I think the universe agrees that Sunil Dutt was a gentleman. You looked at him and trusted him. It was that simple.
His Punjabi ‘gubroo’ physique, the lop-sided smile, the eyes that could emote pain and mischief all added up to make him an actor to look forward to. His presence in a movie gave it a certain elegance. You didn’t for a minute doubt his limitless sorrow when he sang “Aap ke pehlu mein aa kar ro diye…”. Or wonder how he could make Vyjanthimala crazy about him in Amrapali.
Padosan was probably the most unusual role for him, and even that, he played with an honesty that probably no other actor of his time could have managed.
His kohl-lined eyes in Mujhe Jeene Do are unforgettable (for a reminder, consider his entrance in Waheeda Rehman’s mehfil as she starts Raat bhi hai kuchh bheegi-bheegi). Interestingly, these two paired up again, many years later, in another unusual film Reshma Aur Shera, set in the desert.
Personally, when I think of Sunil Dutt, the first image that comes to mind is his role in Sujata–my impression of him as a sensitive, deep, almost noble, man is eternal.
To honor him on his birthday today, here’s a song that I think of as a ‘gentleman’ song. This song always had a special appeal. Here’s maybe why:
The way it starts–with Mahendra Kapoor’s “O…” and hum, followed by the santoor and Asha’s breathtakingly delicate “Hum jab simat ke aapki baahon mein aa gaye”, before the percussion joins is–this is just fabulous.
There’s nothing rushed about this song – it creates a lazy spell around you, transports you into an open meadow with a cool, soft breeze blowing.
It creates an atmosphere where nothing is more important than these two, discovering being together. The song hints of more than romance and passion. Almost, of a feeling of ‘this is home’–the embrace of the beloved. The most natural and important place to be. “Hum apni dilpasand panahon mein aa gaye”… As if, just being in physical proximity of the beloved is an announcement to the world to pay its respect to this all-important ‘event’…”Khushboo chaman ko chhod ke saanson mein ghul gayi….” “Shaakhon se phool toot ke raahon mein aa gaye…”
The poetry has been written by Sahir from a woman’s perspective, and Ravi honors this expression. Consider the role of Mahendra Kapoor in this duet. The male chorus comes for the first time after the first verse has been sung by Asha. And even then, there’s nothing jarring about it…just an underlining of what has already been expressed in the female vocals. The second verse? Led by Asha, joined in by Mahendra Kapoor and sung together… with no one voice taking control…to match the poetry here “Masti bhari ghataaon ki parchhaiyan taley…haathon mein haath thaam ke jab saath hum chaley…”. A refined partnership here. In poetry as well as in singing.
Of course, this ‘gentlemanliness’ was made possible by music director Ravi. But helped so ably by the expression on Sunil Dutt’s face, his body language on screen.
As if what matters the most right now is being a partner. Maybe like sugar in milk? 🙂
With this elegant, refined song, I salute Sunil Dutt, the perfect gentleman _()_
(Originally written: 6 June 2017)
Monica Kar received her BA in English Honours from the University of Delhi. She now lives in St. Charles, Missouri, where she wears several hats, including voluntary work as an educator and homemaker.