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Dutts's Family Ties : that bind or gag?

The Dutt saga

TeleLIFE delves into the Maanayata Sunjay Dutt love story and the implications on close family members.

There's nothing more endearing than an utterly romantic love story. And when it's one that spans over almost a decade, it becomes all the more enticing. That's how long Maanayata and Sanjay Dutt have known each other though you'll never believe that when you see them together. They share that quiet moment in paradise when he hugs her and she dotingly whispers something into his ear. There's a serene smile on her face, enough to light up the entire studio.

Much has already been said and discussed about the Sanjay-Maanayata love story ever since they first started going around. Her past and her background were both dissected by the media ruthlessly. She was accused of distancing Sanjay from his sisters; she was even held responsible for aligning him with politics; something that he'd steered away for long. But all the impediments have only brought the couple closer than ever before. And even though she's 19 years younger than him, the camaraderie they share has to be seen to be believed.

Her presence in his life has been undeniable. She lets Sanjay be the man he is and yet he's domesticated like never before; she's made him give up drinking; she's also made sure Sanjay has dinner every night at home. Life wasn't always smooth sailing for the gorgeous Mrs. Dutt. And she makes no bones talking about her past.

“I was very young (in my fourth grade) when my parents split. They never got divorced but they were living separately. My whole childhood was rather traumatic but I believe that if you're optimistic in life, you can handle any kind of a situation. You just have to keep going on.”

Unlike what most people believe, Maanayata has been a Mumbai girl and eventually, that's what led her to the arc lights. She did an itsy-bitsy song number in Prakash Jha's ‘Gangaajal' but that's where her Bollywood dream ended.

“You know, life is very strange,” she says, looking back. “Actually, I never had any ambitions of getting into movies. I was into extra-curricular activities – like working out, mainly. I had joined this very so-called filmy gym called Barbarian.

That's how I met Prakash Jha's daughter, Tisha – she used to be this motu and she'd come to the gym to lose weight. One day, she told me her dad was looking for someone to do a song in his film. That's how I ended up doing ‘Gangaajal'. But my family wasn't happy with my decision. And since I come from a very conservative Muslim background, I had to stop.”

Maanayata was never a Sanjay Dutt fan even though he was a major star when she was still studying. “I grew up watching Amitabh Bachchan movies but I was a hardcore Vinod Khanna fan. For me, Sanjay Dutt was definitely someone who had an aura. He looked like a Greek god then; he still looks like one.” Meeting Sanjay in real life changed all that. “I first met Sanjay more than nine years back.

I was sitting at Hotel Regent in Bandra, Mumbai (now Taj Land's End) with some of my friends and Sanjay was there too; he was sitting a few tables away with his gang. One of Sanju's friends is a builder in Pune and owns the E-Square Complex; he is married to my friend. He was sitting with Sanju. When he saw me, he came over to my table. Then he introduced me to Sanju. We were both seriously into workouts at that time so we hit it off really well.

After that, we kept bumping into each other at parties, clubs and even coffee shops. We had started to become friends. And then when Dad (Sunil Dutt) passed away in 2005, Sanju was going through a very bad time. He was very lonely. He would call me often and we would talk for hours. In those four five months, we actually became close.”

They really started to get to know each other better when they were friends. “At that time, I was going through my own personal problems. And he was always there for me. Sanju was someone I could trust. I'd gone through my own mess and he knew everything about it. He was going through a bad time and I understood him completely. So there was a lot of understanding and love for each other.”

Maanayata was taken aback when Sanju took a deeper interest in her. As she says, “One fine day in October 2005, he just called me and said, ‘You're the woman I've been waiting for my whole life.' It was around 3.30 in the morning and to be very honest, I just thought he'd hada couple of drinks and that was just a statement in that moment. I didn't say anything. Then, the following night, at around 8.30 pm, he called me and said, ‘the whole day I waited for your answer.

Am I that bad a person?' And I wondered, what's he saying? Is he serious? Then, in December, two months later, he proposed marriage to me.” The fact that Maanayata was previously married and divorced didn't affect Sanju's decision one bit. “He wasn't standing on a shaky ground. He knew exactly what he wanted.”

