January  2008



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‘Mr. and Mrs. Dutt: Memories of our Parents’

By Namrata Dutt Kumar and Priya Dutt

Roli Books, Rs. 695

"We were, and still are, a close and supportive family. We have always spent a lot of time together and this was thanks to the many strict rules Dad imposed while we were growing up. He made sure he gave us a lot of personal time and love, and didn't want us to be spoilt by too much luxury."

"Mom gave up anything that might have come in the way of her children and her. A producer came one day with a blank cheque, asking her to act in his film. She laughed and sent him away saying she was currently working in three films, and they were called 'Sanju, Anju and Priya'.


An unpretentious book, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Dutt: Memories of our Parents’ is written as seen through the eyes of now-grown-up children. It is not about film stars Nargis and Sunil Dutt. It is about Mom and Dad – Nargis and Sunil Dutt. It is not a filmography – it is an account of a family – growing and evolving together – through good times and bad. It does not romanticise any relationship – the most endearing quality of the book is its ability to reach out to its readers – there is no high-drama – almost anybody can relate to it. It is the story of many a family – with parents devoted to each other and to their children , a mother who could be angry and loving, a father who was a disciplinarian and a supportive figure at the same time.

It is a story so many of us are familiar with. Sunil Dutt arrives in post-partition Bombay. Gains a degree while working as a broadcaster, gets an opportunity to enter the film industry. Nargis is already at the height of her career – the First Lady of Indian cinema. The two develop a rapport on the sets of ‘Mother India’ and they get married soon after – he a Hindu, she of Hindu-Muslim parentage. They are both 30 – she an established star and he aspiring to be one. They start their married life sharing a one-bedroom apartment with Sunil Dutt’s mother and sister. Nargis turned overnight from a super film star to a home-maker. She gave up her career – to look after her home, husband and an extended family. Sunil Dutt becomes a successful actor, they move into a larger house, children arrive – and the story begins – of a typical household. All sleep in one air-conditioned room, all watch TV together (not on individual screens) – not because of limited finances – instead, the kids are being given the right values and taught the real lessons in life. Wealth is not to be flaunted and life should be lived with dignity and simplicity.

The parents – Mr and Mrs Dutt are portrayed as very down-to-earth parents – there is no attempt to glorify them. Nargis could be shouting at the children and domestics one moment and cuddling a child the next. "The house resounded with her voice, shouting at us, telling us to come inside for dinner if we were playing outdoors and screaming at us till we finished our homework. At other times she would be preoccupied and busy in arranging our birthday parties. We lived a happy, content and normal life. None of us knew her as the actress Nargis and she never talked about her identity as a star."

Family picnics, family weddings – all were a part of growing up. They did not live an insular life. Then came the challenges, Sanjay’s drug problems, and typical reactions – a mother’s denial and a father’s on-hands approach. He eventually came out of it. Nargis’ fight with cancer, her death, legal battles. death of a daughter-in-law, and with all this happening to him Sunil Dutt’s continuous involvement with social work and politics – his death – and the siblings togetherness and supportiveness for each other – this is the stuff that families are made of.

This is a very refreshing and a realistic book on a family, so much in the public eye, yet so untouched by media attention. Endearing and very readable.




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