Hindi Film 101: Sanjay Dutt, Part 8, The Women

I’m back!  For another look at some of the parts we have already covered, and a look ahead at some new parts.  Sanjay, and the women of his life. (full index of Hindi Film 101 including the other Sanjay parts here)

Usual Disclaimer: I don’t know this people and have no special knowledge, this is just how it looks to me based on common knowledge.





If you try to explain why Sanjay is so beloved, what he is really like, you can’t look to foundations and awards and speeches the way you could for his father.  It’s in the invisible parts of his life, the willingness to take a body blow over and over again and get back up again, and never ever hit back.  And it shows most in how he treated the women in his life.

Sanjay talked in interviews about how he could always get women by pretending that he needed them, playing the sad little boy.  But there is a strange sort of humility to that admission, he sees himself as always “playing” someone who needed love, not someone who deserves it.


That’s the key to Sanjay’s behavior with women.  He never feels like they owe him anything.  He feels like he owes them.  In his own strange way.  He can’t always give them what they want from him, but he will try to give them everything he can.

The woman Sanjay failed the most was his first wife, Richa.  He just couldn’t be there and watch her die in the same place his mother had died.  He ran away from her and by the time he was strong enough to come back, he had grown away from her.  He was in a different place now, he could never be the husband she wanted, couldn’t go back to what they had been.  But he gave her everything that was in him to give.

Image result for richa sharma dutt death

Sanjay did what he could for Richa.  In the end.  She always loved him, always dreamed of being back with him, and Sanjay knew he couldn’t give her that.  He started divorce proceedings, to free them both from this dead marriage.  And then Richa got sick again.  Sanjay was in the middle of the fight for his life with the TADA court, but he begged their permission to leave the country, stopped the divorce proceedings, and was by her side at the end.  He couldn’t give her a life with him, but he could give her a good death, letting her die as “Mrs. Sanjay Dutt” the way she wanted to be.

Sanjay wasn’t able to grow fast enough to be there for his wife, but he somehow pulled himself together and found it in himself to be there for his daughter, always.  She lived in New York with her mother and aunt and grandparents, but Sanjay called her and visited her whenever he could.  He failed his wife, but he never failed his daughter.  Even Sunil was overwhelmed by the situation, he started waiting on a street corner outside the house because he was not brave enough to enter it and ask to see Trishala.  But Sanjay would do it, he would go in and face their anger and accept it and humbly insist on his right to see his daughter, and bring her to the window to wave to her grandfather.

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When Sanjay went to jail, he was dating Madhuri Dixit according to most reports.  And she abandoned him, wouldn’t even take his calls, or accept his messages.  And then gave an interview declaring that he was nothing more than a co-worker to her.  Even Sunil Dutt blamed her for that, in a later interview with Mohammed Khalid he mentioned that Sanjay was really struggling, even the woman he loved had left him (clearly referring to Madhuri, in a moment of ungentlemanly and un-Sunil like bitterness, so unworthy of him that Khalid generously chose not to report the comment until years later).  But Sanjay, he has never said a bad word about her.  The most was a wistful comment in a recent interview that if he could marry any actress, he would marry Madhuri.

There was a year gap between Sanjay’s first month in jail and his second excruciatingly long jail term.  And during that time he started dating model Rhea Pillai.  Sanjay has been with a lot of women, that’s part of his addictive personality.  But he has only been in love a few times.  Rhea was someone he loved.  And she loved him back.

When Sanjay falls in love, he doesn’t have a “type”.  If you look at his serious relationships, Tina, Richa, Madhuri (rumored), Rhea, Nadia Durrani (rumored), and finally Manyaata, each woman is completely different from the others.  Tina was a few years older than he, Richa a few years younger.  Madhuri was a top actress, Manyaata a struggling item dancer.  Richa was an American, Manyaata from Dubai, and Nadia was Pakistani.

Rhea was unlike any of his previous romances.  Already 30 years old, from a background even more mixed than his (Muslim, Hindu, and Christian, and descended from the Hyderabad royal family), and training as a yoga teacher and volunteering with Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living foundation.  And already divorced once.  Rhea wasn’t the young dreamy middle-class good girl that Richa was, or the film set romance like he had with Tina and Madhuri.  She was something different, cosmopolitan and sophisticated and open minded.  And mature, Sanjay was growing up and he wanted a woman who was as grown as he was, no more affairs with starry eyed little girls like Richa, or with Madhuri who wasn’t willing to ignore her reputation for love.

