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A towering personality

Saturday, June 05, 2010

On-screen a conniving dacoit but in real life a selfless human being working for the welfare of people – Sunil Dutt – late actor and MP –- won many hearts. Today, on his 81st birth anniversary, Rashmi Hemrajani traces his journey

Bridegroom waiting for his bride for over 3 hours at the temple, he doesn’t even move to make a phone in the fear that if she comes in his absence, she might flee again. So he stays there put patiently with a grin of face and confidence in his heart. Yes, this is a tale from Sunil Dutt’s life. He waited at the Arya Samaj Hall in 1958 for Nagris to show up at the wedding. They met on the sets of Mother India and fell in love.

But before acting in Hindi films, Sunil Dutt was an RJ, on the Hindi Service of Radio Ceylon. His debut movie was Railway Platform which was released in 1955. As an actor, following Mother India, Sunil Dutt’s career was on the rise. From strong supporting roles in female centric movies Sadhana (1958) opposite Vyjayantimala, Sujata (1959) with Nutan, he graduated to becoming an A-Grade hero in the 1960s. Perhaps DuttSaab’s most well-known work came in his association with BR Chopra Ek hi Raasta (1956), Gumrah (1963), Waqt (1965) and Humraaz (1967). The films were among Duttsaab’s biggest successes at the box office. His most enduring film however would have to be Padosan (1968). Sunil Dutt played a simpleton, Bhola, who gives up his commitment to celibacy when he falls for sexy neighbour, Bindu (Saira Bano). The sequences of him ‘giving playback’ to Kishore Kumar actually singing for him are the highlights of the film, in particular the jugalbandi, Ek Chatur Naar. His other popular films include Main Chup Rahoongi (1962), Khandaan (1965), Gaban (1966), Mera Saaya (1966), Milan (1967) and Chiraag (1969). The versatile actor also starred in a series of Punjabi movies such as Man Jeete Jag Jeet, Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam and Sat Sri Akal

DuttSaab launched his son Sanjay’s career with the film Rocky (1981) which fared very well on the box office and produced and directed films from then on. However shortly after its release his wife, Nargis died of pancreatic cancer. Upset and angry with the then state of treatment for cancer patients, he set up the Nargis Dutt foundation and raised $3 million for various equipments for hospitals in India.

In 1987, at the height of the crisis in Punjab, he walked 2,000 km from Bombay to Amritsar, accompanied by his daughter Priya and 80 others, and prayed at the Golden Temple for peace. In 1988, he went from Nagasaki to Hiroshima in Japan to protest against nuclear weapons. He also travelled through Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal as part of the Hands Across the Borders peace expedition. In fact, even earlier DuttSaab entertained the Indian army after conflicts with China (1962) and Pakistan (1965 and 1971) by organising the Ajanta Arts Welfare troupe and visiting various sectors where Indian army jawans were wounded in action. He also worked with NGOs who supported slum dwellers and sex workers.

But life without his wife was not easy for Sunil Dutt. His son, Sunjay, was a source of heartache, and it was his steadfast love that ensured the former was able to succeed in films meaningfully.

Most of his time he dealt with social issues and movies took a back seat, but he did a cameo in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. along Sanjay. Sunil Dutt, actor, producer, director, politician and social activist died of a heart attack in 2005.

In 2007, Sunil Dutt’s daughters Namrata and Priya published a book titled, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Dutt’ which gives the minutest details of their dad. The book states that Sunil Dutt continued to have his prized possessions, such as his first car bearing number 1933 and the first suit that he had bought, till the end of his life.

Sunil Dutt created a huge impact on people. Not only a reel-hero,he worked with them at grassroot level which made them love him more. And now the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA) has added another badge of admiration to the late Sunil Dutt by proposing to the Union Government to release a commemorative stamp honoring the late actor and MP.

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