Maanayata cannot forget the first time she actually realised she had some sort of a connection with Sanjay. “The first night we met at the coffee shop, we hit it off really well. I remember, when Sanjay was leaving, he came across and hugged me. I went numb; I actually went cold. I didn't know what happened to me. Then he started walking towards the exit while I made my way towards my table. And I don't know why, I just turned around to look at him and he was still standing there, looking at me. I can't define that moment. But there was something thatclicked there; there was a connection.”

Sanjay's sudden marriage proposal to Maanayata may have come across as a surprise to the public in general but people close to him knew it was going to happen sooner or later. “Sanjay is an introvert,” says his wife. “But when you're sure of what you want in your life, youfind that confidence. Even before he proposed to me, all his friends knew that he wanted to marry me.” On the 31st of December, he threw a party. That's where he presented me with a two-carat diamond ring and proposed to me. It was truly romantic. He didn't know my ring size so he went and got just the diamond. Then, at the stroke of midnight, he went down on his knees and proposed marriage.”

It's only after Maanayata accepted his proposal that Sanjay decided to go public with the relationship. He made an entry with her at an event early last year and people couldn't stop talking about them after that. Once they were in the public eye, Maanayata discovered the uglier side of fame. People close to Sanjay heaped accusations on her; the media questioned her credibility.

She wasn't prepared for such scrutiny then. “Whenever there is power, money and position, there are bound to be controversies. When I came into Sanju's life, his whole life was totally messed up – be it his finances or on the personal front. I came into his life like a barricade. I was filtering the right from the wrong. From the perspective of some people around him, I wasn't supposed to be there. Sanjay was supposed to live alone and die alone.

I was like a surprise package for a lot of people who didn't want me. But I had to happen and I was ready for it. People thought every time something about me came in the papers, Sanju and me would fall apart. But that didn't happen because we know each other so well.”

At that time, Sanjay and his ex-wife Rhea Pillai (now married to Leander Paes) were embroiled in a war of words. Rhea and her friends believed it was Maanayata who had instigated him. She refutes that completely. “I know Sanjay reacted and also know why he did it. If they felt whathe said wasn't true, they should've filed a defamation suit against Sanjay and me.Secondly, the whole world knows that we always did the right thing. Sanju and I waited for three years before we got married. Sanju and Rhea got divorced on 6th or 7th February 2008. Sanju and I got married on 11th February 2008.”

That brings me to the massive age difference between the two. “Yes, I know I am 19 years younger to him,” she laughs. “You know how it works? I'm a little mature for my age and he's a little childish for his age. So we are eventually on the same level and we maintain that balance.” Then, in all seriousness, she adds, “Age doesn't matter. You have to be compatible with each other.”

Age also doesn't have anything to do with being a romantic, as Sanjay has proved it time and again to Maanayata. “Sanjay is very unpredictable but very romantic. There are times when there's an occasion to celebrate but he'll just sit there on his bar stool and wish me. Sometimes, on a special day, he'll go all out. Sometimes, he'll just forget. When he came out from jail, he surprised me by taking me for a holiday in Goa. In Goa, he booked an entire beach for us.”

Maanayata recalls another incident about Sanjay – the impulsive man that he is. “He was in Pune for a pooja ceremony. His whole gang was there with him staying in E-Square. He called me at around midnight and said he was missing me. I told him to go to sleep. You won't believe it – he took out one of the cars and drove himself all the way to Mumbai. The next morning, Kaka (Nitin Manmohan) calls me in panic and says, ‘Baba is missing.' I laughed and told him he was with me.”

Sanjay is also fiercely possessive and protective of Maanayata and she has to adhere to certain conditions. Like she puts it, “Till today, even if I'm going out for a coffee with somebody, I have to inform him first. He's very conservative that way. He wants me to be home when he comes back from work. He's very docile,very homely and very domesticated in that sense.”

Is he the pampering kind? Maanayata smiles and states, “He pampers me but I pamper him more. That's why he calls me ‘Mom'. I really like it when he calls out to me like that.” Maanayata is still coming to terms with the title of Mrs. Dutt. “It's every wife's responsibility to make sure everything goes well in her family. Be it with regard to his finances or his personal life, I've been there and will always be there for Sanjay.”