Rhea proved her love for him, proved her strength.  Through out that torturous 14 months in jail, Rhea visited him, brought him food, gave him strength, was there at every court appearance.  Once he was out, Sanjay and Rhea moved in together, waiting for his divorce to come through and then, later, for Richa to die.  And only then, when his life was clean and clear, did Sanjay and Rhea marry, in a romantic elopement on Valentine’s Day.

Image result for sanjay dutt rhea pillai story

The marriage only lasted a few years in happiness.  By 2001, it was rumored that Sanjay was in love again, with someone besides his wife.  Nadia Durrani, a Pakistani belly dancer with a 9 year old son.  Very different from Rhea’s sophisticated Bombay socialite style.  Sanjay did something wrong, he broke the covenant of marriage and betrayed her.  But he didn’t run from what he did, he tried to make amends.

In 2003, Rhea started seeing Leeander Paees, tennis star.  By 2005, she was pregnant with his child.  And Sanjay was still supporting her.  She went shopping for her new baby nursery with his credit card, set up a household for herself and Leander with his money.  And Sanjay never said a word.  He asked for a divorce, she said no, so he let it go.  It was his responsibility and he accepted it.  And he didn’t talk about it, let the media paint him as the one at fault in the separation and never said a word.

Image result for rhea pillai leander paes

(Rhea and Leander with their daughter, while Sanjay was still supporting them.  Not saying she didn’t deserve it, she stood by him through thick and thin and was rewarded with a broken heart, a little money was a small price to pay.  But the point is, Sanjay agreed with that.  He knew he did wrong and he was willing to atone)

I don’t want to excuse Sanjay’s behavior in his relationships.  He was unfaithful, he hurt people, that isn’t right.  But he knew it wasn’t right.  And he tried to do better.  His relationships weren’t about repeating patterns, they were about trying and failing and learning from it.  After Tina, he didn’t look for another long term dating relationship, he wanted to get married.  After Richa, he never gave up on a woman again, never walked away.  The next time he got married after Rhea, he made sure it wasn’t a marriage that would end in them drifting away from each other.  And finally, with Manyaata, he got it right.

Manyaata is, seemingly, a terrible choice for Sanjay.  A struggling item girl, 20 years younger, moved in with him before his divorce from Rhea was even final.  Rumors of other men in her past, perhaps a previous marriage, scandalous videos of her floating around on the internet, obviously she wasn’t good enough for him.  That’s what Sanjay’s sisters thought, and most of his friends.  But Sanjay stood by her.  He stared down his family and the whole world and married her, no matter what anyone said.

Image result for sanjay dutt manyata marriage

Their marriage seemed like yet another terrible impulsive Sanjay idea.  It had a questionable legality, considering his divorce was just barely final.  It happened so fast that hardly anyone was invited, and his own family refused to come.  No one thought it would last.

But then, against all odds, it did.  Sanjay’s sweet romance with his first costar couldn’t last more than 2 years.  His perfect marriage to the perfect girl turned into tragedy.  His slow careful romance with an equally experienced and mature woman, including years of living together and confronting tragedy together, lasted in happiness for only 3 years and ended with mutual infidelity.  But this, the marriage to the woman who wasn’t “good enough”, the one with nothing in common with him, the one that everyone was so sure would fail, has lasted ten years.  Ten years of difficulty as great as anything else Sanjay’s relationships went through.  The only thing that changed, was Sanjay.  Finally, he was able to give everything that was needed in the relationship, he was able to find the inner strength to stick it out and never give up.

Sanjay, the same Sanjay who ran away when he couldn’t face what was happening to Richa, who silently endured while Rhea kept him from a divorce, who didn’t say a word as Madhuri walked away from him, he stood up to his whole family for Manyaata.  He starred down his sisters and declared he was marrying her no matter what they said.  And he had faith that they would come around, that it would all work out, that love would be enough. And, shockingly, it was.

Sanjay was sent to jail when their twins were 2 and a half years old.  Sanjay went to jail, and Manyaata stood by him.  She attended his premiers, became the formal head of his production company, and she traveled to Pune once a week to see him, to bring him messages from his friends in the industry, and bring back his own messages.  And she kept his children away, following his wishes to protect them from the shock his nieces had when visiting him in jail years earlier.

