Bollywood Legends - Sunil Dutt
That this hero of reel and real life will be known more by his exploits in the film industry or due to his philanthropy and zest for social work, only time will tell. But the most remarkable thing that strikes the mind while rummaging through his life journey is that adversities do make man a better individual. The saga of Sunil Dutt is fraught with triumphs, misfortunes, agonies and ecstasies, all in equal measure.
He was born on 6th June, 1929, in a non descript village of Khurd, (now in Pakistan) in district Jhelum. Like millions of Punjabis his family too had to under undergo the travails of Partition, leaving their home and hearth, to lead the life the of paupers on footpaths. With the passage of time, they were allotted a tract of land in district Ambala of present day Haryana, in lieu of what they had left behind in Pakistan.
“Those who wallow in the past only learn to hate and do not move ahead in life”. This sagely advice of his mother helped him to grow out of the nightmare of Partition and he left for Mumbai. There he joined Jai Hind College as an undergraduate and took up a job as well. A stroke of luck fetched him an additional assignment with Keymers, a flourishing British advertisement company and he could supplement his income by a few hundred more rupees. While working for Keymers he got introduced to the cream of film industry including Nargis, whom he later married.
In deference to the wishes of his mother, Dutt first completed his graduation and then did his maiden film, Railway Platform directed by Ramesh Sehgal, with Johnny Walker and Nalini Jaywant as co-stars. Success came his way with B R Chopra’s, Ek hi Raasta, 1956 which was an instant hit. But it was Mehboob Khan’s greatest work, Mother India, 1956 which catapulted him to stardom and helped him to tie the nuptial knot with Nargis.
Sadhna, 1958, Sujata, 1959 and Main Chup Rahungi, 1962 followed. Film after film came and Dutt hit the peak of his career in mid sixties. Yeh Raastein Hain Pyar Ke, 1963, Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963, Yaadein, 1964 and B R Chopra productions Gumraah, 1963, Waqt, 1965 and Humraaz, 1967 helped him gain ground tremendously and he developed style, sophistication and his own genre of acting. 1967 was marked by a hat trick of his successful hits Meherban, Milan and Humraaz. He paired opposite the known names of filmdom like Waheeda Rehman, Sadhna, Meena Kumari and Nutan and always stood well above the mark. Riding on a wave of success he dabbled in film making but burnt his fingers with Reshma Aur Shera, 1971 which turned out to be a damp squib. Zaakhmee, 1975, Paapi, 1976 and Jaani Dushman, 1978 opposite the likes of Rekha and Reena Roy, kept him going through the seventies, when actors like Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendera, Amitabh and Shashi Kapoor ruled the roost.
He introduced his son Sanjay in Rocky, 1981. But this very year, his beloved wife Nargis died of cancer, leaving Dutt devastated. He turned pensively away from films to the cause of social work and politics. He set up the Nargis Dutt Foundation for the cure of cancer patients. He has brought medical equipment worth three million dollars into various hospitals of the country. He helped raise 1-lac pounds for the Imran Khan’s cancer charity fund and three million shillings for a cancer Hospital in Kenya.
From the 1962 China war to the Kargil conflict, Sunil Dutt always enthusiastically went to the borders to encourage and cheer our valiant troops, engaged in do or die encounters. He walked from Bombay to Amritsar to pray for peace at the Golden Temple, when Punjab was hard caught up in the turmoil of militancy. He drove through Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal in the Hands Across the Borders expedition for peace in South Asia. He always lends a helping hand to the NGOs trying to mitigate the sufferings of slum dwellers and sex workers in the red light areas of Mumbai.
Sunil Dutt didn’t take long to tender his resignation as a Member of Parliament in protest against the mishandling of communal riots of Mumbai riots in 1993. Whenever some unfortunate eventuality of communal confrontation arises he is in the forefront to carry out peace missions to bring the frenzied people, back to senses. He is a champion of secularism, peace and human brotherhood.
But life without his wife has not been easy for Sunil Dutt at the home front. His son, Sanjay got bogged down in the quagmire of drugs in the eighties and with some uncanny relationships in the underworld during the nineties. On both the occasions Dutt Sahib put up a valiant struggle against all odds to free his son of these menaces.
Off late, on the special request of his long time friend, Vidhu Vinod Chopra he acted in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. alongwith his son Sanjay. But that was out of sheer fun rather than any seriousness on his part to stage a comeback.
Legendary actor Sunil Dutt, who took to politics and became the country's sports minister last year, died of a heart attack at his Bandra residence on 25th May 2005. He would have been 76 on June 6.