Sanjay Dutt speaks up about sis Priya, 'big bro' Amar Singh, pativrata patni, Maanyata, his detractors, the filmi feuds et al. And why he prefers being Baba over being the new Duttsaab
From recent interviews, it looks like you've learnt to speak like a politician. You deflect questions and use humour to get out of some. How do you approach the media as a neta, Sanjay? Are you guarded?
No, I don't look at it differently at all. I feel I'm the same old Sanjay talking to the media that I was 20 years ago. But yes, I think time makes you more diplomatic in your answers.
You're seen as a Bombay boy. How has it been campaigning in Lucknow?
I know that some people feel I'm an outsider to Lucknow, but how can you do that? I'm an Indian first and I have the right to stand from any part of the country that I feel. Lucknow is a part of India. It's been a great experience campaigning and not at all tiring. My family has always been involved in social service and Gandhian sentiments. My ethics are the same.
Raj Thackeray recently brought up the fact that you were standing from Lucknow. Were you referring to him just now?
No, I never meant Rajbhai. Some people in Lucknow have been questioning why I'm standing from there. There has been a campaign against me, but I'm ready to face everything, even if they dig up the past. I can't start trading abuses, but I'll let my work talk for itself.
You've now appealed to the Supreme Court for your case. But your opponents have used the AK-47 allegation against you. How do you deal with this?
I'm used to it; I've faced it for 18 years. The allegations are baseless and they don't have their facts right. In its last judgment in my case, the honourable court has taken the draconian part out of my case. I'm no longer a TADA convict and it's now seen under the Arms Act. I feel people should go by the facts. I'm amused that they bring up my past, but it doesn't matter. I've helped people all the time for cancer, AIDS, drugs. I want my work to speak for me. I've been helping people not to be in the news, but because it makes me feel good.
Tell us five things about your constituency, Lucknow?
See, I'm still learning about the voters. I feel the essence of Lucknow is its chikan work and that has died. I'm trying to revive and enhance that. I'd like to do something in the IT sector and the medical facilities there are bad. I've been speaking to the people there and they have concerns like electricity, water, law and order. I also feel, why should people leave Lucknow for jobs? It's my dream that it gets so developed that other people come looking for jobs there.
The complaint against actors is that once they're elected, they forget their constituency. Will you be based here or in Lucknow? How will you be able to do all this work?
Lucknow isn't too far. I'm definitely not going to leave films, but I'll cut down on my work and choose my movies carefully. I want to do a lot. I know actors have faced flak over this, but I'm Sunil and Nargis Dutt's son. It's in my genes.
What about Parliament attendance? Actors are notoriously bad at that. How will you balance acting and politics?
You know, once you schedule your life, you can go with it. All of it is manageable.
Sanjay, how do you think your father Sunil would have reacted to you joining the Samajwadi Party?
It's a tricky question and difficult to answer. But my father was my strength, my force. I believe he would have respected my decision.
Your sister Priya said recently that you'd learn a sense of reality from politics. Is that true?
I feel I'm in the process of growing as a person after joining politics. I read what she said, but I think I've faced more reality than others (laughs). This is some new aspect she's talking about.
The popular notion is that your mentor Amar Singh creates rifts in families. Can you clear the air?
Nothing has happened in my family. There is no rift. It's because I'm an actor that it keeps getting written about. Every family has ups and downs. Priya is my younger sister and if she's said anything in anger, I forgive her. We'll always be together.
Amar Singh is like family. He's my older brother. He's been selflessly standing beside me. Amar Singhji takes a stand for someone he cares about and there's nothing wrong in that. It's a rare quality. It's not right to call him a home-breaker.
In a TV interview, you said your wife Maanyata had nothing to do with your decision to enter politics. This interview, though, was arranged after consulting her...
No, no, not at all. You see, my work is divided. I can't handle everything. Press, politics, acting if I did it all, I wouldn't be able to sleep! (laughs) I asked Maanyata to handle my interviews now. But really, her decisions are taken in the kitchen, over whether it should be biryani, chicken or kebabs.
If the court says you can't stand, will Maanyata stand in your place, like Amar Singh suggested?
That's not decided yet. If the court doesn't allow me, I'll respect that. But I'll still go to Lucknow and campaign for whosoever the party chooses.
You had the bad boy image, in real life and on screen. Will you stop doing negative roles if you're elected?
Depends on the role. The script is most important. People remember Munnabhai and Vaastav the most; the emotions and sentiments that come through. I've already cut down on gangster roles. But I won't let a character I'm playing define my life. People recognise it's just a character and I'm only entertaining them.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra said at the Jaipur literary fest that he was disappointed that the concepts of Gandhigiri and jaadoo ki jhappi were being used by political parties.
Vinod is my older brother; he's absolutely right. It shouldn't be used in campaigning I respect that and Amar Singh agreed. That said, I can't stop the public from chanting Munnabhai when I go on rallies. I can't stop you press people from using that to describe me.
How are things between you and Priya?
I'm not against my sister or I would have stood against her in her constituency. We're the same blood.
You raised objections to her taking her father's name?
I have no problems with a woman keeping her father's name. I was misquoted. But the fact remains that after a woman gets married, she should respect her married name. Even Indiraji could have kept the name Nehru, but she chose Gandhi.
What of Abu Azmi saying that if Congress puts up a candidate opposite you in Lucknow, you will campaign in Mumbai against Priya?
I've no answer to that. He never said that. The party decides, but I know they will not make me do it. They understand the bond.
How do you react to Varun Gandhi's statements? You are half-Muslim yourself.
I won't comment on that. I'll only speak for myself.
Rumours are that you're not committing to more dates on your film Blue, directed by Anthony D'Souza. Too busy with politics?
I've given all my dates to Blue. They had asked for 65 days, I shot for nearly a hundred. I'd give more to finish the film. There's no problem.
Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar lately, we've heard all of them take potshots at each other. Where is Sanjay Dutt in all this?
Sanjay Dutt is not a number. I'm not concerned with the numbers game. I don't get involved.
Will your friends from the film industry campaign for you?
If they come out of their own will, they're welcome. But I'll never ask them to campaign for me.
Finally, how do you people see you today as the new Duttsaab or as Sanju Baba?
I feel Baba will remain a favourite. As for Duttsaab, if I'm even 10 per cent of what he was, I'll feel like I've won the battle.