I don’t remember a Bollywood movie from recent times that left me as overwhelmed as Sanju did. Sitting in the movie theatre, I found myself sniffling more than once; mulling over life and its twists and turns when the movie went over a slower patch; and, experiencing soooo many emotions all at once – love, despair, sympathy, angst, sorrow, fear and rage.
But while the film was a biopic about Sanjay Dutt’s life (factual or not, is NOT the topic of discussion here), the one thing that really stood out for me was the relationship between Sanjay Dutt and his father, Sunil Dutt.
Later, as my husband and I discussed the movie, we talked about the many tips and lessons the movie had for parents and parents-to-be. Here are some that we found:
1.Protect but don’t OVERPROTECT
Sunil Dutt (played by Paresh Rawal), is shown to be a larger-than-life figure whose hands are full at all times. From his high stature in the film industry as an actor, producer and director to managing his family life, his wife Nargis’ terminal illness and Sanjay Dutt’s drug addiction and poor choices; from being an activist and politician in later years to being at the fore-front of philanthropic and welfare causes, Sunil Dutt was a doer, a problem-solver and a father figure to ALL those around him.
And while this may seem like the best thing for a lost soul like Sanjay Dutt, often in the parenting journey it is precisely THIS kind of “I’ll handle everything. I’m here for you always” stance that does more harm than good to children. While parents should be there to pick their children up when they fall, some falls (at every age) are necessary for children to learn how to survive in the real world.
2. Accept that your children might be DIFFERENT from you
As parents, we often want our children to either be like us or do things that we were unable to do for some reason or the other – especially, when it comes to matters of education and profession. Explicitly or implicitly, we can often make children feel unworthy and this is exactly what seems to have happened with Sanjay Dutt.
When you have a father who is so successful, so loved and respected by ALL those around him, who seems to turn everything he touches into gold – it is NOT easy to live up to expectations; expectations your ‘oh so successful’ parents might have of you and/or expectations people might have of you because you are the offspring of a champion!
It is thus, important to keep our own expectations and demands in check when dealing with our children. And it is equally (if not more) important to keep an eye on their capabilities, strengths and weaknesses to help them become the BEST versions of themselves.
3. Replace punishments with NATURAL CONSEQUENCES
This is something I recently came across in parenting literature. In order to discipline children, many people resort to rewards and punishments. But research shows that children learn less from rewards and punishments than they do from natural consequences.
An example would be of a child swinging the X-box controller by its strap in spite of being told repeatedly NOT to do so. Eventually, the controller gets detached from the strap and flies through the air, landing on the floor (or worse yet, the TV!) with a loud crash. It splits into two, all the wires spill out and it stops working.
Conventional parenting would dictate a punishment – being grounded for a month, taking some gadgets away and/or withdrawing pocket money for a month or two. Natural consequences, however, mean that the child is calmly told that since the controller is broken, he/she cannot play with it and that it’s a relatively pricey item and hence, cannot be replaced any time soon. The punishment is not an external action; it lies within the situation.
Apparently, when Sunil Dutt caught Sanjay smoking for the first time, he was immediately shuttled off to boarding school. This was a punishment, which who knows, could have triggered life-long feelings of rejection and abandonment.
4. DON’T belittle your children before other people
One dialogue that Sanjay Dutt said more than once in the film was along the lines of ‘Mein kabhi bhi Baba ke liye kafi nahi hosakta’ and this tells you a LOT about his relationship with his father. In fact, this is something that many people can relate to – that their parents sing praises of other children while always criticising their own children and that too, before an audience.
Self-esteem is THE most important thing you can give your child and that self-esteem comes from recognising their efforts and giving them the courage (courage…NOT pressure) to strive for more.
5. KNOW their friends and their families
This is a no-brainer. Every parent’s nightmare is when their son or daughter starts hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’. Looking at Jim Sarbh’s character (Zubain Mistry) in Sanju as the ‘friend’ who got him hooked onto drugs while he himself ‘smoked’ mere sugar (and later tried to tarnish Sanjay’s reputation even more when there was a chance of the truth coming out), is a prime example of how ‘bad’ ‘good friends’ can be.
Children, especially, adolescents, tend to experiment with the wrong crowd and wrong things, but if they are secure in their upbringing, they stay true to their roots. Keeping an eye on their friends and keeping the lines of communication open (and non-judgmental) is the only thing parents can do to protect their children from bad influences in the long-run.
6. Maintain SOME distance
While it is good to know your children’s whereabouts and who keeps them company, it is also important to keep some distance in the relationship.
Let them spread their wings. Let them find themselves. Let them make mistakes.
If you avoid hovering over them but let them know you’re there if they want to talk or need help at any point, there is a higher chance of them growing into responsible, confident people.
7. Understand your child’s SENSITIVITIES
All children come with their own personalities and while nurture and environment plays a part in changing/enhancing personality traits, it is important to understand your child’s emotional, mental and physical capabilities early on. Many children do not express themselves and bottle up their emotions or worse, hide behind facades while others open up and face challenges and traumas head-on.
But many like Sanjay’s character portrays, look for distractions to fight feelings of loss and low self-esteem. It is important to keep an eye on their sensitivities to try and get them through difficult times without them harming themselves or others.
Whether the movie depicts the truth or not, there is no harm in learning from what it offers. As they say, ‘Know better, do better’.
What did you take away from Sanju? Tell us in comments!