November 1-4, 2009
How did it come about?
It started with Facebook. I had been friends there with Sanjay Dutt's wife Maanayata for quite a while now, and it was a very nice contact even though there was – at least from my part – no prospect for a possible personal meeting ever, not least because I'm living in Germany which is not really just around the corner.
But everything changed on that saturday, October 24, when we talked about the OST of All The Best and I mentioned that it would take quite a long time till I would get a chance to see this film; as it was not shown in German cinemas, I had to wait for the DVD release. Whereupon Maana told me to just come down to Mumbai, she'd make a trial for me. As I first didn't dare to believe my eyes, I sent her a PM asking whether she's serious about that, and her answer was: "Yes, come down."
Now the next question was about the date. It had to be before November 5 as on that day Maana and Sanju were to leave for South Africa. Finally November 2 was fixed, and as Maana had told me that Sanju surely would love to meet more of his German fans, I informed the other Sanju's fans in our German forum. It was perfectly clear that it would be difficult to manage and afford a short trip to Mumbai within such a few days, but at least Jassi also could make it, and as Susi already was in Mumbai anyway it would be three of us representing Sanju's German fans in Mumbai (our visit was even announced in the TOI beforehand).
A few days before our departure Maana told me that Sanju would have to go to Delhi on November 2 and thus would not be able to join the trial. So she suggested a meeting immediately after our arrival on sunday which, however, was scheduled for 10:30 p.m. Worse, when it came to our departure the flight was also delayed. So when we finally arrived, Susi who picked us up at the airport told us that Maana had cancelled the meeting on that same evening – but we were to come to Sanju's residence "Imperial Heights" in Bandra on 2:00 p.m. next day instead.
Incredible. So they actually had changed their plans and schedules so we would not lose our chance to meet Sanju. And so we were waiting with bated breath for monday afternoon...
In good time before 2:00 p.m. we arrived with a riksha at "Imperial Heights". After telling the guards my name and about the invitation by Mrs Dutt we were let in at once and guided past the big portrait of Dutt saab to the lobby where, only shortly thereafter, Sanju and Maana joined us.
And I can tell you that no photograph on earth does justice to Sanju. His charisma in real life is something no camera can really catch. And it's absolutely true: Sanju is man and child at the same time: a tall, lean and handsome hunk with (at first) a certain shyness in his eyes which, however, soon enough made way for a warmness which is indescribable.
They bade us warmly welcome, and finally I could fulfill my long-cherished wish of showing Sanju my respect for him by touching his feet. Then we all sat down. Imagine: sitting together with Sanju and Maana in their house, without any bodyguards or media around him, totally in private. Would anyone have ever have dared to expect something like that? Me certainly not.
We talked for quite a while. I thanked Maana for having made this moment possible for us, and I gave Sanju the warmest regards and the love of all his German fans who had not been able to come with us but who were thinking of us right now. I told him that we are loving him not only because of his films and acting skills but above all for the great and golden-hearted human being he is; that we admire and respect him for the way he copes with all the hardships in his life, and that we are praying for his freedom. I also mentioned that many cineasts in Germany love to watch the old Hindi classics and that they of course do appreciate Sanju's unforgotten parents Nargisji and Dutt saab.
We also had gifts for Sanju and Maana with us. Jassi had made a pic with greetings from Sanju's fans which we had put into a picture frame. I presented him a very special double DVD "A Tribute to Sanjay Dutt" which my friend Anksuni and I had made for his 50th birthday earlier this year; this tribute contains scenes from each and everyone of Sanju's films in chronological order so that you can watch Sanju's whole film career within a few hours. We had shown this tribute at our fan meeting we had held in Germany in August celebrating Sanju's 50th birthday, and I told Sanju about that while dedicating the DVD to him. And Maana of course got a personal gift from us, too.
Then we asked Sanju's permission to take some pictures, and he willingly posed first alone, then with us and finally, at our request, together with Maana for us. As these pix were taken in their private aera, we promised our hosts to keep them for us and not publish them without their permission. The only photo I asked Maana for is the one which is now on the homepage of my Sanjay Dutt fan-site and I'm very happy to have "my very own Sanju" there now.
He also signed some pictures we had taken with us. And then he actually hugged us and gave us a heartfelt jadoo ki jhappi. This was a magical moment I definitely will never forget.
Jassi had taken more Sanju's pix with her, hoping to get autographs for the other fans back home, and Maana took them promising to return them autographed later in the evening when we would meet again for the trial. It was to begin at 9:00 p.m., and Sanju introduced to us his employee Suresh (who had waited outside the room) who would pick us up at our hotel at 8:30 p.m.
