By Rishabh Naudiyal Last Updated:
Over the years, we have heard great actors and filmmakers underlining the concept of stardom. While some say, it’s more of an accident, while some refer it to a sort of addiction that will eventually destroy you if consumed beyond limits. Well, it’s hard to disagree with these sorts of allegations on this luring but dangerous addiction called ‘Stardom’. However, some actors in the history have simply mastered the art of handling stardom and one such actor, who was never bothered about the chasing reporters and camera flashes, industry’s first gentleman in many people’s eyes, Sunil Dutt.
Recommended Read: The Eternal Love Story Of Legendary Actors Sunil Dutt And Nargis
The actor was born in a pre-independent India and had lost his father, Diwan Raghunath Dutt when he was just five years old. When Sunil Dutt turned 18, the partition of India began and with his mother, Kulwantidevi Dutt, the actor had settled in a small village of Mandauli, a district of Punjab, now in Haryana. Some years later, along with his mother, he had shifted to Lucknow, where they spent quite a long time but soon Sunil Dutt had moved to Bombay and had studied at Jai Hind College.
Not a lot of people are aware of this but Sunil Dutt had done a completely odd job with city’s BEST transport division as an undergraduate. But as we all know that destiny had different plans for him and it came in the shape of a radio jockey’s job opportunity. Sunil Dutt had wasted no time in grabbing it and because of his great knack in the Urdu language, the actor had become hugely popular in Radio Ceylon’s Hindi service.
Everything was going smooth for the first time in Sunil Dutt’s life after all those struggles of partition and the actor was meeting a lot of Bollywood celebrities. And that was the time when he had gotten the chance to meet the legendary actress, his eternal love, and future wife, Nargis. In a lot of interviews, Sunil Dutt had revealed how happy he was when he had met the love of his life, Nargis for the first time in Radio Ceylon. Years passed by and Sunil Dutt had finally made his debut in 1955 with the film, Railway Platform and grabbed the attention of some of the biggest filmmakers of that time. But not everyone was quite sure about him at that time but as they say, only a jeweller knows the true assay of a diamond and in Sunil Dutt’s life that jeweller was none other than the legendary filmmaker, Mehboob Khan.
In 1957, Mehboob Khan bought three supremely talented actors in one frame, Nargis, Rajendra Kumar, and Sunil Dutt to give Indian cinema it’s one of the greatest films of all times, Mother India. The director was aware of the hidden potential of Sunil Dutt and despite his calm and composed nature in real life, he had given him the role of a short-tempered son, Birju. The film changed both his personal and professional life forever. Sunil Dutt’s popularity sky-rocketed after the release of the film along with other stars as Mother India was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first Indian film to be ever nominated.
Talking about his personal life, Sunil Dutt was living his dream of working with his eternal love, Nargis and it was the same time when Nargis was coping up after the legendary actor, Raj Kapoor left her heartbroken. One incident that played a huge role in their love story was when a big fire caught on the sets of the movie, and Sunil Dutt like a true hero did not care about his life while saving the life of Nargis, who was stuck in the middle of that raging fire. The incident left Nargis impressed with Sunil’s love and care for her as Sunil got burnt badly and was in a high fever. That’s when Nargis took care of him day and night. At that time, they both came closer and finally confessed their love for each other.
Everyone was aware of the fact that Sunil Dutt was madly-in-love with Nargis and the actress herself knew about it and was overwhelmed with his devotion towards her. That’s the reason why the two surprised the entire industry by announcing their love, and then their marriage. Sunil and Nargis got married secretly on March 11, 1958, and later announced the news to their closed ones. They celebrated their big day with a wedding reception with their close friends from the industry in attendance. The actor was also ruling the industry with hit films like Waqt, Khandaan, Mujhe Jeene Do, Humraaz, Padosan, Sujata, Mera Saaya, Gumraah, Yaadein, and many more. Soon Sunil and Nargis were blessed with three kids, Sanjay, Priya and Namrata.
When everything was going perfectly fine in the Dutt family, it was the year 1980 that shocked them and the film industry as Nargis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was shifted to New York for the treatment. On the other side, Nargis’ husband, Sunil Dutt was directing their son, Sanjay Dutt in his debut film, Rocky. No one was aware of the tragedy that was waiting on the corner for the whole family. On May 02, 1981, Nargis went into coma after she became seriously ill and passed away for the heavenly abode the next day. On May 07, 1981, at the premiere of her son, Sanjay Dutt’s debut film, Rocky, one seat was kept vacant for his late mother.
That was the time when Sunil Dutt proved the mettle of his real-life character and values as he gave his everything to take care of his kids. But among all three, it was Sanjay Dutt, who was completely drowned after his mother’s death and engulfed in the clutches of drugs. It took Sunil Dutt years to bring his son out of that life-threatening phase. Just when things had started to get better, the 1993 Mumbai riots happened and it was Sanjay Dutt, who was arrested for having illegal arms like AK 56 reportedly sourced from the underworld. The whole industry boycotted the Dutt family because of the serious charges and it was a lone battle for father, Sunil Dutt. But he battled for years to prove that his son made a mistake but he’s not a terrorist. It even halted his political career for some years too.
In a throwback interview, Sanjay's father, Sunil had talked about his son and the ordeal they went through after 1993 Bombay blasts. He had revealed,
"It’s been extremely shocking for us and I don’t think we’ll ever recover from it. At times I keep thinking that this is what we have got in return for all that we did for the country. You go punishing a person who is yet to be proved guilty and whose family did everything for the Motherland."
Going further in the same interview, Sunil Dutt had also revealed how people had called him 'desh drohi ka beta'. He had further added,
"You can imagine how I felt. Wherever I would go, even the peons at the lawyers’ chambers said to my face, “Desh drohi aa raha hai (The traitor is coming).” Once my daughters went out shopping and told me that the moment they stepped into a shop, there was a minute’s silence and then the rest of the shoppers starting filing out of the shop. Even my dead wife was dragged into all this. I heard people say that Sanjay’s mother was a Muslim. I replied that you could slam Sanjay and me as much as you wanted, but at least spare the dead. Or at least remember Nargis for the work she did for spastic people, for the blind."
After years of struggle, Sanjay Dutt’s career was back on track and his father, Sunil Dutt was also awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. But it was the year, 2003 that bought the most memorable moments of this father-son duo on the big screen, when Sunil Dutt portrayed the character of Sanjay Dutt’s father in the blockbuster film, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. The scene right at the end of the film, when Sunil Dutt hugged his son, Sanjay Dutt is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of Indian cinema.
On May 25, 2005, the legendary actor, a true lover, doting father, and a great human died of heart attack and left us all for the heavenly abode forever. The news saddened the entire nation but was a turbulent moment for his son, Sanjay Dutt in particular. Sunil Dutt was cremated at Santacruz Crematorium in Mumbai. In a 2018 interview with the IANS, Sanjay Dutt had shared,
"Whatever I am today is because of my father. He is my inspiration and I miss him every day. I did not always share an easy relationship with him. But he always stood by me. I wish he was here to see me as a free man and the beautiful family that I have today. He would have been proud."
Sunil Dutt will always be remembered for his immense contribution to the Indian cinema with his acting and direction. Also, he gave industry one of the most talented actors of all-time in his son, Sanjay Dutt. But what he will be cherished more will be his real-life personality, the gentleman, who was in love with just one girl for his entire life and a father, who redefined fatherhood in the best manner possible. You’ll always be in our hearts, Sunil Dutt ji!