On 7 October 1999, Mahesh Manjrekar directorial Vaastav: A Reality, starring Sanjay Dutt, released in India and soon became a cult film that not only reignited Sanjay Dutt’s fading career but also became a landmark film in Bollywood’s portrayal of Mumbai’s intriguing underworld life.
The film follows the story of a gangster Raghu (Sanjay Dutt) as he accidentally commits a murder and finds himself entering the dark underworld of Mumbai. The film also stars Namrata Shirodkar, Mohnish Bahl, Reema Lagoo, Paresh Rawal, and Sanjay Narvekar.
To this date, Vaastav is remembered for its powerful performances and iconic dialogues (like the “50 tola” dialogue). So, here’s looking at some interesting trivia behind it, on Sanjay Dutt's 63rd birth anniversary.
1. Sanjay Dutt’s First Successful Film Post His Return From Prison
After Sanjay Dutt’s life-changing arrest in 1993 (and subsequent bail and re-arrest in 1994), none of his films at the box office were doing well. It was Mahesh Manjrekar’s Vaastav that, in many ways, re-launched his career as an actor. Over the years Vaastav has acquired a cult status and Sanjay Dutt’s performance is considered to be iconic. The film did well not just in India but abroad as well.
2. The Sequel to ‘Vaastav’ Released in 2002 and Flopped
After the unexpected success of Vaastav, Mahesh Manjrekar decided to make a sequel which would follow the story of Raghu Bhai’s (Sanjay Dutt) son, Rohit. The film, titled Hathyar, starred Sanjay Dutt as Rohit but failed to create the impact left behind by its predecessor.
3. The Film Is Inspired From an Actual Gangster’s Life
It is a wide-believed rumour that Vaastav was inspired from the life of Chhota Rajan, an underworld Mumbai gangster who worked closely with Dawood Ibrahim. In later years, the friendship and falling out between Chhota Rajan and Dawood also inspired Bollywood filmmakers. However, Manjrekar himself has never admitted it. He has called it “an autobiography of a gangster”.
4. Sanjay Dutt’s First Filmfare Win
Before Vaastav, Sanjay Dutt had been nominated for multiple Filmfare awards. However, Vaastav was his first Filmfare win in the category of Best Actor. The only other film that Sanjay Dutt has won a Filmfare for is Munnabhai M.B.B.S. in the category of Best Comedian.
5. The Iconic Climax Scene
If you’ve seen the film, you’ll agree when I say that the climax scene is perhaps the most iconic sequence ever. Sanjay Dutt's performance as a gangster who has completely spiralled out of control, asking his mother to kill him, is deeply impactful. Well, here's a fun fact: the entire sequence was shot in just one take, using seven different cameras.
6. Sanjay Dutt Inspired by Al Pacino
For Sanjay Dutt too the role was worth remembering. One of his most powerful performances, he found inspiration from Al Pacino's character in Hollywood film Scarface.
7. Guess Where ‘Vaastav’ Was Shot?
A huge set was created in Chunabhatti near Sion in Mumbai by Manjrekar who later also used the set for other films like Tera Mera Saath Rahein and Pran Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye.
6. When Reema Lagoo Fell Asleep Before a Scene
During an interview with The Indian Express, Manjrekar recalled a particular incident when he unfairly got angry with Reema Lagoo, who plays Sanjay Dutt’s mother in the film. While shooting the iconic climax scene late in the night, Reema Lagoo accidentally fell asleep. When she got ready for the scene and came out, Manjrekar saw that her eyes had swollen up and she had to be sent back inside to redo her makeup. This upset Manjrekar very much. However, he later recalled that his anger was unfair towards Lagoo who might have been exhausted and sleepy due to the rigorous schedule.
8. ‘Vaastav’ Was Mahesh Manjrekar’s Debut Film
Prior to Vaastav, Mahesh Manjrekar had no directing experience. The success of the film launched his career as a director and he later went on to direct many mainstream films like Astitva (2000) and Kurukshetra (2000).
9. This Marathi Actor Got a Breakthrough After ‘Vaastav’
Marathi actor Sanjay Narvekar got a breakthrough after his role as Dedh Footiya in Vaastav. Recently, while speaking on the show Kanala Khada, Narvekar spoke about the unexpected way in which he landed the role. He said, “Initially, someone else was finalised for this role. But, he refused to do it at the end moment. I and some of my friends were at Shivaji Park. My pager buzzed and I saw that I am being notified by Mahesh Manjrekar, who is the director of Vaastav. When I went to his office, he just looked at me and said that I am going to play Dedh Footiya.”
10. Mahesh Manjrekar’s ‘Vaastav’ Cameo
Mahesh Manjrekar had a cameo in Vaastav which many people might have missed. He appears in the song ‘Apni Toh Nikal Padi’.
(This review is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 7 October 2019. It is now being republished to mark Sanjay Dutt's 63rd birth anniversary.)