Today, is the birthday of the one person, who inspite of turning 51 today, will still be called ‘BABA’. The industry’s favourite and lovable BHAI, Sanjay Dutt, celebrates his 51today.
Born on 29th July, 1959, to superstars Sunil and Nargis Dutt. Post completing his schooling at Lawrence School Sanawar, he did what his family did best, take to acting. Although he made a brief appearance as a qawali singer in Sunil Dutt’s Reshma Aur Shera in 1971 at the age of 11, his debut vehicle was the 1981 blockbuster romantic hit, Rocky. He was part of the first lot of child stars who starred in their father’s home productions, along with brother in law, Kumar Gaurav, Sunny Deol and Anil Kapoor.
In an industry, where the age old cliché applies of one being as good as their last film’s success, Sanju Baba has managed to carve a niche for himself in his 29 year long career. Starting off as the romantic hero in the ‘80s and following up with big banner flicks like Vidhaata and duds like Johnny I Love You, Main Awaara Hoon and Bekarar.
So today, on his 51st Birthday, am writing about the 5 Directors who have made a difference to Sanju Baba’s career and the 5 films which I can safely say, are the pinnacles of his illustrious career.
It is in the year 1986, wherein he followed up his successful comeback masala flick, Jaan Ki Baazi with the classic Naam. This movie started his association with Mahesh Bhatt, the maverick art film maker making a move towards commercial cinema with socially violent movies. This association with Mahesh Bhatt not only got Sanju films which did well commercially well but also were critically well received. Together they went on to thrill the audiences with Kabzaa (1988) (the movie focussing on land grabbing, which till date is a relevant issue) Sadak (1991) (one of the many ‘Pretty Woman’ inspired flicks where the hero rescues a damstel in distress from the evil reins of prostitution), Gumraah (1993) and Kartoos (1999). In all their movies together, even though Sanju was always the lead hero, there was always a strong negative character opposite him, in the form of the archetypal villain. Be it, Paresh Rawal as the iconic Veljibhai Soda in Kabzaa, Sadashiv Amarapurkar as Maharani, the eunuch pimp, Rahul Roy in Gumraah or Jackie Shroff in Kartoos. This association with Mahesh also resulted in the deep emotional bond that they both share till date, so much so, that Sanju even agreed to do a cameo in Pooja Bhatt’s debut as a producer, Dushman. Although Mahesh has stopped directing now, till date they still share the same bond.
Sanju’s career took an upswing post Manjrekar’s hard hitting, Vaastav. This movie not only got Sanju his first Filmfare Award in the ‘Best Actor’ Category, after missing out twice earlier for Saajan & Khalnayak. Sanju’s portrayal of the ambitious local boy to the dreaded gangster gave a whole new definition to the term vulnerability. Although they followed up with a barrage of films, almost annually, Kurukshetra (2000), Pitaah (2001), the sequel to Vaastav, Hathyar (2002), Rakht (2004), Viruddh (2005) and Vaah Life Ho to Aisi (2005), besides a few, the rest did nothing to improve either of their careers.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Although with Sanju he has directed two movies only, Mission Kashmir (2000) and Eklayva (2007), it is as a producer that Vidhu Vinod has given Sanju the biggest hit of his career, Munnabhai MBBS (2003) & Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006). We are all hopeful for the third part of the trilogy to be made someday.
In 1994, under the banner of Sippy films, came the Sanjay Gupta directed Aatish. This movie, based on the lines of the action thrillers being churned out in the South Asian film industry proved to be a turning point in the careers of both the Sanjays, as well as laying the foundation for many more such movies being made in Bollywood. Together they both formed one of the best examples of a director-actor duo who became the best of friends turned foes. But not before they thrilled the audiences with Khauff (2000), Jung (2000), Kaante (2002), Plan (2004), Musafir (2004), Zinda (2005), Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007 with Gupta as producer) and Dus Kahaniyan (2007). All the above movies were truly ‘inspiring’. Their storylines and action stunts were inspired by either Taiwanese, Korean, American or European flicks. But the one thing they all had in common was that they were all truly stylised. Their movies together had a certain amount of spunk which will be missed sorely now since their fall out. The most memorable one being the Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs inspired, Kaante. This 6 hero starrer had it all, thrilling action, good songs, a highly stylish presentation and good performances.
