On Thursday evening, Imperial Heights, the famous Dutt building in Pali Hill was buzzing, thanks to little Iqra and Shahran, Sanjay Dutt’s twins with his wife Manyata. Their squeals of excitements at the sight of a visitor, who they wanted to play with, took over the room. Very fit and with tattoos on practically every visible portion of his anatomy, Sanjay Dutt played the indulgent father as we chatted in an exclusive interview. “Shahran is a ditto copy of my childhood,” he laughed.
Actor Sanjay Dutt in a still from Son of Sardaar
At 53, Sanjay seems a happy man. Son of Sardaar, his latest film, is releasing this Diwali, but he has lots of other things to talk about as well. Here’s what matters to him the most.
Did you ever imagine that you’d be a new father at 50?
It’s a lovely surprise for me. This is the most satisfying phase of my life! I have two lovely kids, a nice wife. My whole family is together in the same building and my career is doing fine! I was truly waiting for something like this.
That sounds great, especially since you’ve always felt that life’s been unfair to you. Is Manyata responsible for the change?
There are phases when you feel terrible, and phases like this one help balance your thoughts. I was going through a very difficult phase when I met Manyata. I felt secure and stable after she came into my life — in fact, a lot of things came into my life when she did. She brought me back on track. There were so many issues and by God’s grace, all are getting sorted out. I know I was very unstable and unhappy all through my life. I lost my mother and then my father. Losing dad was like losing the bearings of my life. My sisters took it badly, but I took it worse. Throughout my lean phases, dad was like a solid rock, supporting me, whether it was work, or my jail term. And everything crumbled after he was gone! Today life’s become much more comfortable and beautiful. We all live in the same building; it’s a big happy family. I mean my sisters’ kids, my kids, all of them together… it’s just unbelievable. Touch wood!
Is there anything now that you feel you lack?
Yes. I want my freedom back. I have been embroiled in court cases for the last 20 years. I have lost all my youth and a lot of time! I couldn’t do many things. Now my final hearing is coming up. I just pray that I get my freedom back. I want no money, no fame, just my freedom!
Are you getting into politics again?
Yes, I want to. My parents were in the Congress, and I have come back to it. There was a phase when I meandered to some other political party, but it was a mistake. I went a little haywire. If I am approached to contest elections, I will give it a thought.
You look fitter than before. What do you do?
I work out like a maniac, three times more than anything I did in the past. I am off carbs, salt, sweets, and live on a fish diet. And I promise I am not going to indulge in food again. See, when I was 49 years old, I was fine, but the moment I touched 50, I felt that something within me had changed drastically. My metabolic rate dropped.
Are you a doting father?
Absolutely! With the kids around, this is a different world to me. I spend a lot of time with them till they go to their playschool. I wake up early, have breakfast with them. I come back from work and am with them again till they go to bed by 10 pm. Touch wood, this is what I wanted always.
Do you feel the absence of your first child, Trishala?
All the time! I try my best to keep in touch with her but sometimes the timings are inconvenient for both of us. I obviously can’t go to the US because I am not given a visa. But I try and meet her outside the country sometimes. Unfortunately, I cannot spend as much time with her as I want to. She’s grown into a beautiful girl! One thing that really bothers me is that the time and moments I am spending with Iqra and Shahran, I wish I would have spent with Trishala when she was growing up. I really miss it. And for that I am apologetic to Trishala. I know she understands.
Can’t she shift here to be with you?
I can’t see Trishala in this country. It would be unfair for me to uproot her. She has a strong base there. She loves New York City, her friends and life are there. I remember, years ago, we were in the family court and the judge told me that if I wanted to bring her back to India then I should do it in phases, never uproot her. I really understood what he meant. At that time, we didn’t have the Pizza Hut and McDonald’s culture in Mumbai. And that was Trishala’s growing up phase and she wanted all this. It would have been unfair.
Trishala wants to get into movies but you are dead against it. Why?
