Birthday special: Sanjay Dutt's 26 unique avatars
There are stars and there are stories. And there's Sanjay Dutt, an astonishing blend of both.
It's been many, many years since the wide-eyed, crooked smiling; lanky son of actors Nargis and Sunil Dutt was introduced by these features.
Over time, he's put on weight in flesh and foundation to emerge as one of the steady survivors of Hindi film industry. Through personal crisis, bereavements and legal scandals, from Bollywood's proverbial bad boy to 'apna Munnabhai,' there are too many twists and turns in the Dutt saga to jot down in one article.
This year, Dutt completes 40 years in the industry with more than a 100 films to his credit. He also turns 53 on July 29. From stylish, impassive, erratic and self-conscious to earnest, dynamic, self-assured and charismatic, Dutt has grown through decades of great, good and garish films. Here's looking at the birthday boy in his 26 different avatars.
P:S: This is not a compilation of his best or worst performances but a modest attempt to document Bollywood's beloved 'Baba' growing up.
Reshma Aur Shera, 1972
At 12, Dutt had his first-ever experience in front of the camera as one of the two qawaali boys, flanking character actor Sudhir to Zalim meri sharab mein, in dad Sunil Dutt's home production, Reshma Aur Shera.
Despite the awkward moves, it's the school-boy enthusiasm of participating in something presumably special and an unmistakable 'Nargis' smile that makes his fleeting contribution a lasting memory.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Reshma Aur Shera
In his early 20s, Dutt kick-started his career with a typical made-to-order star son launch designed to highlight his good looks, fashion-forward wardrobe and prowess at riding bikes, winning dance competitions against Shakti Kapoor and alternating between cocky, lost and vulnerable.
It wasn't the performance of the year but the tall guy in overalls had passed the muster.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Rocky
Mera Faislaa, 1984
Even the best-known macho guys are reduced to drag queens in the topsy-turvy scheme of Bollywood scripts. Dutt's turn to look ridiculous went largely unnoticed in this 80s potboiler co-starring Rati Agnihotri.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Mera Faislaa
After getting over his drug addiction phase, a sober, mature Dutt emerged with touching portrayals of a pitiable anti-hero in films like Naam, Kabzaa (1988) and Hathyaar (1989).
While Naam gets its due on every Best of Sanjay Dutt list, the other two remain his most underrated albeit superlative works.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Naam
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Thanedaar
With Sadak, inspired by Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, Dutt exploded the silver screen with his stylised persona and raw intensity, looking much more game than ever to be surrounded in an over-the-top scenario
Image: Movie poster of Sadak
1991 was a fabulous year in Dutt's career. After unleashing his violent side in Sadak, the man did an absolute 360 degree to play a long-haired adopted son of an affluent businessman, also a part-time poet with an alternate identity and a limp.
Romance, friendship, sacrifice and a lot of melodrama follow in this musical love triangle co-starring Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Saajan
With none of his go-to gals, Zeenat Aman or Dimple Kapadia around, Feroz Khan turned to hero Sanjay Dutt to up the hotness quotient with his shirtless workout session in this mostly absurd crime drama, better remembered as the one where FK referred to Mukesh Khanna as 'Dad.'
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Yalgaar
In Subhash Ghai's Khalnayak, Dutt shows how hamming can work to one's advantage with his perfectly whimsical turn as a bandit displaying deluded ideals and a quirky sense of humour.
Image: Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit in Khalnayak
Just when Dutt was coming into his own as Bollywood's top guy, he ran into legal trouble resulting in the darkest chapters of his personal and professional life.
His return in poorly received fare like Mahanta and Daud revealed a lacklustre version of his former self.
Image: Urmila Matondkar and Sanjay Dutt in Daud
Meanwhile, Dutt's efforts to woo back audience as he had previously in Mahesh Bhatt films (Naam, Sadak, Gumrah) backfired big time with this Point of No Returnesque thriller donning braided extensions and a month-old stubble.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Kartoos
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Vaastav
Mission Kashmir, 2000
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Mission Kashmir
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Pitaah
Ever since Dutt played the loutish thief Ajju in Sanjay Gupta's version of Reservoir Dogs/The Usual Suspects/Heat, the star has religiously experimented with his beard and hair in practically every single criminal character he's done since.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Kaante
Munnabhai MBBS, 2003
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Munnabhai MBBS
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Plan
Sanjay Dutt plays the knife-weilding killer Billa in Sanjay Gupta's 2004 thriller film Musafir.
The film is mostly remembered for his reinvented onscreen avatar with leather jackets, cool sunglasses and a thin beard.
Although it's only a supporting part, Dutt lends it warmth and gravity with his well-aged poise.
Also, it's nice to see the man clean up nice sporting silk kurtas and bandhgalas for Pradeep Sarkar's adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's novella.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Parineeta
Of course, it's back to looking mean and horrific in Gupta's Oldboy rip-off aka Zinda.
He delivers a hard-hitting performance but that dishevelled look makes you want to address him as 'Baba' for distinctly different reasons.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Zinda
Eklavya: The Royal Guard, 2007
Unlike Amitabh Bachchan or Akshay Kumar, Dutt is so preoccupied being on the wrong side of the law, he's barely ever seen in uniform.
He remedies it with a knockout performance in Eklavya tailor-made for wolf-whistling moments.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Eklavya: The Royal Guard
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Aladin
Erasing the memory of past bloopers, Dutt shows up with his trademark swagger and sunglasses, adorning a fashionable keffiyeh underneath his bushy beard to portray a cool and gruff hero-hero in the grim valleys of Kashmir.
Image: Sanajy Dutt in Lamhaa
Chatur Singh Two Star, 2011
The man's collection of tacky comedies hits and all-time high with both Chatur Singh Two Star and Rascals coming out in quick succession. If this doesn't embarrass, nothing will.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Chatur Singh Two Star
Oh but look how he redeems himself? In a reboot about the hero, his ferociously bald and unabashedly ruthless Kancha Cheena, boosted by an equally spiteful Rishi Kapoor's Rauf Lala, call the shots to make Agneepath the entertainment it is.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Agneepath
Son of Sardaar, 2012
Ajay Devgn and Dutt reunite after the debacle of Rascals in yet another comedy, Son of Sardaar, which has our man playing the kind of protective brother Devgn just portrayed in Bol Bachchan.
Grimace, yes? Don't. With Dutt, you never know. And that's what makes him deadly.
Image: Sanjay Dutt in Son of Sardaar