Actor, boring interviewee, bomb blasts accused and warm, open-hearted, man who made peace with the problems in his life...
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com on his many encounters with Sanjay Dutt.
There are four faces of Sanjay Dutt that I know.
The first is the actor who everyone knows and many adore -- Munnabhai or Raghu from Vaastav.
The second is the actor who is very boring to interview because he only answers in drab one liners.
The third is the accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case which killed more than 250 people and who maintained links with the underworld.
And the fourth is the actor who, off the record, makes fun of reporters and speaks his heart out.
During one such interaction, I mustered the courage to ask about his experience in jail and what it was like to be in solitary confinement, something he has been loath to talk about.
There was pin drop silence, then he said with a serious look, "You got to go and face the problems. Only sparrows and some ants used to come to that cell. They were the only company I had at that time. I understood the value of freedom. I understood what it means to be a free man."
After Sanjay Dutt was arrested in April 1993 in the bomb blasts case, he was in solitary confinement for nearly a year.
Asked how he handled the experience, he said, "You got to move on in life. Bura sab ke saath hota hai (Bad things happen to everyone). I feel there is no point in crying. If you want to live a happy life, you must have a positive attitude."
"I was into drugs and came out of it. I want every youngster to not touch drugs. It is dangerous and will ruin your life. Now this (bomb blasts) case is going on. You got to fight and come out of your problems."
In the same conversation he said on record, "You've got to face the bad phases. How long can you keep running away from a problem? If there is a problem and you keep running away for six months or a year, the problem is not solved. You face the problem, understand what the consequences are. Don't run away."
He then explained why he never gave up in life. "I studied in Lawrence School, Sanawar. Our motto was 'Never give up'. I feel there should not be a moment in life where you give up. You can't give up. You have to keep moving, keep fighting and going ahead."
"It is like a war. When a battalion moves, it moves ahead all the time. They don't sit back and say, 'arre yaar, ho gaya.' You have to go on. The day you say 'bas ho gaya, mere saath kyon ho raha hai?,' then there is no point. If you take that as a lesson and move on, you are the winner.'
Those days Dutt was campaigning for the Samajwadi Party with his new friend, politician Amar Singh. In typical style he mocked his popularity.
"When I went to the villages of Uttar Pradesh they spread the word that Munnabhai had come. And you know, nobody knew who I was! They saw me and didn't know who I was."
He expressed shock at the poverty he had seen in Uttar Pradesh. "People don't have food to eat. They don't have electricity. How would they have known me? They don't have money to watch films. It was shocking."
When I asked why he had stopped partying, he said, "Chhod yaar, kaun nachenga subah chaar baje tak? (who will dance till 4 in the morning?). I am bored of these things now. I have danced enough in my younger days."
Asked which Bollywood actor resembled him, he replied without a blink, "Ranbir Kapoor. I feel I am seeing my youth when I see him." He then paused and laughed, "I was more wild and mischievous in my younger days than Ranbir."
In 2004, when Rakht was being released, every reporter was asking him about his role in the movie.
By the time the fourth interviewer arrived, he was so irritated that he told the cameraman to switch off his camera and told the reporter, "Kya paka raha hai yaar, kuch alag sawal poochna (why are you boring me with the same questions, ask me something different)."
Another time when a reporter asked if he was trying to imitate Salman Khan's hairstyle from Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Sanjay Dutt went down on his knees and showed his balding head.
"Takla ho raha hoon. Tu hairstyle ki baat kar raha hai, yahan toh hair hi nahi hai sar pe (I am getting bald. I don't have any hair and you are talking of hairstyle)."
Sanjay Dutt will be released from prison on February 25 after completing his sentence. It will be fascinating to speak to him about life in jail and his future in Bollywood.