On this day, 77 years ago, in a village called Khurd in Punjab (now in Pakistan), was born a boy named Balraj Dutt who went on to become a star in the film industry, but more than that became an inimitable icon who always kept the torch of humanitarian and philanthropy burning. He is Sunil Dutt - actor, director, producer, eternal social activist, ideal politician, model father and a perfect husband. Today is the day when this iron worked man with a golden heart was born to fight all the agonies and adversities and celebrate the good moments that were to come in his illustrious life. We remember the legend on his 77th birth anniversary today.
The journey of life has not been very privileged right from the beginning for Sunil Dutt. His father passed away when he was just 5 years old. The Dutt family was one among the millions who had to bear the brunt of partition of India after Independence. They then settled in Ambala district in Haryana. Sunil Dutt then came down to Mumbai and pursued graduation in Jai Hind College. He then went on to work with Keymer's, an advertising company where he had to take interviews of film stars, directors and producers. The recorded discs were then played on Radio Ceylon. Bollywood beckoned when Ramesh Saigal offered him the lead role in Railway Platform (1955).
But life changed after B.R.Chopra's Ek Hi Raasta (1956) which was a runaway success. He went on to have a long association with B.R.Chopra. But he entered an altogether new league of actors with Mehmoob Khan's classic Mother India (1957). It was during this movie he and Nargis got close enough to marry each other after the film released. While shooting one of the scenes, Nargis was trapped in fire lit haystacks. Sunil Dutt bravely saved her. This incident led to romance of the two leading to marriage. Ironically Nargis played Sunil Dutt's mother in the film.
Then followed Sadhna (195, Sujata (1959) and Main Chup Rahungi (1962). He was at the peak of his career in the mid-sixties with Yeh Raastein Hain Pyar Ke (1963), Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), Yaadein (1964) Gumraah (1963), Waqt (1965) and Humraaz (1967). 1967 was one of the most successful years of his career were he had a hat-trick of hits with Meherban, Milan and Humraaz. He strengthened his career with good performances in Waqt (1965), Padosan (196, Nagin (1976), Jaani Dushman (1979). He had the good fortune to work with all the top heroines in Bollywood - Nargis, Nutan, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman and Sadhna.
Sunil Dutt was one of the few in the industry who also donned the caps of director and producer. His first film as director was Yaadein (1964) in which he acted along with Nargis. He not only directed but also produced films like Reshma aur Shera (1971) and Dard Ka Rishta (1982) among others. He was the one who launched his son Sanjay Dutt in Rocky (1981) which went on to become a hit and proved to be a perfect launch pad for him.
Just as things were going smoothly, the Dutts' world wrecked when Nargis died battling cancer in 1981. The couple has 3 children - Namrata (Rajendra Kumar's son Kumar Gaurav's wife), Priya (politician) and Sanjay Dutt (actor).
There was no end to Dutt Saab's (as he is fondly called) woes. His son Sanjay was caught in the havoc of drugs and later he was found with the illegal AK-56. During these aching times, Dutt stood rock-solid by his son's side and gave everything to free him from the shackles of these difficulties.
After his wife's death, Sunil Dutt then drowned himself into politics and social work though he did not give up films completely. Dutt never retired totally from Bollywood as he made appearances at regular intervals with Kurbaan (1991), Phool (1993) and the last being in good friend Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Munnabhai M.B.B.S (2003). He is one of the rarest actors in the film industry to have the fortuity of having a hit film as his last (Munnabhai M.B.B.S). Two of his final appearances on television were in Rendezvous with Simi Garewal and Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai.
The Samaritan in Sunil Dutt is an unforgettable aspect of him. Soon after his wife died, he formed 'The Nargis Dutt Foundation' to cure cancer patients. He also sponsored the Noble prize nominated India Project which treated children with facial deformities. He bought medical instruments worth lakhs of rupees for many Indian hospitals. He helped raise priceless contributions for Imran Khan's cancer charity fund in Lahore and for a cancer hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. Be it any war - China war in 1962 or the Kargil war, Sunil Dutt went to the borders to encourage and support the soldiers.
For the Hands Across the Borders mission, he drove through India, Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal to promote peace in Asia. He walked right from Mumbai to Amritsar to pray for peace in the Golden Temple when Punjab was under militancy trouble. He has relentlessly helped NGOs for AIDS campaigns, betterment of slum-dwellers and sex-workers.
Indian politics has seldom seen a politician with just ethics and spotless conscience. No wonder he was selected five times as Member of Parliament. He was elected as the Sheriff of Mumbai in 1982 by the government of Maharashtra. His political career did have hiccups when he was trying to get Sanjay out of trouble during Hindu-Muslim clashes in Mumbai. He resigned as MP as a protest against the communal riots in Mumbai in 1993. Indeed Dutt Saab was one gem in the now manipulative, corrupt and selfish muck of politics.
The exemplary odyssey of this extraordinary human being came to an end on 25th May 2005, barely a month away from his 75th birthday when he could have added yet another action-packed year to his age. He died in his sleep because of a heart attack. They say only lucky ones die in their sleep. He was the Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister when he breathed his last. However, he did not have the good fortune of seeing his ever-in-trouble son Sanjay finally free from the monsters of the court and settling down, finally.
On his 77th Birthday, Sunil Dutt Saab is remembered for the purity of heart, strength of conviction, being a selfless leader and a lovable father figure. He is really missed in politics where looking for a good politician is like looking for water in a desert. Good leaders are getting extinct by the day but the nobility of the legend will live on. The film fraternity misses the soft yet strong hearted prodigy.
Dutt Saab indeed is an indisputable victor in the battle called life. He has left, at every step, indelible footprints that will never let the aura of the saintly figure fade away.
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