3 years later, Sanjay finally came out, and Manyaata was waiting for him.  His family was waiting at his home in Bombay, but the only person who was there for him at the prison gates, braving the media to be there, was Manyaata.  Despite the family disapproval, the legal troubles, and the medical issues (yes, Manyaata got cancer as well, while Sanjay was in prison), they had made it through, the two of them, like a real marriage.  Sanjay finally got it right.


Image result for sanjay dutt manyata jail

25 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Sanjay Dutt, Part 8, The Women

  1. `
    I’ve always found Sanjay to be sort of physically unattractive — bad hair; thick waist; droopy face, etc.

    Am I missing something?



  2. I think you’re personal liking for Sanjay Dutt is clouding your judgement here.
    I agree that Sanjay Dutt has led an interesting life, but to call him “So Beloved” is I think stretching it. In my 30 year long experience of watching bollywood cinema, I’ve met several girls who had crush on Shahrukh, Salman, Hrithik.. but I don’t think I’ve hardly ever encountered any female fans of Sanjay Dutt (or male for that matter, there might be few oddballs who admired his tapori performance in Vaastav or Munnabhai..)
    There is something disgusting about the way Ranbir playing Sanajy’s character boasts about sleeping with 350 women in Sanju, sure the director tries hard to make it seem sincere and charming, but I can just imagine Sanjay’s cockiness in boasting about sleeping with hundreds of women..
    Then there is this argument, “Sanjay never failed Trishala as a father”.. really.. the guy dragged her away from New York (presumably she had to leave school and all that..), from her grand parents who had been taking care of her since she was a child, immediately after the death of her mother.. only to send her back within a week.
    And finally, there is Madhuri. I’m ready to assume that she had a thing for Sanjay, may be she too had a thing for bad boys and briefly fell for him. But what right does Sunil have in demanding that she should have been faithful to him,.. has his son ever been faithful to any of the 350 odd girls he boasts about… when his son wasn’t even divorced yet, and had abandoned a dying wife and a baby daughter.. when Madhuri herself was on her way to become one of the all time greatest female superstars of bollywood, why should she tie herself down with a terrorist (Alleged)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sanjay is beloved by those who know him, which is interesting. No one in the film industry has a bad thing to say about him, he is universally liked, very unusual, there must be something there.

      For Sanjay and Trishala, after this came up in a previous discussion I double checked, the custody took a while so it wasn’t immediately after her mother’s death. And it was officially only for a visit, she didn’t know it might be forever. And he realized quickly that she was never going to be able to live in India happily the culture shock was too much, and did the right thing and sent her home.

      I don’t think it was a request for her to be faithful, it was merely a request that she answered their phone calls and talked to him when he needed her. I don’t necessarily think Madhuri was in the wrong, but I can also sympathize with Sunil’s point of view and admire Sanjay’s ability to accept the situation without complaint.


      • Well, as a Madhuri fan, I’m glad she broke it off with Sanjay once and for all. I think it’s one of the best decisions she has ever taken.


  3. Pingback: Hindi Film 101: Sanjay Dutt, Part 8, The Women — dontcallitbollywood – Business Startup-Bay Area

  4. Oh man, this Rhea part….I didn’t know much about her. Why she didn’t want a divorce if she was already living with other man? And Sanjay – with the first wife he let it go too early and with the second way too late.


    • Poor Rhea, Leander turned into a nightmare. She’s suing him now for abuse, he locked her and her daughter out of their home while they were at a children’s birthday party, claims they were never legally married, and on top of that her daughter now has cancer and she says Leander isn’t even helping with the medical bills. Which just makes Sanjay look even nicer, he was paying her support when she was living with another man and pregnant, and now Leander won’t pay support for his own daughter.

      Rhea is also a good friend of Gauri Khan, there was a little tidbit about the spectacular breakup, she came home from a party for Rani Mukherjee’s niece to find the locks changed and called Gauri Khan for help, and Gauri showed up with lawyers and stuff and helped her get back in.

      On Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 2:47 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Ha! I knew there must be something wrong with this Leander! What kind of man takes money for his child and home from his woman’s ex? Doesn’t he have any pride?


