And, a Happy Birthday to Sanjay Dutt. He’s 60 today, can you believe? I wished him on Friday evening. When the monsoon was spitting on its hands and showing Mumbai who’s the boss. He invited me home to a high tea of sorts. And to see the trailer of his production ‘Prasthanam’ – the official remake of the Telugu political drama by the same name. Home is Imperial Heights on Pali Hill. On the 11th floor. Downstairs, a gigantic portrait of the late and great Sunil Dutt, happy and smiling, welcomed me in the building’s foyer. He used to hold meetings here. His son met me at home. Walking up to me in a white Pathan suit, moccasins on the feet, dark hooded eyes darting, a smile breaking out on the craggy face, arms extended in a warm embrace. The ‘jadoo ki jhappi’ he made popular in the ‘Munna Bhai’ films. A pair of spectacles was stuck in the open front of the kurta. Behind it, his chest, brawny and tattooed. Maanayata stood behind respectfully, the perfect hostess, looking more pretty than Instagram can ever make her. I told Dutt he was looking damned good for 60. He’s been working out. That beefy look is gone. He’s huge but now it’s all lean muscle.
The caterer’s uniformed service staff were laying out the dining table. Elegant savouries with crab, salmon, lamb and chicken stuffing, chocolate cake, nachos with assorted dips, other finger food, tea and coffee. But Dutt was leading me into his den to see the trailer. It is also his TV room. And his bar. Smelling of leather and cigar smoke. A giant flat screen ready with the first promo of ‘Prasthanam’. When it was over, we trooped out. I looked around the hall. Tastefully done, comfortable furniture that a guest would not be afraid to relax in, Ganpati and Buddha everywhere. And on the wall, like nostalgia, two framed photographs in black-and-white of Sunil and Nargis Dutt. In contrast, the pictures of his and Maanayata’s nine-year-old twins Shahraan and Iqra in bright youthful colours. There was also a piano standing quietly in a corner. I wondered who was musically inclined in the family. Dutt was talking, a Marlboro in his hand, his voice deep and gravely, softer than the rain lashing the windows that opened onto a very wet terrace. He was telling me about the shoot for ‘Sadak 2’ that he had just finished with Mahesh Bhatt and his daughters Pooja Bhatt and Alia Bhatt. The girls are appearing on screen together for the first time. This is the sequel to ‘Sadak’ of 1991 that had Dutt and Pooja. Alia was only two then. Now she’s Bollywood’s leading actress and plays a prominent role in ‘Sadak 2’. Dutt was telling me, “It’s all action and emotion like the first part.” Mahesh Bhatt was returning to direction with it after 20 years. I suspect Dutt twisted his arm. Told him he would only do the sequel if the avante garde filmmaker directed it himself. Mahesh Bhatt had no choice. Besides, I think he was keen on directing both his daughters too. “His energy and enthusiasm is the same,” Dutt was saying.
I was happy for him. Two years ago, when the gates of Yerwada Jail had clanged shut for the last time behind him, Dutt had told me that he wanted to get into the genre of films that Hollywood greats like Kevin Costner, Denzel Washington, Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, Liam Neeson, Jack Nicholson and Sylvester Stallone were doing. “I want to play myself in my age,” he had explained. But the three films he then chose to do, ‘Bhoomi’, ‘Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3’ and ‘Kalank’, did not really mark his comeback to Bollywood in a memorable way. No matter, he’s now got better films lined up. And he’s also into production. I wandered around the house, marveling again at how warm and cozy it was, and thinking how terribly Dutt must have missed its security and the comfort of his family when he was serving out his sentence. I could hear him telling somebody that at 60, he was now a senior citizen, and there were benefits to being a senior citizen. Like income tax relief. Outside, the rain was building up into a frightful storm, threatening to break the glass windows and get indoors. A mournful wind was howling. In between the high-rises alongside, I could see the sea, tempestuous and in high tide, rearing its head up angrily on the rocks. While inside the house, peeping at me curiously from the living quarters upstairs in the duplex apartment, were Shahraan and Iqra. I felt happier for Sanjay Dutt, then.