He would have turned 90 this June. The graceful, soft-spoken and upright Sunil Dutt, fondly called Dutt Sa’ab, lives on in our memory as an icon of integrity and idealism, of humanity and humanism.
He was not just a spontaneous and natural actor but was also a producer and director, and later, a politician too. But above all, he was a gentleman and a good human being who will always remain unforgettable.
Sunil Dutt will be remembered by his great work on camera and off it too. (Photo: DailyO)
Let us recall his contribution to Hindi cinema today on the occasion of his 14th death anniversary (May 25). Fresh-faced and young, Balraj Dutt (Sunil Dutt) began building his life after going through the partition and its aftermath. He came to Mumbai (then Bombay) and studied at Jai Hind College after which he became a popular announcer /anchor at Radio Ceylon. His break in Hindi films came with Railway Platform (1955). However, it was with Mother India (1957) that this actor’s professional and personal life took an important turn. It was on the sets of this iconic film that Sunil Dutt’s closeness to Nargis began and led to their marriage soon after. As an actor, he never looked back after this.
Bimal Roy’s Sujata (1959), which completes 60 years this year, saw Dutt in the role of Adheer, a young and well-educated Bengali youth who helps dispel the prejudice against the heroine Sujata (played by Nutan) as she is labelled as an untouchable. In the 1960s Sunil Dutt rose to great fame with many box-office hits such as Gumrah, Hamraaz, Waqt, Milan, Mera Saaya, Aaj aur Kal, Padosan and Khandan. As Ravi, one of the three brothers in Waqt, Dutt gave an extremely sensitive performance. He was paired romantically in this film with the lovely Sadhana. In the long court scene at the end of the film, his arguments as a lawyer are indeed interesting. Gumrah saw him in another charming role as did the murder-mystery Hamraaz.
Dutt and Nargis's love story began on the sets of Mother India. (Photo: India Today)
Beautiful songs were picturised on Dutt in the 60s films. These melodies include Tum agar saath dene ka waada karo, Kisi pathhar ki moorat se, Mohabbat ka iraada hai and Na muh chhupaa ke jiyo (all from Hamraaz), Inn hawaaon mein , inn fizaayon mein and Chalo ik baar phir se ajnabi bann jaayein ham dono (Gumrah), Saawan ka mahina, pawan kare shor (Milan), Mere Saamne waali khidki mein and Kehna hai kehna hai tumse aaj yeh pehli baar (Padosan), Ham jab simat ke aap ki baahon mein aa gaye (Waqt), Aap ke pehlu mein aakar ro diye (Mera Saaya) and Teri ankhon ke siwa duniya mein rakha kya hai? (Chirag).
All his films with Nutan were extremely beautiful. The best of these were Sujata, Khandan and Milan. They complemented each other very well.
Sunil Dutt’s Padosan (1968) stands out in his acting career. In the evergreen and always the enjoyable character of Bhola, Sunil Dutt seems so close to his simple self. Bhola from Padosan is extremely lovable and endearing. Dutt’s comic timing was brought out beautifully by this film. He could play tragic and comic characters to perfection. In the making of Padosan, the classic that it is, Dutt’s contribution was substantial.
Sunil Dutt played the lovable character of Bhola in cult classic movie Padosan. (Photo: DailyO)
Dutt’s essential goodness and a look of shyness could always be seen in his eyes. His roles in Khandan, Milan, Hamraaz and Aaj aur Kal helped to bring out this core aspect of his personality. On one side we have these gentlemanly roles while on the other side he played the role of a dacoit effectively in Mujhe Jeene Do and Pran Jaaye Par Vachan na Jaaye.
Dutt’s performance as Birju in Mother India is considered as the first “angry young man” played in Hindi cinema, much before Amitabh Bachchan epitomized the genre in 1973. The character of Birju is one of the most memorable things in Mother India. In Mera Saaya, he played a young lawyer who is caught between mourning for his supposedly dead wife and fighting against a woman (whom he takes to be a lookalike of his wife) in the court. It is a wonderfully underplayed role that brings to the fore his ability to portray a vast array of emotions. He was one actor for whom Mohammed Rafi Sa’ab sang some of his most melodious songs. And of course, Mahendra Kapoor did the playback singing for Dutt in classics such as Gumrah and Hamraaz. Such memorable songs!
The pillars of our family! I miss you Mom & Dad ♥️ pic.twitter.com/wOMYhzzqpb— Sanjay Dutt (@duttsanjay) May 25, 2019
Dutt was as respected as a politician as he was as an actor. He always kept the issue of people’s welfare close to his heart. For years, his organization Ajanta Arts took troupes of artists to entertain our jawans at the borders. Dutt believed that just being a successful actor, director and producer was not enough. His goal in life was to serve people.
His last appearance on the screen was in 2003 in Munna Bhai MBBS as he played reel life father to his real-life son, Sanjay Dutt.
Memories of Dutt Sa’ab will shine forever through his films and the service he rendered to the society. It is true… they don’t make men like Dutt Sa’ab anymore!