indian cinema heritage foundation

Sunil vs Balraj !

22 Nov, 2021 | Archival Reproductions by Filmfare Magazine


The article was written by Sunil Dutt.

There was a time when Sunil Dutt did not exist. Balraj has always been there, fighting, striving and praying. And out of Balraj has come forth Sunil Dutt. He is the result of the faith and courage and pride of Balraj - but now Sunil Dutt is threatening to destroy his creator by the simple expedient of drawing him unto himself.

But I want Balraj to live, because my individuality lies in Balraj, not in Sunil Dutt. The day Balraj becomes weak enough to merge with Sunil - the day Balraj ceases to exist - all will be lost. There will be left only the empty shell of Sunil Dutt.

To make this clear to my audience and my readers, I must take them back to the days when Balraj lived in a humble "kholi," worked and studied and had poverty as his constant companion. Poverty did not break his spirit. He worked hard, his pride and faith growing stronger, deriving nourishment from that very poverty for, unconsciously perhaps, he was preparing for the birth of Sunil Dutt.
Balraj possessed just one "kurta-pyjama". They were made of khaddar, and every other day he washed them at night and pressed them in the morning before wearing them again. One day someone on the streets-someone who did not know either poverty or dignity-spurted colour on his clothes. Why? Because it was Holi, a festival which requires the indiscriminate spurting of colour on the faces and clothes of passers-by. That night, Balraj washed and scrubbed with an angry heart, and tears streamed down his cheeks. But the colour on his clothes would not come off. It left a bitter stain on his memory.
At the time, Balraj possessed just one "kurta-pyjama". They were made of khaddar, and every other day he washed them at night and pressed them in the morning before wearing them again. One day someone on the streets-someone who did not know either poverty or dignity-spurted colour on his clothes. Why? Because it was Holi, a festival which requires the indiscriminate spurting of colour on the faces and clothes of passers-by.

That night, Balraj washed and scrubbed with an angry heart, and tears streamed down his cheeks. But the colour on his clothes would not come off. It left a bitter stain on his memory.

Now, when Holi comes round each year, Sunil Dutt is expected to throw his home open to the "colour-mongers". As a film star, he must indulge in this revelry. Besides, he has plenty of clothes. What if one is stained with colour? But Balraj cannot forget that night of tears. Even Sunil cannot wash away that ugly stain on his memory. The doors of his home remain closed to the revellers. But it is Sunil's turn to suffer now.

He is proud, conceited, arrogant. Success has gone to his head. Who does he think he is? Yes, who? If only the people knew. If only they stopped to think: "He is really Balraj who was once poor and who cannot allow himself to forget."

Today Sunil Dutt has everything - a successful career, a lavish home, every material comfort. But what if tomorrow he loses all this? It has happened before to film stars and it can happen again. If I think of myself only as Sunil Dutt, if I identify myself only with his celluloid personality, it would be disastrous. I would grovel in self-pity and build around me a wall of bitterness and discontent.

That is why Balraj is so vitally necessary to keep a sense of balance. He knows what poverty means and he can start all over again, if need be.
 
Sunil Dutt and his wife, Nargis, are seen here going through the album containing pictures of their tour abroad last year.


Sunil has robbed Balraj of many privileges. There was a time when Balraj used to be popular in his own right - when he was Balraj of Radio Ceylon. He interviewed film stars; he received fan letters. He was not going to let a mere phenomenon like Sunil Dutt snatch this popularity from him! He kept on broadcasting, until an accident on the sets of "Mother India" kept him away for over two months.
There were times when Balraj used to go to the beach and lie on the sands-alone with his thoughts-and no one ever bothered him. Now when he tries to do this, he is mobbed and surrounded, cheered and jeered, because, although he knows he is only Balraj, the crowds are quite sure he is "that actor".

On January 26, this year, Balraj took his camera and set out to photograph the myriad lights in colour. A bunch of college-educated boys heaped abuses on him for no reason at all. They would not leave him alone. Tortured and defeated, he went home. Once again, Sunil Dutt had robbed him of his individuality. 
But, it must be remembered that, like Balraj, Sunil has also struggled. He has risen from the callow youth of "Railway Platform" to the Birjoo of "Mother India" to the Nandu of "Usne Kaha Tha". Many of his desires have been fulfilled, yet a great many still remain to be fulfilled. He keeps on struggling and working, with sincerity as his guiding light! Even the slightest appreciation spurs him on. Without appreciation, he feels utterly frustrated.
But, it must be remembered that, like Balraj, Sunil has also struggled. He has risen from the callow youth of "Railway Platform" to the Birjoo of "Mother India" to the Nandu of "Usne Kaha Tha". Many of his desires have been fulfilled, yet a great many still remain to be fulfilled. He keeps on struggling and working, with sincerity as his guiding light! Even the slightest appreciation spurs him on. Without appreciation, he feels utterly frustrated.