None of my sisters are in the movies, nor are my nieces going to be. That’s how Dutt sahab, my dad, brought up the girls in the family and I am just carrying his thought forward. If he had been alive today, Trishala wouldn’t have thought about getting into movies. In any case, she’s worked so hard in her academics. She has seen me go through my court trauma and she was very passionate about becoming a criminal lawyer to fight cases for innocent people. She studied forensic science. I really think she should continue it.
But it seems her heart lies in movies.
There’s a lot of labour that goes behind the glamour. Many youngsters are attracted to it without knowing the dynamics of it. It’s not an easy route to success. Plus, Trishala doesn’t know Hindi. Also, there are too many things involved. I have told her several times that the film industry doesn’t guarantee superstardom to everyone. There’s a grind you have to go through. Your lineage and surname become irrelevant after your first film. Audiences do not care.
Are you suggesting that the film industry is a big bad world for girls?
Absolutely not. Both my father and mother belonged here. The film industry is a lovely family and I respect it. I am only trying to say it’s not easy.
Unlike many of your contemporaries, you are still sustaining your stardom.
I don’t want to compare myself with anyone and I have gracefully accepted my age. I am not scared to take up roles that suit my age. Secondly, I am physically and mentally fit. Sometime ago I know I went out of shape and everything career-wise went haywire. Then I got Karan Johar’s Agneepath and I was born again! I think, as long as you accept your age and are willing to experiment with those kinds of roles, you can sustain your career. I can’t do what Salman does. It’ll look odd on me. You cannot keep thinking you are young; you have to accept age someday. Salman is at that juncture where I was once. The feeling is surreal! But listen, I am not saying I am against working with younger actresses. For me, the story has to sound sensible.
You have patched up with Sanjay Gupta after five years and even with Kangana Ranaut…
I’ve known Sanjay since he was an assistant director in a movie called Thanedaar. We have done some great films together. Even though we weren’t on talking terms, I never spoke ill about him. Recently I was at Amitji’s birthday party. When I came in, Sanjay was standing at the foyer. We just happened to look at each other after five years. And before we realised it, we were hugging each other. I am sure even he felt my absence in his life. See, every family fights. I remember my youngest uncle (dad’s brother) fought with my dad and they didn’t talk to each other for 10 years. But eventually, everything vanished in a second when they met somewhere. It’s a matter of connect eventually.
Do you miss being in Bigg Boss? Why aren’t you there this time?
Of course I miss being there. It was a wonderful experience. I don’t give too much emphasis to whys and hows. Salman is there and that’s as good as me. That’s the relationship I share with him. He is like my younger brother. We are always there for each other, be it good times or bad times. Let me tell you, there are not many people around you in times of crisis. But Salman has been with me and I have been with him throughout. I am worried about him as much as he is about me. There can be never be a problem with Salman. Touch wood.
What’s your dream role?
I have done all kinds of roles, but Tony Montana’s role in Scarface is something I would love to play.
You are reprising Pran sahab’s role in Zanjeer. Have you met him?
I worked with Pransaab in few films. But I haven’t met him recently. Once we start shooting, I’ll go and see Pransaab.
You are close to Amrita Singh. Has it affected your equation with Saif today?
Yes, Amrita is a friend, but we are in touch off and on. I don’t know why Saif and Bebo didn’t invite me to their wedding. I think it was a closed affair. But I am fine with it. I wish them all the best. I have known Lolo and Bebo since they were little girls. Saif and I have done many films together and we have had some great times together in my house.
Sanjay Dutt’s advice to his favourite five
Salman Khan: Bro, you are doing a great job, great charity work, just maintain whatever you are doing. You have God’s blessings. And yes, get married.
Shah Rukh Khan: You have made peace with a lot of people, but you should make peace with everybody. We are all one big family.
Aamir Khan: You make the right movies and choose perfect roles. Your TV show Satyamev Jayate had great intent. You are one of the greatest actors we have. Aamir, stay in touch like before.
Akshay Kumar: He’s my paaji. Whenever his film is released and I find it interesting, I call him and he takes my call. Bro, remain the way you are.
Ajay Devgn: He works from the heart. And he spends a lot of money. Bro, don’t be like me. You need to keep a check on your money.