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Through A Glass Darkly
For the junkies who hung out in South Bombay's Colaba in the '80s, Sanjay Dutt was a nice guy to know. He was a generous sort who didn't mind sharing a toke or bailing out an addict in need. Sunju baba, as he was called, often marked his presence late at night and even though he looked washed out and scraggy, there was an aura about him. Was it because he was the 'wayward son of a famous father', or was it because he was intrinsically good-natured? Those who knew him then say it was a combination of both.
As a reporter covering low life in '80s Bombay, one heard flattering testimonies from drug addicts about Sanjay Dutt's character. One Parsi girl spoke of how he had no airs about him. Another addict who specialised in mobike stunts till heroin put him out of action had fond memories of chasing smack with the star. There were also stories—perhaps exaggerated—of Sanjay's tendency to consume abnormal amounts of heroin and cocaine. The buzz was that he had the money and the connections to "score good unadulterated stuff".
Perhaps, the crisis that Sanjay faces today has its roots in his dark, drugged-out days. He would often tell fellow addicts about how he knew the big drug dealers in the city. The underworld, on its part, took note of him and felt it was worth its while patronising the young man. After all, he was not only the son of Sunil Dutt but seemed to have all it took to become a star in his own right.
Of course, thanks to his family, Sanjay kicked his drug habit and was able to concentrate on his film career. But he found it difficult to snap some of the links he had forged during his drug-addict days. Also, by then, some of the smaller underworld operators he knew had become big. They were financing films and calling the shots in Bollywood. Many found it convenient to continue their association with their Sunju baba.
It was not as if Sanjay Dutt was the only star being drawn to the underworld. Prior to the 1993 Bombay blasts, the likes of Dawood Ibrahim and Chotta Rajan were seen as alternate power centres who could sort out any problem in the city. Many in the film industry were proud of their underworld links and some wore it like a badge of honour. Sanjay too discovered new gangster friends. He met Mr D in Dubai and struck a friendship with the don's brother, Anees Ibrahim. He also became buddies with the Bhai's men in Bombay who were involved in financing films.
Very clearly, Dutt did not require the services of the mob to land film roles. But during the '92 riots, when his father and family received threats for being "pro-Muslim", he turned for support to his gangland friends. They helped in the only way they knew—providing Dutt with an assault rifle and ammunition. They also seized the opportunity to hide a cache of arms in the boot of his Fiat car.
The rest is history. But why did Sanjay Dutt turn to the bad guys? According to him, he had tried to get additional security for his family from the Mumbai police. But it did not entertain his request. So he was forced to turn to friends he could bank on. If he had sought advice from more sensible quarters, Sanjay would have called his father's friends in the Congress party in Delhi who would have surely pressurised the Maharashtra government to help.
Looking back, life would perhaps have been different if Sanjay Dutt had opened a restaurant or started a business instead of becoming a successful film hero. His underworld friends would then have shown little or no interest in him. He may have even been saved the ignominy of going to jail. But then, he wouldn't have become Munnabhai...