There’s a palpable buzz of curiosity and excitement in the air as the release of Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt – the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Sanju – draws near. Not surprisingly, a good amount of this is coming deep from the forbidden cells of Mumbai’s infamous Arthur Road Jail. This is where Dutt was imprisoned as a TADA accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case before he was finally convicted in August 2007 for possession of arms and taken to the less notorious Yerwada Central Jail in Pune to serve a sentence. And it is the actor’s former jail inmates who are creating a stir about Sanju.
Dutt, the Bollywood superstar, was always a fascination for the undertrials and prisoners wherever he was incarcerated. And if sources are to be believed, those men who spent time with the actor when he was kept for two months in the high-security Barrack No. 10 at Arthur Road Jail are now excited about the release of his biopic Sanju. They fervently feel that they have a role to play in the actor’s life and the film. And Sanju without them would be incomplete. It is their wish that before any of the actor’s (and Ranbir Kapoor’s) fans and audiences worldwide see it, they ought to be shown Sanju at a special screening at Arthur Road Jail.
“Baba might have forgotten about us, but we will never forget Baba,” is what those still serving time in Arthur Road Jail are supposed to have said about their former starry jailbird. It is rumoured that because of Dutt’s presence in the large and old Mumbai jail that was built in 1926, what was once a dark and dingy hole of hell is now a decently electrified jail with lights and fans. When he was imprisoned there, none of these facilities existed, and Dutt is believed to have complained to his father, the former Congress MP Sunil Dutt, who wielded considerable influence. And Sunil Dutt, who was a large-hearted and kind man, not only ensured that there were lights and fans, but he also gave Arthur Road Jail its first TVs.
Now those who are still languishing there since Dutt’s time are demanding that a special screening of Sanju be held for them because they and Arthur Road Jail have played a big role in the actor’s chequered past. And they are eager to see if proper representation to those days of Dutt’s confinement has been given in the biopic. These prisoners are believed to have made this request to the jail authorities and also to Sanju director Rajkumar Hirani and actor Ranbir Kapoor. Interestingly, it is said that the cell where Dutt spent time is now referred to as Baba Ward. It is a high-security barrack and the actor was kept here because a threat to his life was feared from imprisoned members of the Chota Rajan gang. But by and large, Dutt left behind more friends than enemies in the jails where he was imprisoned. Just a few days ago filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, who went to promote his prison drama Lucknow Central in Pune’s Yerwada Central Jail, was asked by prisoners about Sanjay Dutt. The actor after completing his sentence was finally released a free man from the Pune jail in February 2016, and his former inmates were curious to know how Sanjay Dutt was today and what were his forthcoming films!