Actor-filmmaker-activist-politician Sunil Dutt’s demise a week short of his 76th birthday has robbed the nation's cinema, public life and disability sports of a stellar personality.
In his death, disability sports has lost one of its most committed promoters. He was one of the first Ministers in India to take concrete steps for mainstreaming disability sports, even initiating dialogues with various organisations in his effort to see that gets disability sports its due. His absence is a major loss for disability, as also blind, sport in India.
As Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Dutt was the chief guest at one of the Indo-Pak Blind Cricket series. He then felicitated the players at a reception on May 6, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
It was his wife Nargis’ dream to fight for the rights of disabled people in Parliament. She was one of the patrons of the Spastics Society. However, her plans were cut short by her tragic and untimely death. Dutt took up where his late wife had left off. After losing Nargis to cancer in 1981, Dutt became deeply involved with cancer, disability and social work, giving his time to various organisations. He established and worked tirelessly for the Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation, and also joined Imran Khan, Pakistani crickerter turned politician, in a fund raising event in Birmingham, for Imran’s cancer hospital in Lahore.
“We have a project to help blind children, and are funding the education of 35 blind children who are all in colleges in Delhi,” says Robin Raina, head of Atlanta-based Ebix Inc, on www nripulse.com. “Another project is to educate the girl child and to watch these children grow and become something in life. We don’t spend anything on administrative work. We offer medical help through the Sunil Dutt and the Nargis Dutt foundation and also through donating medical ambulances and medical services.”
Dutt was born Balraj Dutt in Jhelum district (now Pakistan). After moving to Mumbai, he began his professional life as a radio announcer and celebrity interviewer. He made his acting debut in Ramesh Saigal's Railway Platform (1955), but it wasn't until B.R. Chopra's Ek Hi Raasta (1956) hit the screens that he tasted box office success. A year later, Mother India happened and he was catapulted to overnight mega stardom. In an acting career that spanned five decades, Dutt saab, as he was fondly called, demonstrated his talent in 100-odd films made by some of India's greatest directors.
As a social worker and Congress politician, Dutt was a widely respected individual. He became Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports in the Manmohan Singh government, a portfolio that he sought out for himself because he wanted to make a difference to India's younger generation.
Dutt’s view of life is summed up in his own words: "Disease and suffering have no religion and no nationality. My work encompasses mankind."