There was the day when a beloved leader of our nation came to see a special showing of one of his films. Sunil was elated. But the leader had no word of appreciation for him-not a pat on the back, not even a word of encouragement. He was frustrated and humiliated, because he alone knew how much effort and sincerity had gone into his screen work.

Balraj adores and respects the leader, but Sunil begs to differ with him.

Sunil is not hurt when people call him arrogant and unsocial, because they form no part of his personal life. But his professional life is dedicated to them. He is directly and emotionally involved with the public and he feels that some appreciation-or even sound, constructive criticism-should come his, or any actor's, way.

There are forces which make film stars live in a dreamland-in a firmament of their own making. The fans, critics and audiences seem to think that the private life of actors is public property. But I cannot submit to that view, and I feel it is unfair that the people who know only the Sunil Dutt of the screen should presume to sit in judgement over Balraj-a man whom they do not know at all.
 
"Appreciation is any artist's due. Without it he feels frustrated," says Sunil Dutt.
No one stops to think why Sunil Dutt never attends premieres and social functions; why he dislikes funerals or why he feels lost at huge gatherings. I'll tell you why. It is because of Balraj. For once again, memory turns back the pages and reminds him of the days when he was always alone. When nobody cared about him and he did not find it in his heart to "join the gang," because he had neither the time nor the money to do so.
No one stops to think why Sunil Dutt never attends premieres and social functions; why he dislikes funerals or why he feels lost at huge gatherings. I'll tell you why. It is because of Balraj. For once again, memory turns back the pages and reminds him of the days when he was always alone. When nobody cared about him and he did not find it in his heart to "join the gang," because he had neither the time nor the money to do so.

There was that dimly-lit "kholi" at Kurla. He rose at five every morning because college commenced at 7-30. He had requested the Royal Asiatic Society library to give him a table as he had no place to study. At 10-30, after classes, he would go to the library and study for three solid hours.

Then a quick snack in place of lunch and on to the B.E.S.T. office, where he worked as a clerk from 2-30 to 11-30 p.m. Every night he walked to V.T. Station to catch the train which took him home at 12.45 p.m.

This was his life. Parties? Premieres? What would he want with them. He was used to his own company.

Knowing all this, I cannot let Sunil influence Balraj. Glamour has never dictated to me and never will.

All his life, Balraj had seen his mother cry for his father. He saw so much of it that he couldn't stand the sight of tears. It brought up before him the picture of his unhappy, hard-worked mother and that picture has never left his memory. Now, when Sunil Dutt cannot bring himself to attend funerals you know why...

Film producers have offered fabulous sums to Sunil Dutt to co-star with his wife, Nargis. If I had married for glamour, I would have accepted those offers. But I married her as Balraj, not for any commercial gain but for the emotional growth which must result from every basically-sound marriage.

This part of my life, too, belongs to Balraj, because although Sunil met her first, it was Balraj who married her.
In my professional life, no one is involved except my colleagues and my audiences, not even my wife or my mother. I am prepared to accept even stones being thrown at me if my work does not please. But when the crowds start abusing my family life and those whom I hold dear, I cannot compromise. I have never sold my self-respect and I will not do it now.
In my professional life, no one is involved except my colleagues and my audiences, not even my wife or my mother. I am prepared to accept even stones being thrown at me if my work does not please. But when the crowds start abusing my family life and those whom I hold dear, I cannot compromise. I have never sold my self-respect and I will not do it now.

My success is hard-earned, but it is my right. My sincerity in my work is all that should matter to my fans and critics.

Yet, it is a dilemma. The conflict of keeping the two personalities apart is too great. It is like a war of the worlds. Each one is striving to establish his individuality according to his own perspective. It is difficult and trying to keep the two apart-functioning smoothly, inevitably overlapping, yet quite distinct from each other. It requires a great deal of soul searching.

All I can say in my defence is that my personal life belongs to Balraj alone. Sunil Dutt has no part in it and, therefore, it excludes his audience, his colleagues and his critics.

But my professional life is open to them-wide open-and I cannot let even my friends and family interfere in it.

I look to my fans to support me in these views - to help me achieve success and happiness in both spheres, professional as well as private.

It remains for them to allow Balraj to stay in the background when they talk of Sunil.

This article is a reproduction of the original that appeared in Filmfare, November 6, 1959 ( pp. 55,57,59).

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