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'A rare human being'

June 01, 2005 11:00 IST

Sunil Dutt

Sunil Dutt's fans, the ones lucky enough to meet the legendary actor, feel their lives were enriched by the encounter.

Some have met him at his office, some at a Circuit House, some on board a flight.

One even ran into the actor outside a theatre after watching him on screen!

Some accounts from rediff readers, telling us about their Sunil Dutt moments:

'We were mesmerised by this great personality'

Diddee: We had written to Duttsaab that we were coming to Mumbai and would love to meet him as we were his fans. We got a reply to come to his office in Bandra (a Mumbai suburb). We went there and saw a huge portrait of Sanjubaba(Sanjay Dutt); the children were so happy.

We were warmly welcomed by the staff, taken to his office and offered refreshments. Our entire family, including the children and some of our friends' children, were excited. Duttsaab was held up but arrived after a little while. He was so good looking, and such a gentleman! It's rare to find people like him.

It was New Year's Eve, and he invited us out. It was a dream come true! He was so good and kind, and told our daughter, whose name is Priya, that he also had a Priya (his daughter). He did not know us, but the way he looked after us was something only a clean-hearted person could do. We love him and will continue to do so. We love his children -- Sanjubaba, Namrata, Priya. God bless them.

Vinima Aggarwal: My family and I were travelling in an Indian Airlines flight from Mumbai to Delhi in 1997. We spotted Sunil Dutt sitting in one of the front rows. After the flight took off, my father asked my sister, who was seven at the time, to go and say hello to him.

She did not know who he was, so my father told her he was Sanjay Dutt's father. She shook his hand and asked him to sign an autograph for her. He asked her name and she said Divyanshi. He said, 'You have such a beautiful name.' That made my little sister's day!

'He was called Shantidoot'

Ali Baquer: My wife Najma Zaheer Baquer and I were living and working in London in the 1960s. Najma, in addition to being a senior biochemist at London University, was very fond of Indian films.

In those days, there were no videos. The India Weekly's chief editor, Dr Basu, had given me free passes to watch Indian movies in Her Majesty's Theatre every Sunday. One afternoon, the theatre was screening Darpan, a Sunil Dutt-starrer.

The film started; Najma was glued to the screen. I came out of the dark hall, lit my pipe and was looking down at the traffic moving towards Trafalgar Square. Someone very politely asked me if the film was not up to my liking.

As I turned around, I said it was a silly movie but before I could finish the sentence I noticed that the person asking the question was none other than Mr Sunil Dutt himself, by then a highly respected actor!

I apologised for being so blunt. But he was absolutely calm and gentlemanly and invited me to dinner. When I told him I was not alone, he invited Najma and my other two friends as well. He asked us to meet him at the Agra restaurant near the Warren Street tube (underground railway) station.

Najma and our friends secretly thought he would never turn up; it was all too good to be true. But he was there on time! And he had reserved the tables in advance. That evening was a great occasion. He had another Indian friend with him who lived in Germany. We talked of various issues, not directly connected with films.

That day, my respect and admiration for the soft-spoken and sincere Duttsaab increased thousandfold, and further increased every time he passed through a tragedy, every time his heart bled for the country.

Once, I saw him in the news defending Dilip Kumarsaab in tones overloaded with emotion. I thought Duttsaab was over-reacting but he had the courage to speak up.

Years later, I had another dinner with him in my sister-in-law's (actress Nadira Zaheer Babbar's) Mumbai house. Those were hard days for him. He had lost (his wife) Nargis whom he adored in a most dignified and noble way. His son Sanjay was passing through a very difficult period. He did not seem entirely happy with the NGOs' response to burning social issues. His eyes carried more pain than sadness.

I normally do not watch television but I wanted to see Duttsaab's funeral and sat through several hours, mourning the death of a real, good man.

Shashidhar Payannavar: In the late 1980s, my father, Shri S K Payannavar, and his good friend Samagond Sahab, Mumbai's assistant police commissioner (both from Bijapur, Karnataka) had arranged Mr Dutt's only visit to Bijapur for a local college's annual day function.

Though I could not attend the function, I was able to meet him in his room at the Circuit House. He was so warm and accessible -- not to mention totally humble -- that all who met him were stunned! In fact, he came by train to Sholapur, and then made a three-hour road journey to Bijapur. He made no demand for a flight to some nearby airfield!

He signed each and every college certificate (at least 2,000 of them) for the function. There was a sincere smile on his face, and an affectionate look in his eyes when my father introduced me. I did feel, though, that there was some sadness in his eyes; perhaps he was missing the company of his love, his wife Nargisji.

This incident was etched in my memory, and when I read about his sad demise (I am currently in Singapore), the tears flowed. Not only were all his movies great entertainers -- I am writing as the movie Padosan is airing on Zee TV -- but from that one interaction with Sunil Dutt nearly 22 years ago, I can say he was indeed a rare human being with a good heart.

All Indians across the whole world will always remember him. My sincere heartfelt condolences to his immediate family, and the larger family of his admirers across the world. May his soul rest in peace.