It is in his association with David Dhawan, that Sanju formed one of his best ‘on-screen’ pairs with Govinda. The trio came together for the first time in 1989 revenge drama Taaqatwar. But it was after a decade, in 1999 when they struck gold with their second outing, Haseena Maan Jayegi. This comedy started a slew of inane comedy capers with David at the helm and Sanju and Chi Chi as the lead. With such a combination, the choice of heroines did not make a difference. Then came Jodi No.1 (2001), Ek Aur Ek Gyaarah (2003). Sanju later teamed up with David in the 2005 Diwali release Shaadi No.1. Sanju/David share such an impeccable comic timing, that for Baba’s first home production, Rascals, he chose David to direct.
After the directors, here are the 5 films which have given definitive shape to Sanju’s career, according to me.
It was sort of a comeback flick for Sanjay Dutt. He had been all but written off with all his flops after Rocky. With this Rajendra Kumar production, which was ideally meant as a re-launch pad for son Kumar, it was Dutt who walked away with the accolades due to his role of the guilt ridden son, who cannot come back home, but spends his life yearning for his homecoming. This movie showed everyone that Sanjay Dutt can act!
The first of his films with J.P. Dutta, this multi starrer, again reaffirmed Sanju’s position as a good actor. His vulnerability as Avinash, the young struggler, who gets sucked into the world of crime due to his family’s situation wherein he is left to fend for his mother after his father’s suicide is commendable. A powerhouse performance by Dutt and one of his best till date. The scene where he stabs a person at the pav bhaji stall to steal the person’s wallet, in order to feed his hungry mother and himself, still makes my hair stand.
Known for his action roles, Saajan showed the world the romantic side to the Deadly Dutt. This movie also earned him his first Filmfare nomination for ‘the Best Actor’. People had not dreamed that the person who broke people’s legs with one kick, would himself take on the role of a cripple. He played the part effortlessly and inspite of having current heartthrobs such as Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit, walked away with all the praises.
After Vidhaata, this was the first time Subhash Ghai worked with Sanjay. This was the beginning of the anti-hero era, wherein the lead heroes turned to play onscreen negative roles. With an author backed role, this movie catapulted Sanjay to superstardom. It was a pity that due to his run in with the law, that Subhash Ghai decided to change the end and turned the Khalnayak into a Nayak. When you sat in the theatres, in the August of 1993, with the heavy rains lashing, from the word go, when Sanju Baba walked on screen, hair swaying, all chained up, with a posse of cops surrounding him and the haunting score by Laxmikant Pyarelal with Ila Arun’s voice “He is the Villain”…
After his comeback in 1995, Sanju faced moderate success in films like Daag The Fire, Kartoos. Haseena Maan Jayegi was his first major hit in 1999, but a lot of that credit initially was being given to the backing of David/ Govinda. It was the release of Vaastav, in October, 1999 which changed everything for Dutt. Not only was this crime drama of a common-man turned crime lord with a heart of gold, a huge critical success, it was a BLOCKBUSTER. It was this film which led to all the other dozen odd crime movies which featured Dutt as a gangster. This movie won Dutt his first Filmfare Award as the Best Actor, leading him to say “20 saal ke baad, par finally mila” in his acceptance speech.
Munnabhai MBBS (2003) / Lage Raho Munnai Bhai (2006)
By now, Sanju was getting typecast in the role of a don/ gangster/ crime lord. As they say, one man’s junk, is another man’s fortune. A role written for the Baadshah, about to start shooting and he suffered his back injury. Leading Vidhu Vinod Chopra and debutante director, Raju Hirani, to cast Sanju from a cameo role to the lead actor. Later, it also became the first time Sanju was working on screen with his Dad, unfortunately, also the last. Munnabhai, was never expected to become a hit. As a matter of fact, its release date was to clash with the JP Dutta magnum opus, L.O.C. Kargill, also featuring Dutt along with a huge gallery of hit stars. A last minute decision averted a clash between Chopra and Dutta’s flicks. I, myself was sceptical about the fate of Munnabhai at the BO. But not only did a lot of people get proved wrong, but millions of hearts were won by this ‘lovable’ Bhai. History was rewritten and how. The Munna/ Circuit pair has become the most aped, most talked about pair in terms of ‘on screen buddy characters’. So huge was the success of this film, that it was followed up with a sequel, Lage Raho Munnabhai. And history was rewritten….again….this film not only coined the word ‘Gandhigiri’, but made it a household name. Such is the impact of this film that we have seen various real life incidents, wherein people have resorted to ‘Gandhigiri’ to resolved differences (the travel agents/ airlines commission issue being one). This is the one role, which Sanju will be known forever.
I am sorry, I said 5, but such is the power of Sanju baba, that it had to be 6 films. Come on, who does not love Sanjay Dutt, be it industry folk, be it the common man or the audiences world over. Everyone loves Sanjay and here is wishing him a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY.