Thursday, May 26, 2005

Remembering Sunil Dutt

Outlook recently had a fandom survey to establish Bollywood’s biggest giants. Of six father-son pairs, Sanjay Dutt was the only son perceived to have outshone his father. It is still Vinod Khanna over Akshaye, Sanjay Khan over Zayed, Feroz over Fardeen. In spite of the fact that I ‘get’ Sanjay Dutt now, I thought that was unfair. Expected, but unfair.

Sunil Dutt has been, I think, the most underrated actor of his generation. With the media liking their stars in neat trinities, the slightly off-beat actor never stood a chance. Still, a look at his filmography brings up some really good work – not just the celebrated Mother India, but the hunted daaku in Mujhe Jeene Do, the cuckolded army officer in Ye Raaste Hain Pyar Ke, rent by feudal rivalry in Reshma aur Shera... then there was Sujatha, the very funny Padosan and the romantic Mera Saaya. They did make movies outside the formula, then.

I remember sitting up late to catch Yaadein on Doordarshan and thinking the one-actor experiment a bit extreme, but that it wouldn’t have been a half bad film with a full cast. Wellesian angles, and an intriguing concept: man comes home to find his wife has left him; post-mortems the marriage. I’d like to see it again. Just to see how it grabs me now.

Mera Saaya. Dutt plays Thakur Rakesh Singh, much in love with his wife. He reluctantly leaves her to study abroad, but is suddenly summoned home with news of her illness. He arrives ventre à terre, only to have her die in his arms. As the film flits in and out of flashbacks, Sunil Dutt’s portrayal of grief in the film is easily the best I’ve seen in Hindi cinema. Aapke pehlu mein aakar rodiye… Madan Mohan weaves his magic, the curtains at Udaipur’s palace flutter, Dutt walks about, utterly desolate. We all wept.

Great actor. An honest, human man. RIP.


Meera said...

All of you write so well.. Wonder why Im the only "not so gifted" child when it comes to writing..

they must have got me free from the milkman :)

Sheetal said...

Goodness, what nonsense! This, from one of the family's biggest over-achievers - unbelievable.
Sweets, let us have our modest talents... such as they are.
BTW, I thought you didn't want to be 'found', but I must tell you: I enjoy reading you.

Navin said...

Nicely written!

I'm not a great fan of Hindi movies, and honestly, haven't seen too many of them.

Was wondering if a man gets a write-up like this only when he dies. Or is it possible to write stuff like this even when one is alive. Could you do a similar post on say, Vinod Khanna or Sanjay Khan or Feroz Khan (I cleverly lifted the names from your post :)) or even Amitabh?

Would be good to read :)

Navin said...

Er... I'm assuming all these guys are still around :P

Sheetal said...

Navin: Er, there is such a thing as an occasion, or more basely, a 'peg'.
Would I have written this for Sunil Dutt a week ago? Yes. I have been a constant admirer. In fact, most of these recollections surfaced with the Outlook tidbit. Of course, the poignancy is that much more acute for his death.
As for the rest (yes, they are around :)), and could I do a similar piece on:
Amitabh? Yes.
Vinod Khanna? No.
Sanjay Khan? No.
Feroz Khan? Yes.

Would I, though? Gimme a peg.

Keshav said...

and I bet there is a posthumous award coming in for Dutt sahab cuz thats when they recognize talent !

Anonymous said...

Rides Ventre a terre does he?
Have realised that I haven't seen too many of Sunil Dutt's movies - with the exception of Mera Saaya and Shaan, and Waqt, now desperately wanting to watch Mujhe Jeene Do.

Sheetal said...

Yes, Nish, you must watch Mujhe Jeene Do. Waheeda plays a nautch girl, and that first mujra where she dances for him (the daku) is such a game of advance and retreat - she wants the money he's brandishing, but is chary of getting too close. Beaut.
I want to see it too - don't know how far I can trust such old rememberances. Looks like Cinema Paradiso must be tackled, one way or another. When you're here next, perhaps.