While discussing the upcoming biopic Sanju, an older relative once told me that no matter the allegations against Sanjay Dutt, she always had a ‘thing’ for him. She was soon joined in agreement by a few other women who were around us at that time. All of these ladies had been teenagers or in their early 20s when Dutt burst onto the scene with Rocky and Main Awara Hoon.

Popularly known as Deadly Dutt, the star found critical acclaim and fame in roles that weren’t exactly hero-like nor particularly villainous. He occupied that grey area, one of the ladies informed me because she guessed, quite rightly, that I wouldn’t have an idea as to how big he was in those days. How, I asked, considering the numerous reports of his hot-headedness?

It added to his charm, apparently. So glorified had the ‘bad boy’ figure become in popular culture (or perhaps, its always been this way), that Dutt always appeared to them as a boy who was lost. They felt his pain at having lost his mother at such a young age at that too, right before his debut film’s release. He was incredibly talented, of course, and he proved his mettle in a multitude of films.

But more than that, Dutt was the apparent cause of a sexual awakening for the women of an entire generation. They lapped up scandalous tales of all his flings and affairs, the whispered details of his sexual prowess and stories that showed his ‘edginess’. It helps that he had a great body as well. He wasn’t a run-of-the-mill celebrity, he was the ‘khalnayak’.

“He wasn’t like others, you know and neither was he too dreamy. You never imagined walking with him in a park or taking a stroll around a lake,” said a woman I spoke to.

Another added that while she didn’t particularly have a crush on him unlike the other girls at that time, she couldn’t deny the fact that he did have some sort of animal magnetism. She admitted that she wasn’t even sure if all she’d heard about him was even real or the result of a Chinese whisper.

“He was the kind of man you would be warned to stay away from because he’d break your heart,” she said. For a lot of 80s women, the controversies surrounding Sanjay Dutt only cemented his status as the ultimate bad boy in their minds – a position that no other actor since has managed to hold.