Actor Sanjay Dutt is hugely popular and has the sympathy of the people, but the Supreme Court cannot treat him differently from other accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, according to Lord Meghnad Desai, noted economist and a Bollywood buff.
Answering questions on Wednesday night at a function at the Nehru Centre where his wife Kishwar Desai's book Darlingji The True Love Story of Nargis & Sunil Dutt was launched, Lord Desai said, "It would be outrageous if he got treatment different from the other accused in the case. Just because we love Sanjay Dutt does not mean the law can treat him differently. This has to be left to the court. Otherwise, it will be presumed that actors can do anything and get away. If you do something wrong, you will have to pay the price."
"Here is a person who is extremely charming but makes a mistake and pays the price," he observed.
Kishwar, who earlier read out select chapters to highlight the extraordinary relationship between Nargis and Sunil Dutt, said "Whatever the court decides should be fine".
Kishwar Desai's account of Nargis' extraordinary career and life is warmly personal. Darlingji -- as Nargis and Sunil Dutt called each other affectionately -- is really the story of Nargis, an intelligent and affectionate woman.
In the course of her career, Nargis would play both the westernised woman and the conventional Bharatiya nari, but her iconic role would be Radha in Mother India. In her life after cinema, she involved herself in meaningful social work, a tradition that Sunil continued after her death.
The book shows how, despite the skeptics, Nargis and Sunil Dutt went on to build a happy and lasting partnership that would endure the ups and downs they would face in their life together -- including Sanjay's drug habit and Nargis' battle with cancer.
Lord Desai was also quite critical of the sheer lack of archival material in Indian cinema.
"We may be a great country with a great history. But we don't have any archival sense. I passionately believe that India needs a proper film archive. Bollywood should take a lead in that," he said.
Kishwar Desai used the Dutt family archive as her main source of information. For this is a chatty, communicative family, whose members are constantly writing not only to each
other but also to themselves, especially as a record of memorable times -- on postcards, letters, telegrams, diaries, baby books and more.
Sunil and Nargis used to write little notes to each other all the time, addressing each other in different ways: Often playfully, as Pia and Hey there; occasionally decorously, as Dutt Sahib and Mama. Once, days before their wedding, hurt that she had not told him about her Filmfare Best Actress Award for Mother India, Sunil wrote a letter addressing her as My Dear Padma Shri and signing it as A Junior Artiste.
The children continued the tradition of writing to communicate their feelings and preserving their memories.
In his introduction to the 442-page book, Lord Desai wrote, "Indian cinema is, or at least ought to be, a national monument on par with the Taj Mahal and the Qutab Minar. It is older than Hollywood and bigger in terms of the films made."