Exclusive: Sanjay Dutt and his twins, Iqra and Shahraan in their first magazine cover story ever!
This is their first proper shoot together. Mini-me Shahraan is all set, and has already made sure that his dad is in a matching outfit, to go with their matching haircuts. Shy Iqra, however, has to be coaxed into joining us, and when she eventually does arrive, a vision in pink, her stunning grey eyes still show doubt.
But Iqra is no pushover. Nothing will get her to comb her hair for the shoot. She wants her messy bun, or there will be no photos.
She quickly runs to the safety of her dad’s bulging, heavily-tattooed arms for a jaadu ki jhappi. Shahraan joins in as well. Now flanked by both his tots, Sanjay Dutt is ready to shoot. (Click here to see the entire gallery)
Two times a daddy
He makes sure Iqra is comfortable and gives a few tips to Shahraan, who is a natural in front of the camera, on how to give the right angles; he arm wrestles with them and pretends to be mighty disappointed after losing to the six-year-old twins; he jokingly threatens them that he will tell us their secrets if they don’t behave. Sanjay Dutt has fitted into the role of a doting dad with an ease that has taken even him by surprise.
“When Maanayata was pregnant, I always thought I would be a damn strict dad. But with them, I just can’t be that!” Sanjay says. These two kids have turned Kancha Cheena into mush. But that leaves the mom to be the disciplinarian. “Although I do spoil them a bit, I make sure that when Maanayata is scolding them, I don’t become the peace broker,” he says. “I don’t interfere. It is wrong to play good cop/bad cop. But yes, after two three hours, dad might get them a box of chocolates.”
Sanjay revels in his daddy role. “It is a great feeling to just see them grow up,” he says. “It is amusing when they talk like grown-ups and try to act all mature…especially when they order their own food at restaurants! And they are so tech-savvy already! Although, thankfully their interaction with the iPad is still restricted to games. We don’t waste time with them. They go to school, then they go for swimming, they have their karate classes. I want Iqra to learn the piano, and Shahraan to play the guitar.”
He takes a breath and adds: “The other day, Iqra made some cupcakes for me, can you believe that! Now they have even started to decide what I should wear. They pick my T-shirts when we go shopping. They get me toys also! Yesterday Shahraan was very categorical about what we should wear for the shoot today, and he also told me to wear these boots so that they match his!”
When home, Sanjay is a hands-on dad, from supervising their breakfasts and tiffins to watching cartoons together to making those occasional but much-needed trips to their schools.
“I am absolutely involved. I don’t want them to feel neglected just because I work erratic shifts. I make it a point to go for the parent-teacher meets, attend their school functions; however, I have not been able to make it for their sports day so far,” he says. “Last time, when I was shooting Maanayata sent me some videos. And they are both so good at sports. Iqra runs like a little bullet! They both came first in their respective events and then they got gold medals in karate as well.”
Sanjay wishes he had spent this kind of time with his daughter Trishala, his child with his first wife, Richa Sharma. “I feel really bad that I couldn’t spend much time with her. But today we share a very strong bond,” he says. “I am very proud of the person she has become. She is a beautiful young lady and very well brought up. And I am forever grateful to her grandparents for that.”
Sanjay has already missed a part of his twins’ infancy. In March 2013, the actor was convicted in the 1993 case of possessing illegal arms, which his lawyers had claimed were for the defence of his family. He served a 42-month sentence at Pune’s Yerwada Central Jail and became a free man only on February 25, 2016. Now he wants to make up for lost time.
“The case dragged on for 23 long years. It bogged me down,” he says. “But I was really lucky that when I started my jail term, the twins were about two years old and they don’t have any memory of it. And I am glad that I came out just when they were becoming aware of their surroundings. Now I am always there for them, always around.”
In between, he met his kids while on parole. “Even before he went to jail, he would be out on shoot and the kids were never really used to seeing him at home all the time. Still seeing Sanjay with the kids now, I am realising that I could not have filled the void his absence created,” says Maanayata. “When we were planning for our Italy trip. The way he interacted with the kids, the way the kids bargained for pocket money with him, suddenly made me acutely aware of how important he is to them. After they left, I told him I never expected him to be this good at being a dad!”
As of now, the twins have no idea that their father had ever been jailed. “They are still too young to understand what happened,” says Maanayata. “Shahraan’s dad is his hero, his role model, he idolises him. I worry for two things. First, it could be too much of a shock for him; he might not be able to justify what had happened or understand why it happened. Second, he might start thinking whatever his dad did back then was cool. We don’t want either to happen. They should know that their father was wrong and he has paid a heavy price for that. Not many people would have the courage to own up to what they had done and face the consequences. I want them to understand how it happened, why it happened, and how Sanju took it in his stride. But they are still too young for all that and we don’t want to burden their childhood.”
Father, dear father
Sanjay is trying to raise his kids the way his parents raised his siblings and him. “I miss them every day. They loved kids and they gave all three of us a fine upbringing. I am sure they would have made absolutely doting grandparents to Shahraan and Iqra. In fact, Shahraan reminds me of my father (the late actor and politician, Sunil Dutt). From certain angles he looks a lot like dad. And Iqra has my droopy eyes,” he says as his eyes settle on the black and white portraits of his parents, Nargis and Sunil Dutt.
This means that Maanayata and the twins often accompany Sanjay on shoots. They were all in Agra when Sanjay was shooting for Omung Kumar’s film, Bhoomi. Sanjay doesn’t object to the twins watching him at work, but once, during a very intense scene, he asked Maanayata to take them away. But the kids refused to budge.
The shot required Sanjay to break down and cry. The twins sat through the retakes, and when their mother asked if they were fine, Iqra said: “But dad is only acting, mom!”
“The other day I was reading a script when Shahraan walked in and asked if I liked it,” says Sanjay. “He was excited that I am doing a new movie! They are aware that what I play on screen is not real.”
But though the kids know that their dad is a hero, Sanjay seems to be losing out to Chhota Bheem. “Few weeks ago I planted a thousand trees at an event. They wanted to join me only because Chhota Bheem was supposed to be there,” laughs Sanjay.
Much as he loves playing with his twins, Sanjay is categorical that he can never be their friend. “I am and always will be their dad,” he says. Even when they grow more independent, he says, they will spend much of their time at home. “There have to be some rules,” he says.
And what about movies? “We will figure that out when we get there, but both Maanayata and I are very serious about their studies. They need to have proper education, at least a graduation degree, before they can even think about getting into movies,” says the stern father.
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From HT Brunch, November 12, 2017
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