Even beneath the heaviest winter snow lies a potential spring waiting to bloom. It was when the time finally came for Sanjay Dutt to go back to prison that he discovered within himself a spring of strength in the middle of the harshest winter of his life.
This wasn't the same man I saw the day before. Somehow, in the middle of the night something changed in him. The teary-eyed, crumbling, trembling man looking for any straw of hope he could find had been replaced by a samurai like persona. This kind of awakening could only have come because his family had formed a firewall of love and protection around him.
His wife, whose face still bore traces of tears, but who stood like a rock; his beautiful sisters, his brothers in law Kumar Gaurav and Owen Roncon, and all the lovely kids in the family, his nephews and nieces; all of them rallied round him and helped him find the strength and courage he so desperately needed.
Just before the hour of parting came, they formed a circle holding hands, and Owen read out a prayer. He asked God to help Sanju and the family survive this fire of life intact, and to bring him home soon. They then hugged and kissed and led him out of the living room in the same manner they would someone going on a long journey to a unknown and faraway land. On the wall behind them hung Sunil Dutt's photograph, and he looked down on them smilingly — the elder who had braved so many tragedies.
The scene got rather poignant when Sanju entered the kitchen to bid his domestic help goodbye. Tears flowed in abundance as they helplessly watched their strong and powerful master leave the house, this time not for a film shoot but to be locked up and put behind bars. His personal attendant Shankar, kept running away from him and the final moment of goodbye. I had to physically bring him to Sanju so that he could give him a hug.
And then we stepped outside into the arena. The world media had waited outside for days to catch a glimpse of Bollywood's controversial star. As promised, Sanju looked towards them and gave them his jaadu ki jhappi. Next, the most hazardous journey towards the court began. Swarms of media personnel chased Sanjay's convoy from his front door right up to the court.
On the way, they callously overtook cars, endangered civilian lives and put themselves in harm's way just to get images of Sanju and his wife, so that the world could feast their eyes on this celebrity in his hour of pain. The age of the paparazzi has arrived. I now understand what killed Princess Diana. If something is not done to rein the media in, we will soon have a similar tragedy on our own hands.
In spite of the heavy police 'bundobast' it was impossible to get Sanjay from his car into the court. I told the cops that I wouldn't let him come out, but they were in a quandary. They were apparently unable to laathi charge the all-powerful media! It was then that Sanju, like a true hero, got out and begged the swarm of people to let him pass. The crowd was still unmoved, and so, throwing all caution to the wind we pushed and shoved our way through the mob, getting battered and bruised in the process.And then, finally, the court took over. The matter was officially out of our hands. Sanju Baba is now in the hands of the state. I hope they can keep him safe.
As I drove back home in the May heat, asking my driver to increase the air-conditioning, my mind lingered with the thought of my tragic reel-life hero and real-life friend. I wondered how he would cope with the brutal world he was about to enter. Something tells me he will. I also hope he fulfills a promise he made to me: To take a harsh look at his turbulent and troubled life and come back with a memoir which will reveal the truths he has lived. Wouldn't that be the mother of all blockbusters? — TOI