As Sanjay Dutt, nicknamed Baba by foes fans fanatics and fawn-in friends, turns 60 on July 29, let’s look at his most consistent performances, not necessarily the ones that we have been made to believe are his best. Here’s Saluting Baba’s brittle brilliance.
It took the ‘deadly’ Dutt four years to come into his own as an actor. After sleepwalking through a handful of forgotten films including his debut in Rocky, Mahesh Bhatt shook up Sanjay Dutt to play the great Nutan’s ‘Bad Son’ as compared with the ‘Good Son’ Kumar Gaurav. It was nothing more than Mother India casting handed over to the next generation. And Dutt delivered a performance that his father felt proud of.
The only film by J P Dutta that seemed to function on a script! Dutt played the son of a migrant couple to Mumbai who gets sucked into a life of crime. This underrated film and performance derived its stunning strength from Dutt’s ability to portray a vulnerable violence. A boy-man who doesn’t know that a gun can be injurious to health.
Vaastav The Reality(1999):
Mahesh Manjrekar made many gangster films with Dutt. None could ever match the brutal power of this raw hurting exposition on the rise of a chawl boy from eking out a living on the streets to becoming a powerful gangster. Dutt’s climactic emotional outburst with his mother (Reema Lagoo) earned him his first best actor award. This is Dutt’s most celebrated performance to date.
I remember the worried producer Vinod Chopra speaking to me about getting a proper release for this film. No one had any expectations from this new director named Raj Kumar Hirani who had ripped off the Robin Williams starrer Patch Adams about a man past his student days enrolling into medical school and teaching the teachers a thing or two about humanism. This film was far superior to the original Hollywood film and it finally gave Sanjay Dutt his own Mother India.
Lage Raho Munnabhai(2006):
Three years later came the Munnabhai sequel which was actually better than the original. Never heard of any sequel apart from The Godfather Part 2 being feted and honoured as superior to the prequel the way Lage Raho Munnabhai was. The spark and the humanism that Dutt conveyed in his altruistic role is far superior to anything he did earlier or before.
Tragically Dutt has not given a single memorable performance since Lage Raho Munnabhai. We hope to see him recover his mojo soon. Maybe a third Munnabai film? In the meanwhile a big Jadoo Ki Jhappi to the the Birthday Baba.