Sunday Herald Books: The anti-hero

Highlights: 
Usman follows a simple narrative, one that is immensely readable as the reader flips through the pages of this book. Even though it is pretty evident what’s coming next, the book keeps you hooked because of its easy storytelling methods...

Most people know Sanjay Dutt’s story that included drugs, alcohol, guns, parties, glamorous girlfriends, his role in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, and the resultant imprisonment.

Yet, when you turn the pages of the book, The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy: Sanjay Dutt, one is amazed at the turn of events, tragedies and misadventures in the life of Sanjay Dutt. The book is authored by Yasser Usman, his third biography on actors in the Hindi film industry, the earlier ones being on Rajesh Khanna and Rekha.

News reports have it that Sanjay Dutt was considering legal action against Juggernaut Books, which has published this unofficial biography. The cover of the hardbound version of the biography is a bit garish with an unimaginative title, but the story within flows quite coherently.

The book follows the normal chronological order commencing with a brief sketch of the actor’s famous parents – Nargis and Sunil Dutt. Though many details about the then famous couple of the Hindi film industry were known, Usman’s book helps clear some of the doubts that viewers have had about Sunil Dutt and Nargis.

It then moves on to Sanjay Dutt, starting with his birth, boarding school days, his tryst with drugs and alcohol, his numerous affairs-mostly with reigning actors of that time including Tina Munim and Madhuri Dixit among others, his wild lifestyle, Nargis’s cancer leading to her death, Sanjay Dutt’s fascination for guns, marriage with Richa Sharma, his daughter Trishala, Mumbai bomb blasts and his subsequent incarceration. Along with this narration, Usman continues to focus on Sanjay’s acting career throughout this period.

In Sanjay’s iconic films such as Naam, Saajan, Khalnayak, Vaastav and Munna Bhai MBBS, the actor actually plays characters that were an extension of himself, says Usman in the introduction of the book. Usman follows a simple narrative, one that is immensely readable as the reader flips through the pages of this book. Even though it is pretty evident what’s coming next, the book keeps you hooked because of its easy storytelling methods and yet delving fairly deeply into the details of a life that has so much action.

Usman has relied on numerous interviews that he conducted with people close to Sanjay, friends across all facets of the actor’s life, co-stars, actors, directors, teachers from school, police officers, politicians and co-inmates from jail. He has also obviously pored through documents relating to the imprisonment, and articles in various magazines of earlier years.

According to Usman, the unending drug phase in Sanjay’s life came to a halt when his father Sunil Dutt handed him over tapes of Nargis while he was recuperating from prolonged drug use. Hearing his lost mother’s voice woke him up from the slumber of drugs and alcohol.

The book follows Sanjay’s tragedies – three deaths, that of his mother Nargis early on, wife Richa, and finally his father Sunil Dutt, – misadventures with the underworld, and the numerous affairs with women, all of that coming with such rapidity. Two major turning points in Sanjay’s life that Usman focuses on are the release of the second Munnabhai film – Lage Raho Munnabhai - and his relationship with Manyata, which brought about a major change in his life.

The concluding chapter of the book focuses on Sanjay finishing his jail term and walking out free on February 25, 2016. It would have been interesting to know about Sanjay’s life beyond this date, but the book closes the actor’s life’s chapter with him walking free from prison.

During his final incarceration at Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, Sanjay came to terms with his self. He was assigned the job of a radio jockey for the prison radio station where he got a chance to speak about reformation, the importance of staying away from drugs, anger management and crime. He also took to reading, a habit he hadn’t cultivated in school or college. He focussed on a serious workout schedule eventually losing as much as 40 kg.

“It has been a long journey of trauma, despair and tragedy. But each time life had knocked him down Sanjay had stood back up. That day he stood a free man next to his mother’s grave. Sanjay was finally home,” Usman concludes his biography.

The most amazing aspect of this biography is how the story of Sunil Dutt is revealed through the narrative of his son’s life. The honesty, the seriousness and the vulnerability of a father who patiently suffers the tribulations of a difficult son come through quite beautifully. And yet the son, Sanjay Dutt, is redeemed of his wayward ways as he leaves the prison for the last time.

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Sunday Herald Books: The anti-hero

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