Meet the men who stood by Sanjay Dutt
Upcoming biopic on the Munnabhai actor's troubled life has Vicky Kaushal portraying the friends who form Dutt's core group
Sanjay Dutt with Paresh Ghelani, who he calls Paria
When actor Sanjay Dutt walked out of Pune's Central Jail on February 25, 2016, having served the last 42 months of his five-year imprisonment - following his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case - among the many who made it a point to be there that day was Paresh Ghelani, a US-based entrepreneur, and one of Dutt's closest friends. Ghelani had flown down especially to spend time with the actor.
Dutt, Raj Bansal and Rajkumar Hirani
It was a Thursday, but that week the partying began early on for Dutt at his brother-in-law Kumar Gaurav's home. On the way back from the party, Dutt insisted that Paria (his nickname for Ghelani), sit on his lap. This wasn't because of a lack of space in the vehicle, but it was Dutt's way of showing the warm camaraderie he shared with his pal and also for making up for lost time while the actor was behind bars.
Maanyata Dutt with Ajay (Bittu) Arora
Dutt, 58, is known to be fiercely protective of his close buddies. They have stood by him during his worst times. He always says his heart rules his head, and it is his friends who strike a note of caution in him. When the trailer of one of the most awaited films of the year, Sanju (in which actor Ranbir Kapoor portrays Dutt) released on May 30, 2018, aside from the general curiosity around Dutt's rather controversial life, what got most viewers intrigued was the quiz the 3.04-minute trailer threw up: Who is playing whom. And, which friend does the endearing character of Vicky Kaushal represent.
Maanyata and Dutt tied the knot at Pradeep Sinha's (extreme right) Versova home
At the trailer launch, the film's director Rajkumar Hirani - who first worked with Dutt in the 2003 runaway hit Munnabhai MBBS - says that while making a biopic, it becomes difficult to show each and every person from the life on whom the film is based. "You have to merge some characters. In Sanju, instead of showing all his friends, we have shown one character, who is a mix of his buddies."
Dutt with Raj Bansal
Apart from Ghelani, those who are part of Dutt's core group include Ajay (Bittu) Arora, Raj Bansal (film distributor), Ajay Marwah and Pradeep Sinha - traces of whom have all been rolled into Kaushal's character. Marwah is a Bandra resident whose family has a theatre business. The two met almost three decades ago when they started working out at the same gym. He says, "Hirani met me three years ago, while scripting Sanju. It's a film, so there will be cinematic liberties. I liked the teaser, I am looking forward to seeing Sanju. It will be surreal to watch a life you have been a part of on the big screen." Sinha, a Versova resident who runs a textile machinery import business, adds, "Ranbir's looks and mannerisms are near original. It is just like Sanju's." Sinha then talks about his role in Dutt's wedding to Maanyata. The wedding happened in 2008 at Sinha's Versova home at Badrinath Towers - a hush-hush event that took the industry by surprise.
Ajay Marwah and Sanjay Dutt
"It was tough keeping it a secret. Imagine planning a wedding at your home but not telling anyone who the groom and bride is," recalls Sinha. Sinha adds that Dutt is not shy about talking about his time in jail and experience with cops. "Once during a holiday to Thailand, he kept relating his ordeal. He told my wife Sanjita 'you should record and make notes of whatever I am saying and put them in a book'," he adds. Incidentally, actor Anushka Sharma who plays a biographer in the film to whom Kapoor (as Dutt) tells his story, stays in the same high-rise where Dutt married Maanyata. Adds Sinha, "This is a strange coincidence. Another connect with the film."
Ranbir Kapoor and Vicky Kaushal in Sanju. Vicky's character is a mix of several of Dutt's buddies
Bansal is a film distributor based in Jaipur. He first met him when Dutt was shooting for Naam (1986) in Rajasthan. He had made arrangements for the actor's hotel stay. They bonded over their sense of humour. Dutt refers to him as Thakur and would write letters to him from jail, which remain his prized possessions. Bansal says, "I went numb after watching the trailer. I have known Sanjay for over 30 years." Last year, to celebrate his birthday, Dutt had flown to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Ghelani had flown in from the US to give him company. Recently, Arora evinced interest in turning director and making a comic caper, Dutt gave his nod immediately. Friends have stood by for him and the actor for them. Now they are looking forward to see his life unspool on the big screen and find a bit of them in it.
Maria on screen
If you're wondering who the cop on screen is, it's former Mumbai top cop Rakesh Maria. Maria, incidentally a close friend of the film's producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, was in charge of the probe in the 1993 serial blasts case and was deputy commissioner of police. His team arrested Dutt from the airport after he returned from Mauritius.
An officer in the probe team who is currently posted with Mumbai police said Dutt's name cropped up in the case after two people Sameer Hingora and Hanif Kadawala named him and told the police that they had supplied weapons to the actor. The official recalled that Dutt was picked up by Maria's team from the airport.
"Initially he kept telling the police that he (Dutt) was not involved in the case," he added. However, as shown in the movie, Maria caught the actor by his hair and one tight slap was enough for Dutt to admit his part. It was Maria's team that investigated the case and then put up a chargesheet against the actor.
— Rahul Mahajani
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