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Journalist recounts experiences with now jailed Dutt

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By: Upula KBR Mid-Day
Monday, August 06, 2007
Sanjay Dutt is emotional and impulsive, but it's a side of him that few people outside his circle of friends have encountered. 'The heart of a child in the body of a man.' That's how several people in Bollywood would describe Sanjay Dutt. And that's precisely the side of him that HiTLIST reporter Upala KBR has encountered in her decade-long interactions with the troubled star.

Although the first few meetings were less than amiable (understandably, as he had just been released from jail in 1995), a simple gesture broke the ice and went on to reveal a different and more personal side to the actor. Read on...

A couple of weeks ago, I got call from Sanju at midnight. He was going through a crisis with a close friend and it had obviously affected him deeply. He sounded distraught. "I am too hurt Upala, but I will be fine," he said. As I gently chided him for blindly trusting people, I could hear the pain in his voice as he let me in on his friend's betrayal (MiD DAY, July 12, 'Sanju, Gups clash over paisa').

In a hoarse voice, Sanju said, "I haven't been able to eat or sleep in the last three days, nor have I been able to talk to anybody. I have been crying constantly. I have never hurt anybody, so why do people want to hurt me?

Is it wrong to trust a friend blindly? When those poor people fell at my feet and cried, 'Sanju baba, please help us,' I wept with them. People trust me and I can't break that trust. I can't let so many poor people down. I have to sort this out."

My relationship with Sanju can best be described as his first film, Rocky - turbulent and emotional. One can't help but care for this childlike actor, whose life has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.

The first time I met Sanjay Dutt was a few days after he'd been let out of jail in 1995. He was shooting with Juhi Chawla for Safari at a park in Chembur and was cold and reserved. After that, I chased him for interviews from Chembur to Matheran but not once did I get a glimpse of the real man beneath the hard facade.

I had been warned that it was difficult to get through to him, and initially it was. However, one evening at a filmi party I told him I was going to Ajmer Sharif and would tie a dhaaga (holy thread) for him.

That was it. That sincere little gesture broke the ice between us and set the pace for a friendship that has lasted over a decade. My best interview with Sanju was a story called 'Heartcopy', where he revealed he had cried many times while in jail back in 1993.

"Even macho men cry," he had told me. Now that he is back in jail, his words haunt me. He calls me Apollo (god knows why!) and my nickname for him is Braveheart; I would often tell him, 'Go out, Mr Lion, and conquer the world' and he'd just smile.

Sanju wants to do many things - he hounded conservationist Valmik Thapar to offer him support for the Save the Tiger project, donated a lot of money to help several NGOs keep street children off drugs and give them an education.

Few people know that he is an avid watcher of the Animal Planet and Discovery channels. He'd often say, "I've been to a jungle safari in South Africa and it was amazing! You should go there, Apollo. But now, when everything is settled for me, I want to visit China." And I am so sure you will.

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