Happiness upside down: Nargis and Sanjay
Happiness upside down: Nargis and Sanjay Courtesy: Roli Books

What triggered this book?
We were all hugely influenced by our parents. Sanjay and my mother had a special bond. I had one with my father — I spent the most time with him. After my mother’s death, we were all totally dependent on my sister, Namrata. She has a quick temper like my mother and she and my father fought a lot. He’d tease her for wanting to be perfect, wanting designer clothes, going to the salon, but he couldn’t do without her. We wanted to put all our memories down in a book.

Your family has been through such tumult. Were there times you got angry with each other?
We’ve been extremely honest in the book; we haven’t glossed over anything, not even the most private things from our childhood. Sanjay talks about how upset he was when he was sent to boarding school. When he grew up, he saw how it had helped him. My dad was very strict with us girls — we could never sleep over at friends’ or go out. It upset us then, but I think it grounded us. We’ve never resented our parents for anything.

Mr And Mrs Dutt Namrata Dutt Kumar and Priya Dutt Lustre Roli 200 pp; Rs 695
Mr And Mrs Dutt
Namrata Dutt Kumar and Priya Dutt
Lustre Roli
200 pp; Rs 695

There’s a lot of talk about Sanjay and why his life went off the rails, given his pedigreed family.
Was boarding school a big point of rupture for him? I think boarding helped him. Every child is born with their own destiny — you can’t say, oh this happened and so he became this person. Sanjay is a very good human being; he’s very open, a man who thinks with his heart rather than his head. He’s very vulnerable and has no sense of his own worth. That makes me mad. In many ways, my father was like that. He’d get so excited if an article he’d written came out in a magazine or if he was on TV. These things mattered to him. Sanjay has the same innocence.

Why did he lose faith?
Take his drug phase — there was a lot of peer pressure at boarding school. Kids are more adventurous there. We were at home, otherwise there’s no telling what we might have experimented with. My father had the courage to admit Sanjay was an addict. He saw it as an illness to be treated. There was no help in India then, no rehab facilities. I remember taking him to a clinic, trying to get him a detox — it was so dismal. It was really brave of Sanjay to come clean. Many friends of his never did, some lost their lives. His life has been crazy, quite crazy…

You’ve never wanted to give up on him in sheer frustration?
Never, never. We know who he is. We will never lose faith in him — I go crazy when I hear stories of families leaving each other.

You’ve inherited your father’s political legacy, are you going to approach it differently?
Yes. But I dislike this idea of legacy. I want to approach it in my own way. I learnt a lot from my father. Power for him was the love of the people, and I feel that way too — but we often disagreed ideologically and pragmatically. To give an example: anyone can walk up to me and speak directly. I have done away with the many go-betweens my father had. He didn’t mind people hanging around him, but I’m uncomfortable with that. I hate feeling caged in.

Looking back, would you change the fact that you and Dutt sahib went to Bal Thackeray for help?
No, my father would have gone anywhere to save his son, save his family — he had no ego. Balasaheb was the only one who stood by us and helped. Politics aside, we are still very appreciative of that.

Nargis gave up films after marriage. Did your father want this?
No. You can see from the photos her sheer joy in being a mom and wife. But she wasn’t a 24-hour stay-at-home mom either. She was involved in a hundred things, but home and kids were her priority.