She has also been accused to distancing Sanjay from his family (mainly sisters). Maanayata argues on that front. “In my opinion, once you're married, your wife becomes your immediate family. This is the law of the society. It's the same case for his sisters too. They have their respective families, their husbands and their children. I'm not responsible for all this.”

Sanju's sisters always had a problem with the women in his life – be it the late Richa Sharma or Rhea Pillai. Were matters difficult for Maanayata too? She says, “Where Richa and Rhea are concern, they would have known better. Where I am concerned, I don't hold any grudge against anybody. I just want to tell people that what's destined for me will come to me. So accept things gracefully in life.”

It's this firm and rock-steady demeanour that actually separates Maanayata from the rest. Sanjay adores this aspect of her personality and that's what forms the cohesive bond between them.

The communication is what keeps any marriage going and theirs is no exception. To her credit, Maanayata has succeeded in making Sanjay a more social person.

There are people who even say that it was Maanayata's decision to make Sanjay enter politics. She denies that though. “He's a person who knows what he's doing. He's a very strong-headed guy; he's not a kid.” But Sanjay's decision to join the Samajwadi Party has caused a strain in his relationship with his sister Priya and one cannot deny that. Maanayata asks,

“My father-in-law and mother-in-law were both veteran actors. If Sanju had chosen to be a doctor and not an actor, would people have asked questions like these? So why is this question raised about why not Congress and why the Samajwadi Party? It's his choice. There is no strain on Sanju. There shouldn't be any strain on anybody. It's a personal decision.”


Now that Sanjay is not allowed to contest elections, would it be Maanayata who would stand in his place? “That would be Sanju's decision,” she says candidly. “I'm not prepared for politics but if Sanju wants me to do it, I'll do it. He's anyway always taken the call on my behalf.” Sanjay and Maanayata are now planning to start a family and there's a grin on her face when I bring up the subject.

She's honest enough to confess, “Yes, I'm looking forward to starting my family. What's the use of planning? If I want a child tomorrow, will it happen? You have to pray for me. Everybody has to pray. God has to bless us.” This is the Mrs. Dutt I was talking about – who speaks her heartand doesn't care about the world. That's the woman Sanju is so hopelessly in love with. That's what makes this love story so endearing.

Sunju on his wife Maanyaata

Sanjay Dutt is a man of few words. When you ask him something personal, it makes him uncomfortable because he's not used to expressing his feelings openly. He'd rather put his arm around you and say, “Samjha kar yaar” and wriggle his way out of the situation. However, when it comes to Maanayata, he's prepared to put himself through any kind of introspection. In a candid tête-à-tête on the most important woman in his life, Sanjay tells us all that you wanted to know about this romance.

Q: Tell me Sanjay – your first impressions about Maanayata when you met her. What was she like?

A: Well, she was a young girl. I met her in a coffee shop and found her really pretty. I remember that evening. I couldn't take my eyes off her hair. She had long curly hair, running almost below her waist. The picture is like sketched in my memory.

Q:  Was it attraction or love at first sight?

A:  Actually, she was a friend first. It took me almost five years to fall in love with her. It was more of understanding each other than attraction.

Q: So what's it that drew you to Maanayata?

A: You know, she's a quiet and calm person and she has a witty sense of humour that not many people are aware of. She comes up with the most deadly one-liners. She's the kind of woman every man would want to take home as his wife.

Q: When you two first started going around, Maanayata was accosted by severe allegations. Did it upset you?

A: Yes, being a man, I obviously didn't like it – the fact that people were talking about my woman like this. But then it is a part of life. And it wasn't something new for me. I have gone through this all my life. I used to only get worried about Maanayata. It was very new for her to face all this.

Q: She's changed you, hasn't she?

A: She has completely domesticated me.

Q: Is she as much of a romantic as you are?

A: Watching her in the house all the time and in every part of the house is romance for me. With her around, love is always in the air. But I must tell you that she is very unpredictable when it comes to showing her feelings.

