviction, he was seen with his forehead daubed with a giant red tilak, his Muslim identity now in abatement. Was this tactical, an attempt to distance him self in the public eye from a dark event? Or was it a tribute to the support of the Thackerays and the Shiv Sena? (Support that has now been reversed.) It might just have been neither. Having grown up around Zaheeda’s love for Sai Baba, Dutt spent four hours each day of the 18 months he spent in jail praying to God. Which god he prayed to and what kind of deliverance he asked for is unclear. Later, he spoke of time spent befriending the sparrows, ants and rats that would appear in his 8×8 cell. He was also angry, self-recriminating. In a fit of rage, he banged his head against the bars of his cell until he had to be removed from solitary confinement for fear that he would kill himself. He could not have slept easy knowing the fates of the other accused — Zaibunissa, Manzoor, Yusuf — all tried under TADA, unlike Dutt.


  1. A very touching portrayal of Sanjay Dutt , I wish you would take the time out to so lovingly detail out & humanize the lives of the other accused & sentenced folks………oh actually I am sorry I asked,they are the non famous, poor ,non entities of the world so why should you waste your precious time & brain space to do so….

    • Are you reading Tehelka for the first time ?
      Plz do some constructive criticism.

      Nishita, im sure the article must be insightful & well researched.
      But I have 5 more tabs opened in my browser window, & 5 more tasks on my to-do list. And I cant take out time on weekends & evenings to read this.
      And for Sanjay Dutt?

      Maybe I can make more time. But not for Sanjay Dutt.

      • read the article at least before you comment, your remarks show the comments of a lazy sod who hasn’t even read what he professes to comment on !!!

  2. Hey Nishita
    Loved the complete writeup and kudos to the details which you put in about him…Reading your complete article is like reading a complete excerpt of his auto-bio graphy… No doubt Sanjay made a come back everytime and this is probably the weakest moment of his life..

    If his arm possession is more of a self-defence act…and considering the situation back in 1993, and Bollywood involvement with underworld, he has done the right thing..Any normal human being wuld have done the same, if he had that kind of connection..!!

    It’s true that nothing is beyond the law and one of the major reason his escape from all this is tough because if his high-profile identity… But if we sum up all the odds here and his change of personality over the time..He should not be published again..!!

  3. Well written, Nishita..but u should’ve done much more research into his early life..he was still an active drug addict during his mother’s death & the release of Rocky(1981)..he was doing films in this situation for 2 more years..then dad Sunil Dutt send him to the rehab centre in US in 1983..he came back clean after 2 years..was sitting at home with no work for around 6 producers really wanted to try him again..his come back movie was ‘Jaan ki Baazi’ in 1985..but it was Mahesh Bhatt’s movie ‘Naam'(1986) brought him back to the limelite and established him as dynamic actor rather than a glorified star kid..

    P.S: The irony is tht, dad Sunil Dutt was the hero in the bollywood version of Nanavati story, Yeh Rasthey Hei Pyar Ke(1963).

  4. Thank you for the piece which was on Sunil Dutt really!! Brought back fond and wistful memories of an Indian for whom secularism was a living value…

  5. Very well written..As a fan I love Sanjay Dutt and his films. I love his father and the works he had done. But then to say he should be pardoned would be unfair for all those many innocent victims behind bars who doesn’t have the means and the resources he has access to. One has to pay for what he or she has done. And possession of illegal arms in such sensitive times was against the law. But then as a Law student, I understand the circumstances under which he acted. Bombay in 1993 was thick in communal riots and his mother was a Muslim and threats were made against his family. As a son, his acts of protecting his family at any cost was justified but then his associations and the means to do it was not right. its been a long time. 20 years have passed. Despite all of this, he gave us some memorable and loving movies. I think may be serving the 3 years in jail will ultimately help him become free and lead an uninterrupted life as the author says..


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