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‘Nilesh grew up idolising his mama’

Yesteryear actor Zahida reminisces about nephew Sanjay Dutt, who is her son’s role model, the boy debuts in Angel today.

entertainment Updated: Feb 11, 2011 15:18 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

I remember going from school to see my bua’s (aunt Nargis) newborn son, Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) who was the handsomest baby in the world. After coming out of the hospital, my aunt spent 40 days at home with us, and my sister and I became Sanju’s young godmothers,” reminisces Zahida, whose son Nilesh Sahay makes his acting debut in


today. Like his


(uncle), he too is a toughie with a soft heart.

The yesteryear actor who’s still remembered for films like



Prem Pujari


Anokhi Raat

, admits that her younger son grew up idolosing his uncle and his ‘


’ Sylvester Stallone, reminding her of the days when she would wrap herself in Nargis’ discarded sari and apply her lipstick. “Nilesh used to be a thin, scrawny kid who was bullied by the elder one, Brijesh. He swore that one day he’d have a body like his uncle’s, so he could bash up


(brother),” laughs Zahida, who was persuaded by 19-year-old Nilesh to make a call to


requesting permission that her son be allowed to use his gym. “One day, when Sanju was working out, he made my boy do so many bench presses that Nilesh came home sore and couldn’t walk for the next three days.”

Today, he can match his


in the gym, and makes his debut in


with a song on a bike, like Sanjay in


. It’s an unconventional launch but he was swayed by director Ganesh Acharya’s passion and conviction. And his real life ‘angel’, his mother, believes that even though the film has no sizzling item numbers or Sanjay Dutt in a guest appearance, the unusual love story could strike a chord, like Sanjay’s

Naam, Khalnayak, Jung, Vaastav

and the



“After a screeing of


, I recall telling Sunil (Dutt) uncle that no one could have done this role better than Sanju, the same is true of


. It’s like Dev Anand who as the Major in

Hum Dono

ceased to be Dev Anand,” she points out.

Zahida admits it was a surprise when she was offered a film opposite the Indian Gregory Peck: “


was a typical heroine role but

Prem Pujari

was a risk. Many advised me against it but it was fun flying to Europe for a shoot in Switzerland, as the grey Mr and Mrs Andrews.” Between shots, when she was checking her appearance in the mirror, Dev Anand suddenly hollered, “Forget your appearance, focus on your performance.” “That made me laugh because he was looking into the mirror just minutes before me, and in his make-up room at Mehboob Studio had a floor length mirror facing his desk.” Zahida had a three-film contract with Navketan. And the third film offered to her was

Hare Rama Hare Krishna


“But again, I was advised against playing Dev Anand’s sister and having no one to guide me, I listened,” she sighs. “It was a mistake, like turning down

Lal Patthar

. After nine films, I married and retired happily. But now my son is following in my footsteps today and he’s already got his biggest compliment.”

The compliment came from Sanjay Dutt who after seeing the promos of


messaged, “Beta, I’m proud of you.” That’s a message Nilesh refuses to delete.