Lamhaa opened in the theatres this Friday under a cloud of controversy. The movie that was sparked off by a stray remark made by a student during a screening of director Rahul Dholakia’s last film, Parzania, describing Kashmir as a “beautiful prison”, has been banned in the Middle East.
It will not be screened in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Oman because the UAE National Media Council Censorship Board believes the subject to be “highly objectionable”. Earlier, the premiere in Srinagar had been cancelled on “security” grounds and the film will not play in Kashmir.
Both the no-shows have upset Sanjay Dutt. In our last interview, the star who has been taking an active interest in his former schoolmate Omar Abdullah’s riot-hit state, had said that he’d be honoured to be the brand ambassador for J & K. “Not many know that my wife, Maanyata, is from Kashmir,” he added.Sanjay has been visiting the Valley since he was a child. He had accompanyied his parents, Nargis and Sunil Dutt, on their shoots. And then returned, as a young adult, to film Rocky. "There are so many memories," he mused.
Not a khalnayak
I have a memory flash of my own. We’re in a make-up room in Filmalaya Studio, back in the 1990s. Sanjay has just been released on bail after long, anxious days in the Crawford Market lock-up. His film, Khal Nayak, has just released to a rousing reception. Naturally, at the top of our minds are these two talking point events.
Sanjay smiles mistily through a cloud of cigarette smoke, “The standing ovation I received from 800 million during the premieres of Khal Nayak proved that people still like me, I’m not a khalnayak (villain).”
The mood turned darker in the next instance when talk veers towards the film industry. Apart from Dilip Kumar, Shatrughan Singh, Mahesh and Robin Bhatt, Yash Johar, Afzal Khan and Sanjay Gupta, few had openly come out in support of their Baba.
“That’s life,” he shrugs. “If one of my colleagues had been arrested, I’d have taken out a morcha (procession) and closed down the industry. I’m not going to be a larger-than-life hero anymore.”
He’s also bitter about his break-up with wife Richa Sharma and blames her family for it. “I suffered silently for four years, but there comes a time when a man can’t take it any more,” he says, adding that he’ll never risk marriage again.
“I’d once thought of buying a house of my own but not anymore. I’ve been living alone for four years now and I’ve become independent,” he points out. “I don’t want to be answerable to anyone ever again. And since it wouldn’t be fair to the girl if I keep doing my own thing, I’ll stay single and unattached.”
Shoot with the camera
No more late nights, he promises, and no more shikars (hunts): “I’m through with guns, now I only shoot with my camera.”
Cut to 2010. Some things have changed… The bachelor boy is happily married again. Some things haven’t… Sanjay is still playing a larger-than-life hero, in reel life and real, and shooting with a camera.
During his 50-day stay in Kashmir for Lamhaa, he took lots of pictures, of destitute war widows and desolate orphans. Some of these images you would have seen in the film, some he holds close to his heart as he waits for his baby to enter the world. Hopefully, a better world from the one from which he’s just returned.