The jail years
On 29 July, Sanjay’s thirty-fifth birthday, the Supreme Court was due to hear his bail case. The family was hoping that the country’s highest court would free him. Unfortunately, the hearing was postponed till 12 August. The Dutts had to make do with the jail authorities granting them special permission to visit Sanjay in prison. Kumar Gaurav, Namrata and Priya came armed with loving cards and letters. Rhea was also present, and a teary-eyed Sanjay put on a brave smile.
On Rakshabandhan again, the family got special permission to visit Thane Central Jail. Sunil, Priya and Namrata waited in a cabin for Sanjay to be brought in. He hugged his sisters, their eyes brimming with tears. Namrata recounted those moments, ‘Dad said, “Tie your rakhis and give him strength” . . . With a heavy heart Sanjay said, “I have nothing to give you both, but I’ve saved these coupons for you. This is all I have.”’ They were coupons worth two rupees to buy tea and snacks inside the jail. Sanjay’s patience was wearing thin. Every time Sunil met him, he’d say, ‘Beta, bas kuch din aur. [Son, only a few more days.]’ Sanjay later recalled, ‘You start talking to yourself. You start talking to Mom, talking to Dad. It’s crazy. So I started following ants, trail of ants. That’s how I came to know how disciplined ants are. I watched these ants for three months.’
‘Kisi pinjre mein jaanwar ko qaid kar diya jaaye [a caged animal] – Sanjay’s condition used to be like that. He used to walk restlessly in his barrack,’ remembers a senior policeman posted in the jail. According to another policeman, ‘He never used to discuss his past. Even if we tried to ask, he would say, “Jaane do, Sahab. [Let it go, Sir.]” But he was very polite, no arrogance at all.’ One day when Sanjay couldn’t take the loneliness any more, he says he ‘went crazy and banged my head on the wall so hard that I got stitches’.There was blood everywhere and Sanjay needed urgent medical attention. For some time Sanjay was even allowed food from home again. But after a few weeks he stopped asking for it. He said, ‘Mere naseeb mei agar jail ki roti todna likha hai to wahi sahi. Mai wahi khaoonga. [If it’s my fate to eat jail food then so be it. I accept that fate.]’ Sanjay would smoke quite heavily, almost one packet a day which was sent to him from home. ‘He remembered his mother a lot. He would say, if only she was around, things would have been different.’
Mahesh Bhatt remembers, ‘Sunil Dutt used to take me during his visits to Sanjay at Arthur Road Jail . . . Sanju would say to him that because of your politics, I was punished. This is your political rivalry, I have [been] made a pawn in it. You get me out somehow.’ Sunil would try to calm him down. But ultimately a battle-weary Sunil had to level with Sanjay. Sanjay recalled, ‘Every day he used to come and meet me in jail and he used to tell me, “Kal ho jayega . . . kal ho jayega. [You’ll be released tomorrow.]” It’s not that he didn’t try. It went on for three to four months.’ Sanjay says that during one of these meetings, ‘I just broke down and said “Dad, kab ho jayega . . . when? [When will I be released?]” . . . He [Sunil] held me by the collar and he had tears in his eyes and he told me, “Sanju I can’t do anything for you any more. I am sorry, son . . . I can’t.”’
Sunil went away devastated and Sanju cried for hours, his father’s words echoing in his mind.
Yasser Usman's book 'Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood's Bad Boy'
Sunil Dutt's Death
On 25 May, Sunil woke up at about 5.30 a.m. He had a meeting at 9 a.m. He brushed his teeth and put on a fresh set of clothes and went back to sleep till the time of his meeting. He suffered a cardiac arrest in his sleep. A little after 11 a.m., a hysterical Priya informed Namrata that ‘something has happened to Dad’. Namrata in turn told Sanjay, who later recounted the incident, ‘Anju woke me up saying, 'Dad does not stand up.' I just said, 'What do you mean, does not stand up?'’ Sanjay rushed to Sunil’s house and ‘saw him sleeping . . . with his eyes slightly open, his hands on the chest’. He tried to wake him up, but Sunil was gone.
According to Mahesh Bhatt, ‘As the day progressed and the news spread, people started pouring in . . . It almost seemed to be a state funeral. Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other prominent leaders came to pay their last respects.’ The who’s who of the film world were there: from the Khans to the Kapoors and the Bachchans. On his final journey, Sunil was wrapped in the tricolour and taken to the crematorium in an army vehicle. Bhatt, who was in the vehicle with Sanjay, Kumar Gaurav and a few other close family friends, recalled, ‘All we could see was an expanse of people gathered there. Till the eye could see, there were only people, people, people.’ According to the Hindu, 30,000 people lined the road to the crematorium. They had gathered to pay their last respects to a man they loved. ‘Sanjay was blankly looking at the sea of humanity gathered to mourn Sunil Dutt
. . . people of all kinds, all classes, assembled there to bid Dutt Sahab farewell. Sanju and I exchanged a look and I saw something I had never seen in his face before. It took the death of Sunil Dutt for Sanju to realize the kind of contribution his father had made to the lives of people. I could see he was humbled,’ said Mahesh. ‘Sanjay turned to look at me . . . he said: “I did not know my father was such a great man.”’
Three days after his father passed away, Sanjay had a dream about him. It was from his wild days when he used to be out till very late in the night and his worried parents would wait for him on the steps of their old mansion at 58 Pali Hill. Only in his dream, it was just his father waiting for him. Nargis wasn’t there. Sanjay remembered, ‘My car drives in and Dad is standing on the steps. I go to him and ask, “Where did you go? Why did you leave us?” He just hugs me and takes me inside the house. He says, “Son, now that I’m not here, you are the eldest in the family. You have to take care of your sisters and everybody.” I start crying and ask, “Why are you saying all this? Come back and stay here with us.” He answers, “No, I’m happy.” And he gives me a lot of love and then says “I have to go now.” We are upstairs in his bedroom and I say, “Please don’t go, don’t go and leave us again.” Then suddenly I wake up.’ A forty-six-year-old Sanjay woke up and realized that his rock was gone. It was time he pieced his life together, on his own.
Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy has been written by Yasser Usman and published by Juggernaut.