'I am too old to be wild'
Sanjay Dutt's life reminds you of a revved up roller coaster with more downs than ups.
But he is a born fighter, both off and on screen. Painfully shy of media attention, the actor breaks his silence to speak to Subhash K Jha on his life and career on the eve of Kaante's release.
What have you been up to?
Nothing much. Just in and out of [film] shootings and court hearings. The case [he was charged with having links with the underworld], has been weighing on my mind. I am awaiting the judgment. I am hoping and praying it will go in my favour.
Tell us about Kaante.
We shot at one stretch in America for 35 days. It was because of the support extended by Amitabh Bachchan and the rest of the cast and crew that we managed this. I think audiences are waiting anxiously for Kaante because they want to see something different. I'm very hopeful about the film.
What do director Sanjay Gupta and you hope to achieve through your production company White Feathers?
We made Kaante because we believed the audience was ready for a Hollywood kind of action thriller.
In future too, we will make films we believe in. Gupta does not have to direct all the films we produce. We hope to give new talented directors a chance. I want to hear them, give them a helping hand.
We are producing a film called Plan right now, being directed by newcomer Hriday Shetty. I play a gangster once again in the film, and my costars are Bikram Saluja, Sanjay Suri, Rohit Roy and Dino Morea.
Why do you continue to be typecast as a gangster?
I don't know. I think the characters of gangsters offer me a chance to perform. I am quite bored with dancing and singing in Switzerland.
That said, I am not playing gangsters alone. I am doing a comedy, Ek Aur Ek Gyarah with David Dhawan and Govinda for producer Subhash Ghai. There is Mahesh Manjrekar's Rakht. It isn't a gangster film. It is a thriller. Then there is the very interesting, intense Sarhad Paar.
Is that a historical?
Yes. It goes back to the 1965 Indo-Pak war. I play a soldier who doesn't come back home after the ceasefire. Many years later, he returns during the exchange of prisoners between the two countries to a much bigger battle: terrorism in Punjab.
It is a great film. I want to do more such films. But I don't know, nothing seems to be working.
What other roles do you have on hand?
I have cut down on my work load considerably. Fortunately, the roles coming to me are more performance-oriented. I am doing this amazing love story between two blind people with Kareena Kapoor. It will be directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. That should be interesting. I have had to do a lot of preparation for the role. Since half of my character's face is disfigured, we will have to go to LA and get the makeup done.
You are also playing Prasad in a film called Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav.
I donít know yet. Mahesh Manjrekar hasnít narrated the script to me yet.
How does it feel to be 43?
It is very difficult for actors in this industry to accept their age. Once you do, it is easy to move on to another sphere in your career. I have done just that. I am glad no one is coming to me with the offer to play college students. I don't want to do that any longer.
You donít look your age.
Maybe because I work out. Life and career actually begin to make sense at 40. Look at Hollywood. When Tom Cruise turned 40, it was time for celebration in the US. Amitji [Bachchan] got chunky roles after he was 40.
The era of teenybopper movies won't last too long.
Why do you think the film industry is going through a slump?
It has to do with the quality of films being made. If you look at the promos on television, all the films look the same.
Let us not forget every Hollywood film is now dubbed and shown in Tamil, Telugu and other regional languages. So Indian audiences know what international standards are all about. They can see anything from Saving Private Ryan to Spider-man.
Unfortunately, in our industry, we don't have any real writers. No scriptwriter thinks original. They copy Spider-man when the Indian audience has already seen it.
But you are guilty of doing Hollywood rip offs.
All of us are responsible. We have to pull up our socks. It is time for the riffraff in the film industry to go away. Only genuine filmmakers will survive.
It is funny how everyone treats you like a lovable brat.
Oh, I have put my bratty days behind me. That label has now gone to someone else.
Salman Khan seems to have modelled himself on you.
I wish he would model himself on my better qualities. Salman should keep a low profile, work hard and get serious. All the playing around isn't finally worth it. Ultimately, all of us want to be remembered as good, hardworking human beings. The hit-and-run incident wouldn't have made such a media splash if it wasn't Salman Khan. But because he has been constantly in the news, he went to jail and had to suffer.
People thought it served him right.
That is so sad. When I went to jail, there was a lot of sympathy for me. There was none for him. I found that scary. Being rash and brash in life is finally self-defeating.
Your father Sunil Dutt was recently quoted as saying his political career was obstructed by your problems.
I don't know, I believe in destiny. What had to happen has happened.
There are constant reports about your drinking and womanising.
I am too old to be wild. When you reach 43, you tend to mellow down. The image of the wild guy is totally unjustified.
I do have my drinks. But it isn't as if I am drinking and womanising all the time. Thatís all loose talk. The problem is I am not going out of my way to tell the press about my life. I just want to lie low until my legal problems are cleared.
It is said that your marriage with Rhea Pillai is over.
I donít pay attention to such talk. Iíve been in this industry for 23 years. If they donít write about me, the magazines wouldnít sell.
Do you feel you could have done much more with your career without all the legal and personal obstacles?
Maybe youíre right. With the legal hassles I canít concentrate completely on my work. The case is constantly at the back of my mind. But I must say the courts have been truly generous. Theyíve allowed me to go on working. God willing, Iíll soon be acquitted. Then I can make a fresh start and focus completely on my work.
What sort of a fresh start do you have in mind?
To begin with, Iíll take a three month holiday. Then I will return and get back to my career, to two sensible films at a time so I can spend time with my family. Right now Iím just trying to complete all my films. I donít know whatís going to happen to me in a couple of months. Iíve been going through this situation for the last 10 years.
What have you lost during this time?
My youth. Those beautiful moments of my 30s were gone in fighting legal battles.
What do you expect from 2003?
Complete freedom. In the last 10 years, I have realised what it means. No one should take his freedom for granted. Nothing, not fame or fortune, matters more.
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