  5. Margaret, I very much like the way you take a stand by taking a look from different angles.

    I think as a spoiled child with a naughty but also charming nature it is not easy to grow into a responsible and mature adult especially when you feel abandonned by your parents at an age when you can’t relate to the motive but fully have to bear the consequences. Maybe he needed all the ups and downs to aquire that responsibility that, for ex., Salman doesn’t have yet with his father still around. By the time Sanjay got seriously involved with Manyata, Sunil was already dead. I think one shouldn’t underestimate how much the ‘sins’ of a father influences the ‘sins’ of a son.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, I was also thinking about how both Sunil and Nargis grew up so fast. Perhaps they had a hard time seeing a healthy way to let their son grow up? Started by having too high expectations, and then overcorrected to too low, trying to take care of everything for him instead of letting him make his own mistakes and grow from them?

      On Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 4:02 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      • Sunil’s father died when he only was 5, he lived the life-threatening horrors of partition, he married a woman whose heart & love had belonged to another man…Nargis was put in front of a camera at six (reminds me of Sridevi) and she hadn’t a love child with Raj, ‘only’ an affair…yes, indeed, they had to grow up fast and with all that burden they wanted to give Sanjay what they most certainly didn’t have: a happy childhood. But a kid doesn’t bother about things like gratitude for the good life it gets especially as the only son… I wonder if Sunil and Nargis ever admitted to their son that they did him wrong.
        As for the movie, I hope (and think so after the trailer) that Hirani uses a lot of the quirky humour that gives a distance to Sanjays emotional journey towards maturity. And I hope also that Ranbir won’t try ‘too’ hard to imitate Sanjay…


        • I have been reading two biographies on Sunil and Nargis Dutt one of which is written by the daughters.From all accounts Sunil was a strict disciplinarian and had strict rules -especially with his son.But he wasn’t around most of the time.But they admit that Sanjay was the apple of his mother’s eye and could get away with anything.


          • I don’t buy that his parents ruined his life, or made him an addict, or anything like that. But I definitely think his parents’ marriage and the way he interacted with them effected the way he interacted with other people, especially his romantic partners. I mean, it does for everybody, right? And all the trauma in his life, including his addiction, can’t have helped him to break away from that and forge his own path.

            On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 7:49 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  6. I find Madhuri’s pious good girl act very grating. I don’t blame her for breaking off the relationship.But the way she used her influence to remove a scene from the Sanju biopic(which was already shot) is terrible.It’s been so many years.Everybody has moved on.Why’s she still so hung up about her image? Learn from Tina.She’s barely batting an eye.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sanjay was her only romance, right? Just him, and then perfect appropriate semi-arranged and family approved Dr. Nene? Maybe that’s why she is so cautious about it. The one blemish on an otherwise perfect record and perfect life. While Tina went from Sanjay to Rajesh to Anil, none of them totally appropriate or family approved.

      On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 7:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • I agree, and I’m a huge Madhuri fan. What harm can it do her now? And it might help convey the message that women are people too–flaws, bad judgment, generous hearts, interest in romance/sex outside of marriage and all.


      • Reading more about it, the romance was a bad idea, but not necessarily impossible. Sanjay was young and passionate, his marriage really was more or less over (even if Richa still had hope, Sanjay had moved on in his heart and mind), and he filed for divorce while they were dating, Madhuri was moving him towards a respectable second marriage to her. Still a terrible idea to get involved with a passionate emotional addict who thinks you can save him, probably would have ended in tears no matter what, but it’s a bad idea a lot of women have at some point in their life. It wasn’t some hidden affair, her family knew him too and she knew his family, it was a serious relationship that happened to start before his divorce was final. Makes total sense that 24 year old Madhuri would have her first serious relationship with a co-star, it would end badly, and she would take a few years off from dating and then end up with someone completely different, having learned from that first relationship. I can’t imagine Dr. Nene cares at all about anything she might have done before marriage, because (and I believe this deeply as one of the basic pillars of my life) Dr. Nene is the perfect husband.

        On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 9:48 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • God young Sunil was hot. Okay, now reading the rest of it.

      On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 10:08 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Young Sunil was hotter than hot.Why do you suppose I watched all his earlier films first? Sunil and Sanjay are looking in opposite directions.Does it reveal their opposing attitude towards life,I wonder.


        • See, I really need to fill in that middle period. I’ve only seen Mother India and Waqt and Munna Bhai with Sunil I think. In Mother India, the red skin make-up really was doing him no favors, in Waqt I kept being distracted by how he was imitating Shammi, and Munna Bhai of course he was very attractive but a little old for me. Oh! And Sujata. He was smoking hot in that, but tragically not on screen for much time.

          On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 10:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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