Q: People say she has distanced you from your family. True?

A: It is not true. Maanayata has a lot of values. She is a homemaker; not a homebreaker.

Q: You're no longer that close with your sisters. What happened?

A: Both my sisters are married and they both have their own families to look for. I have mine too. Today, I have given the space to my sisters as far as their husbands are concerned. I deserve my own space.

Q: Have you ever been insecure about Maanayata?

A: No, never. I know for a fact that this marriage is for keeps.

Q: Anything you'd like to change about Maanayata?

A: She is very straightforward. She believes in calling a spade a spade. It is a great quality though at times not advisable. I have suffered because of the same. I don't want her to suffer at all.

Q: She pampers you a lot, right?

A: She's just the girl-next-door. She cooks for me everyday. She believes in cleaning every corner of the house herself, yelling and screaming. She reminds me of my Mom. That's why I call her mama.

Q: Are you a possessive husband?

A: I'm very possessive of her. At times, I overdo it but she never complains. She's the best thing to have ever happened to me in my life. I mean it.

Q: You've always been a ladies man, Sanju. Has that changed?

A: I can't look beyond my wife now. I can't do without her. I call her at least 40 times a day.

Q: People say that it was Maanayata who prompted you to get into politics.

A: No, I'm grown up to make my own decisions.

Q: There's some strain in your relationship with your sisters over your association with the Samajwadi Party.

A: Why should there be any strain? As individuals, we do have the right to make our own decisions.

Q: Maanayata as a politician?

A: As a wife, she's the best. As a politician, let time decide.

Q: Priya as a politician?

A: For her, I'm her brother, not an actor. For me, she's my younger sister, not a politician.

Q: You know that people are waiting for something to go wrong between you and Maanayata.

A: Tell them – Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai – tootega nahin.


Q: Trishala Dutt on Sunjay and Maanayata Dutt

A: Trishala, Sanjay Dutt's daughter, is hurting. Her dad and she have not spoken to each other for months. Here, she opens up her heart…

Undoubtedly, Sanjay Dutt's life is no less than a K-series soap opera. There were a spurt of stories doing the rounds that all was not well between Sanjay and beti Trishala. Supposedly, the duo hadn't spoken to each other for sometime. They had neither called nor bothered to find out about each other's health. This was extremely surprising because Sanjay, in each of his interviews, had been telling all and sundry about how well Trishala and his wife Maanyata get along and how Trishala and he were much closer than before.

When questioned, Trishala answered from USA, “I'm so glad you asked me this question. Honestly, I wish people would ask me about the situation between us rather than go to him. He generally insists that all is fine, which is far from true,” blurts out Trishala honestly. And then comes the shocker... She adds rather desolately, “Dad and I haven't spoken to each other for months. He hasn't bothered to call me up and whenever I try to speak to him, he sounds extremely testy and asks me, ‘What do you want?' I really don't know what the problem is!” She sounded very hurt, but she refutes that by saying, “More than feeling hurt, I am offended! But if this continues, I too won't care.”

But has Trishala even tried bridging the supposedly yawning gap between her dad and her? “Well, I did try calling him up a few times but when he started to sound abrupt, I stopped bothering. We all know who has caused these problems between him and my buas and me. Dad just listens to her and nobody else,” she says.

So what's the equation between Trishala and Maanyata? What about their Bermuda trip together, where both Trishala and Maanyata have said in print that, “they got along very well”? “Well, she is nice to me and I am nice to her. But if she gets edgy with me, I too get edgy,” claims Trishala, adding with a laugh, “I don't want to add more to this as I could get my ass fried!”

So, what next? “I have one more year to finish college, so am studying hard. I also plan to come down to India soon. I was planning to come down in January but because of the terror attacks, I postponed my visit. But I think I'll make a visit soon.

But, no, I don't plan to tell dad about my visit. If he can keep us in the dark about his plans, I can do the same too,” says Trishala, a tad defiantly, yet with a tinge of sadness.

…Pity, as we know how much she adores Sanjay. Here's hoping Sanjay Dutt pieces his family back together. After all, isn't it all about loving your family?


Media Watch (Previous Issues)

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