The Rise, Fall and Return of Sanjay Dutt
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The life he lived is no less than a Bollywood script. From being a brat in his youth, fighting a case for 23 years to losing his mother and his first wife, Richa Sharma, to cancer, Dutt’s life has been maligned with controversies. But, his passion for cinema has kept him going. In a candid conversation with Entrepreneur, the actor shares more on how he bounced back every time.
THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF CHALLENGES, WHAT KEPT YOU STRONG THROUGH HARDSHIP?
I think faith in God, my family, and people of my country - these three things helped me fight. My father always told me that life is a struggle and one should never run away from it. Face the problem and look at it in the eye and fight it. You can’t hide behind a bottle of alcohol or drugs or build an attitude to escape it. This is how I learned to survive.
WAS THERE A SURVIVAL STRATEGY?
When you go through drugs, so many deaths in the family and then go to the jail, a case going for 23 years, then you can’t live by a strategy. These things come to you all of a sudden. It is like living in the jungles and which animal survives, the predator or the prey. The stronger will survive. My dad told me, one day I am going to die to leave you on the road where people would want to kill you. If you can survive and that too being a good human being, then that will make a big difference. These are things that I learned from my father, with time and experience.
“One single time when I broke down was when they put the handcuffs on me for the first time. It was traumatic but you have to rise above the situation” - Sanjay Dutt
THROUGHOUT THIS JOURNEY, WHO ALL STOOD BY YOU?
My family, few people from the industry like Mahesh Bhatt, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Raju Hirani, my friends.
HOW DID YOU RECOVER FROM THE DRUG PHASE?
The whole drug phase was a very tough time. Initially, you are just having fun with friends but with time, it tends to make you a loner and to come out of that is very difficult. I think it’s God's blessings and the support of my family that made me realize that work gives you a better high compared to something which is mood altering like cocaine and heroin. Now, I advise youngsters to be high on life and work.
HOW THE 23 YEARS LONG LEGAL BATTLE AFFECT YOU?
Initially, I was linked to the terrorist attack in Mumbai (then Bombay). Again, I would say that the people of this country never believed that. ‘Haan usne bandook to rakkhi hogi but yeh toh nahi ho sakta’ (He might have kept the gun but this can’t be true). And that trust in me really helped me to fight back. The most difficult part was that in between all this, my father passed away. He was my anchor and suddenly I was left alone and that too when my judgment was being pronounced. I had to be tough to face it and I thank the judiciary for a fair judgment, after which I was taken out of the terror case and convicted for illegal possession of arms.
HOW DID YOU SURVIVE THE JAIL TERM?
I realized that I had to be there for a certain amount of time and there is nothing I could do to alter it, so let’s make the most of it. Instead of being regressive, let’s move on and make it positive. I have deep faith in God and I read the Shiv Puran and Ganesh Puran, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita. I read all the books which I wanted to but would never do or get the chance to read, if I was out. I utilized the time gaining knowledge about my religion and other religions. I did a lot of work in the natak company there, I used to train people to act. I started a radio station there, Radio YCP, where we would play songs then have topic of discussion about religion and secularism.
DID YOU EVER BREAK DOWN?
The single time when I broke down was when I went to the jail for the first time. Besides, when I got convicted it was a very tough time. I had 8 weeks to go in and I had to honor all my commitments. I was doing everything, I was dancing, singing and fighting, I was completing the movies knowing that I have to go to the jail within eight weeks. It was fearsome.
AFTER THE JAIL TERM, HOW DID YOU COME BACK TO NORMALCY?
My wife played a huge role in those trying times and she has been my anchor after Dutt saab. She gave me a beautiful home and a beautiful family. She is a strong woman and for her, to raise two kids while their father was in jail it meant a lot. She would come all the way to Pune every month, as she knew that I looked forward to that. Once she just fell down during a meeting. Later my lawyer told me that she had 103 fever. When I asked her, she told that I did not want to make you feel that I could not come. You can’t become a bitter person just because you had a bad experience; I had left that in my past.
AND IN TERMS OF WORK, HOW THE FILM INDUSTRY WELCOMED YOU?
Oh! I waited for the right film. After I came back, I did not panic. “arre kya hoga, arre bhai picture nahi hain, aur main pagal ho jayunga” (I don’t have any film and I will go mad - I never reacted like that). The industry means business. And, I knew in my mind that if films would not happen, I would move on. But then I did Bhoomi. It was such an emotional phase to be back on the sets after so many years. To see the lights and the camera back and there was so much of love from the people. The love of the people never went away.
DO YOU PLAN TO REVIVE SANJAY DUTT PRODUCTIONS?
110 per cent, we are going to move ahead with Sanjay Dutt Productions but at the right time. We already have three to four films in the pipeline. My wife has excellent business acumen. She takes care of it.
(This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)