Meanwhile Indian coffee and water had been served. Unfortunately Sanju couldn't stay any longer as he had to rush to Delhi. So we all bade good bye, Sanju and Maana left, and we were alone with our coffee cups, autographs and impressions.
No one urged us to leave the house. We probably could have spent hours afterwards there without having been thrown out. For we were lingering quite a while, and we actually needed this time – not just to finish our coffee but also to dwell a little on our thoughts and impressions. And I admit it: When I recapitulated what I just had experienced, I got tears in my eyes... I was, simply put, just happy.
All The Best – The Trial
At 8:30 p.m. sharp Suresh and the driver arrived at our hotel and took us in Sanju's car to the Picxion where the trial was to take place. As Maana told me, the Picxion is no commercial cinema; it belongs to a friend of the Dutts and is used just for private previews and trials. We were led to a cinema hall with just about twenty seats... Did I say seats? Loungers is the word, comfortable as hell. We got water bottles, and then the performance began – All The Best rocked!
There were no subtitles, but frankly said we didn't care about that; we had read about the story before, we understood quite a lot, and there was a lot of slapstick you don't need any words for anyway. The movie is indeed a laugh riot, and we absolutely enjoyed ourselves. Especially Sanju and Ajay are exceptionally gifted comedians, and no doubt about that they had the greatest fun themselves doing this film.
At the intermission we were asked into the foyer where beverages and lovely Indian finger food had been served. The food was delicious, and we enjoyed the chance to converse with Maana once more. When we returned to our seats, Maana gave me a beautiful gift bag with a golden SD monogram which, according to her, contained the pix signed by Sanju. But looking into the bag I soon discovered that, besides the autographs, Maana had also put in three lovely colourful dupattas with golden pattern... Jaw-dropping!
As soon as the movie continued, the photographer who had started taking pix during the intermission zeroed in on us again. We concluded for us that he either was a press photographer or that he just was to make some documentations for the Dutts personally. Even at the end of the film he was waiting outside, taking some last pix of us leaving the cinema... And then Suresh took us back to our hotel as promised to us by Sanju.
It was the end of an unforgettable day. And all three of us perfectly agreed that Maana and Sanju are just incredible. Their warm-heartedness and hospitality was far beyond anything we ever could have imagined, and in my humble opinion there is no way to thank them enough for what they have given to us on that 2nd November which is truely a day to remember.
For the next day we had booked a Tourist Car which arrived punctually at 10:00 a.m. at our hotel. So we went on a long sightseeing tour and drove through several quarters of this incredible city full of contrasts. At special places we also stopped to get out and linger a while, e.g. at the house where Mahatma Gandhi had lived (and which was very impressing), at the Gateway of India and at the Hanging Gardens. I admit I hadn't expected that Mumbai would fascinate me that much.
Late in the afternoon we asked our driver to take us to Juhu Beach where we, a bit apart from the greatest hurly-burly, sat down in the sand and just relaxed and enjoyed looking out to the sea. About half past four suddenly the mobile phone rang – it was Maana who informed me that in about five minutes a press reporter would call me and ask me some questions about our visit to Mumbai. At this stage, nothing could really surprise me anymore; I mean, I had been in Imperial Heights, I had met Sanjay Dutt in person, I had been to a trial arranged by Maanayata Dutt, so why not a phone interview too? I just made sure with Maana that I had her permission to talk even about the meeting in Sanju's residence, and I got to know that this was perfectly okay.
So there we were – sitting in the sand of Juhu Beach and waiting for a press call.
We didn't have to wait long until Upala from the Mid-Day called and asked me a series of questions: How had our trip to Mumbai come about? What had happened during our stay? Are Hindi films common knowledge in Germany? What did we think about Sanju (what a question!!!)? Did we present Sanju and Maana any gifts? And did we like Mumbai? And I just talked and talked... and well, the result we could read later on November 5 in the Mid-Day.
And then our two-days' trip to Mumbai was over... but boy, what a trip it had been!
In all these years I've now been studying the life and career of Sanjay Dutt I had read about this man's great and golden heart again and again – in these days I have been blessed to witness it myself. What Sanju and Maana have gifted to us was more than just a simple "star meets fans". They've treated us like welcome guests, and they did everything to make us comfortable and to give us unforgettable memories.
And I do know now more than ever before why it was just Sanjay Dutt and no one else who made me do something I'd never have thought of until four years ago – supporting him by making a fan-site and telling the world about him. And I will continue to do so – not just for the actor but above all for the impressive and loveable human being he is. I wish Sanju and Maana all happiness in the world, for these two warm-hearted people truely deserve it.
All the best, Sanju and Maana, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts. God bless you!