As someone who grew up in the ’80s, Sanjay Dutt was the epitome of masculinity and cool for me. I actually had a mega poster of him, those searing eyes looking into the camera, wearing what we used to call a ‘Sandows baniyan’ then, what the fashion bloggers revel in calling the ‘ganji’ today – arms crossed at his chest.
Sidebar: We used to call it a Sandows baniyan because of Eugene Sandow, known to be the father of bodybuilding. So, you know, if you wear such a baniyan, you are showing off your physique like Sandow. I have no idea why fashion bloggers call it ‘ganji’, apart from wanting to be earthen and urban together.
That was the only piece of Bollywood paraphernalia I ever owned. But I digress, Sanjay Dutt was one of the few ’90s actors who really ruled the roost. We couldn’t get more of this guy who played roles in films like “Sarphira”, “Thaanedaar”, all those goofy films that are given ode to in those self-aware films of today. He broke the mould with films like “Naam”, “Sadak”, “Dushman”, and many others, until “Munnabhai MBBS” hit the theatres. Until today, I had only two memories of Sanjay Dutt. One was that mega poster and the other was a common anecdote I used to hear when I was on the field covering Bollywood.
“Baba eats lunch and dinner with the spot boys and the other staff.”
This statement is generally followed by: “You know everybody calls Sanjay Dutt, Baba, right?”
The only time I have ever heard him called Baba is by Suniel Shetty and Salman Khan in different interviews. I have never been able to corroborate the food thing, but I had no reason to disbelieve it too. I also confess that I found it difficult to digest when he was arrested on various charges. The courts established, beyond doubt, that he illegally possessed arms. The why of it, will always be unclear. Although, one scene in the trailer that just released hints that the film could put light on it. However, this article is not about that scene – this article is about that other scene. Picture this.
So, Dia Mirza, who plays Manyata Dutt, looks dotingly at Ranbir Kapoor, who plays Sanjay Dutt, as he speaks to Anushka Sharma, who plays his biographer and tells her that he has slept more than 350 women. Now, the way the scene is shot could be the tone of the entire film. Here is this man-boy who’s taking things that life’s giving him and meandering through it with his ‘I am sorry’ look. The director wants this scene to show off his protagonist’s charm, his deep-set innocence that makes him do things, his frank honesty that’s as comforting as an empty seat in an 8:05 local towards Borivli. What did the director achieve with this scene?
Here’s a man confessing to a woman, in the presence of his wife, that he has slept with more than 350 women. What message does that send to an entire generation of people who adored and still adore him? Did he not foresee drunk talk that goes, “You know, Sanjay Dutt slept with 350 women, you should allow me to sleep with at least 35.” Did he not foresee WhatsApp jokes that begin with that sentence and ending with the wife retorting that the respective husband should also have as much money as Dutt, or look so good, or whatnot and what all?
But the question here, Mr. Hirani, is this scene really required?
Bollywood rags are already taking this one dialogue and making it a headline of their articles.
There could be a justification that the film is a naked, tell-all story about Sanju, the boy, the man, the icon. But now that such a stark dialogue has been played out to the audience, how sure can an audience be that the director has been as blunt and open with every other aspect of Sanjay Dutt’s life?
Even if the dialogue is in the film, does Hirani, who’s been in this business for more years than YKA has existed, not know that this dialogue will be milked ad nausem all over? Or is that this is a trailer being peddled with the producer – the initial buzz is required, but the film will speak on its own merit. So then, is this kind of PR machinery justified – from a man who made films like YouKnowWhich and YouKnowWhat. If Mr. Hirani has sat in even one promotion meeting in his entire life – and I am sure he has – he knows that this is the dialogue that will be pasted all over by a section of media who don’t know any better. They won’t talk about how Jim Sarbh is around, they won’t talk about how Paresh Rawal’s dialogue delivery gives you goosebumps, they won’t talk about that final trailer scene that’s a bittersweet anecdote from the wild, whacky Bollywood of the 90s.
Mr. Hirani, I wouldn’t want this as a memory of Sanjay Dutt. Here’s what my third memory would be. When the audio CD for Mission Kashmir was released, the back cover had only the eyes of Hrithik and Sanjay Dutt looking into the camera. Hrithik, then a greenhorn, had his facial muscles in a purge to look menacing. And our Dutt saab, was just looking into the lens.
That’s what Sanjay Dutt is all about – effortless masculinity – not a dialogue that’s more about libido than masculinity.