Celebrity Interview: Sanjay Dutt

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, (IANS) Sanjay Dutt isn't a recluse. He just has too much on his mind and plate and he hates being answerable. He feels an actor needs to act his age.

According to him, it's very important for actors to accept the years. After an overnight shooting spree, he speaks about himself and his movies in a rare interview, his first in months, to IANS.

At 46, Sanjay says: "I need to act my age. Its very important for actors to accept the years."

He also rules out being in politics like his father and sister.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: "Zinda" is a very important film in your career?

A: Why do you say that?

Q: It allows you connect with very personal anguished emotions.

A: In a way...yes, a little bit. But I prefer not to connect with myself to play a role. It's too complicated a process for me. I prefer to go with the character. Yeah, parts of "Zinda" like the scenes in jail disturbed me. But on the whole I played this troubled tortured man from outside.

Q: But surely the past does make your present tense!

A: (Laughs) You've known me for years. You've seen me go through trying times. I've chosen to disconnect with my past completely. "Zinda" required me to be extremely emotional, and yet completely focused. It was a very difficult to role to play. I had to walk a very thin line. I could've gone over-board at any time. I made a conscious effort not to go berserk.

Q: The violence is stomach-churning!

A: I sat with Sanjay Gupta and brain stormed over this issue. Today when the film is doing well, I guess the violence is justified. I think it was needed in the plot. We decided we had to have the violence. If people have accepted it we're relieved. I'm glad people are willing to accept something new.

Q: Your audience thinks your roles can only be played by you?

A: I'm flattered. And I'm grateful. I don't take my so-called stardom seriously. I just like to be the one I am regardless of ups or downs. People love me the way I am. I can't change myself to behave like a star.

I'm a guy who goes completely with the flow. I hang out with my own set of friends. And they haven't changed. Sanjay Gupta has been a close friend for years. I've been in almost all his films.

I don't think any of the so-called top banners have contributed to my career. I like to be work with friends. I don't care about being No.1 or No.2. I am Sanjay Dutt and I want to remain who I am. I've an audience and I'm thankful to them. I'm happy to be where I am.

Q: In fact Sanjay Gupta has become a big player through your continual support.

A: Arrey nahin, yaar! He's a very talented boy. I'm grateful to him for giving me roles like "Kaante" and "Zinda". I'm always with him. And I'm so happy that at last he has proved himself with "Zinda".

Q: You're getting to play your age these days?

A: You know, I'm not getting the kind of roles that require me to dance around trees. I'm 46 now. I need to act my age. It's very important for actors to accept the years. Once they do that they start growing as an actor. I think I've accepted my age in my recent films like "Parineeta" and "Zinda", and even that cameo in "Shaadi No.1".

Q: Why did you do a supporting role to Saif Ali Khan in "Parineeta"?

A: I won't lie to you. Just like Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar, Vinod Chopra is like family to me. I can never say no to Vinod. He's like an elder brother. I've told him I want to be in every film of his, even if it is for a passing shot. I know Vinod will never take advantage of me.

Q: But a lot of people felt there was too little of you in "Parineeta".

A: But I couldn't have played Saif's role. I'm not into measuring the length of a role. I'll do it for friends, family...I go by my heart completely. Sometimes I get hurt. But my heart never lets me down.

Q: What are your current assignments?

A: I'm doing the sequel to "Munnabhai MBBS" with Raju Hirani. Then I've a very nice comedy with Abbas-Mustan where Ajay Devgan co-stars with me. I've really cut down on my assignments. I may do a film with Sanjay Gupta this year. I want to do just one film at a time.

Q: What do you plan to do with Sanjay Gupta next?

A: Nothing decided right now. We were going through the hiccups of releasing "Zinda". We couldn't get a distributor in Bihar...We haven't sat down to talk about our next project. Now that "Zinda" is a hit we'll be doing something even more unexpected.

Q: Is the "Munnabhai" sequel turning out as well as the original?

A: It's even better. It's so hilarious and emotional. I agree "Munnabhai" is the "Mother India" of my career. I've been in the film industry for 25 tears. Raju Hirani is such a superb director. And he isn't at all corrupted.

He doesn't make movies for money, but for the love of it. After such a big hit like "Munnabhai" he could be doing 15 films and made a fortune. Instead he's making one film again for Vinod Chopra. Raju still lives in the same small apartment in Bandra (East). I'm proud to be associated with him.

Q: What do you play in the sequel?

A: It's the same character and the same supporting cast. I'm Munnabhai but it's a completely different story.

Q: You recently lost your father...

A: I don't feel he's gone. His death was so sudden I had to grow up suddenly. I've two younger sisters and I feel like their father. I've no excuse to remain a kid any longer. I've no dad to run to with my problems. He was there to bail me out of every crisis. Sometimes when I'm sitting with my sisters it hits us that he's no more.

Q: Would you like to be in politics like your dad and sister?

A: Never. I don't understand politics. I'll always work in films and make people happy.

Q: Your problems with the law persist...

A: I've left it to fate and destiny. I haven't hurt or harmed anyone in life. God is great. One day, I will get justice. If I sit and think about it, my work gets affected. I've just left it to god.

Q: How can you work with so much stress?

A: I use work as a therapy. I go to the gym. I go out with friends, or just sit with my family - an occasional dinner.

Q: How often do you meet your daughter?

A: I've a court matter to attend to. I can't keep applying for permission to go out of the country. She comes here for holidays. I go when I can.

Q: Didn't the portions in "Zinda" with the daughter disturb you?

A: No they didn't. There's no sense in living with or in the past. It takes a lot of effort to move on. But I've done it.

Q: The Bachchans are very fond of you.

A: Abhishek is like a younger brother. In spite of being Amitji and Jayaji's son he's so down to earth. That quality will take him a long way. When his initial films failed I was the only guy saying he was the dark horse. Today I'm so proud of him. He's got such terrific films on hand. I get angry with him when he does stupid roles.

Q: So do you.

A: I've been here for 25 years. I can afford to do stupid roles.

Q: Apart from Abhishek whom do you like among the younger actors?

A: After working with him in "Zinda" I realised how good John Abraham is. Hrithik is a good actor.

Q: After you who has the potential to be the next Sanjay Dutt?

A: You tell me.