The motherly librarian at the newspaper office snapped, "How could you not praise Rocky to the skies? The boy has just lost his mother."
Sanjay Dutt needed no such sympathy. Beatle-haired, Madhushala-eyed and of sinuous physique, he was show world's original biker hellraiser, the rebel who was paradoxically a mamma's boy.
When Nargis Dutt passed away, the 20-year-old wept as if had been abandoned at dawn, cutting a lone figure in the empty compound of Breach Candy hospital — till he was hugged by his father, aunts, the film fraternity. Then the flashbulbs popped.
With the media or with his peers, Dutt Jr has always played it straight as an arrow. He has this slo-mo drawl, a jaw that tightens up at provocation, and those gym-slogged muscles which initiated the have-biceps-will-act wave. His body as well as his spoken lingo are purely Sanjuwadi. If you catch him using a cuss word, he pulls his ears like a schoolboy caught sneaking a smoke.
To think of him as a boy, still caught in a 47-year-old man's body, is simplistic. Indeed over the years he has matured, facing the death of his wife Richa Sharma, broken romances and an incompatible marriage. His father was his sentinel, preventing today's Munnabhai from going to pieces. During his son's 18-month incarceration at Arthur Road jail, Sunil Dutt seemed haunted, dispatching letters and petitions not only to the powers-that-were but also to citizens' group lobbies.
The prison days chastened Sanjay Dutt. He described the bird which would sit on his palm stretched out of the barred window, he described the inmates' stories—one of which is often said to have been the inspiration point for Ram Gopal Varma's Satya. He has seen the lowest depths and he is no stranger to la dolce vita (the sweet life).
Undeniably, the hard knocks made him evolve into a spontaneous actor of conviction. In his bank of over 100 films, the best performances have been of the disturbed, untamed braveheart—be it in Naam, Khal-Nayak, Saajan or Vaastav. Quite marvellously, his sense of comedy has the goofball, what-me-worry? Alfred E Neuman quality about it, evidenced in the two Munnabhais.
Today, you see him 'live', on television. And you sense that same alone-in-the-hospital loneliness in the crowd. Dutt Jr belongs to cinema. In his many agonies, there seems to be no difference between the real and the reel.