Like so many top actors in Fifties, Balraj alias Sunil Dutt came to Bombay as a result of Partition- from Sialkot. His deep baritone voice helped him get a job on radio as a celebrity interviewer. Those celebrity contacts served him well and so did his tall, dark, handsome looks. In 1955, he made his film debut through Railway Platform.
1957 classic Mother India was the turning point. His role as the wayward dacoit son who gets shot by his mother, won rave reviews and by heroically saving Nargis - his screen mother in the movie, by bravely dashing onto a burning set, he won a wife in real life!
From then on, his career showed a steady successful graph with many memorable films like Sadhana, Gumraah, Waqt, Humraaz and Sujata. His rough and tough dacoit roles in Mujhe Jeene Do, Praan Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye and Heera gave him his most popular image. He created history in 1964, when he made Yaadein with just a single character- himself in the film! Technically, he was an average but sincere actor who gave his all to portray different characters. After easing out from films, he smoothly switched lanes to become a respected politician and a parliament member.
In Ek Phool Chaar Kaante (1960) the hero (Sunil Dutt) has to win the hearts of heroine’s (Waheeda Rehman) four guardian uncles – each with diagonally opposite likes and dislikes. So constantly switching his images to cater to their wacky tastes, hero finally wins the day. This was perhaps the first film to show Dutt’s comic flair that was to reach zenith in latter Padosan (1968).
Milan (1967) is based on re-incarnation theme - a touching love story between a rich heiress and a poor boatman (Nutan and Sunil Dutt). The love between the two – initially remaining untold because of social barriers, comes to fore, when the girl- married off to another man - is widowed and comes back to stay with her step-mother. The blooming romance is cut short by an accident but they finally come together in next life. Laxmikant – Pyarelal’s music (Saawan Ka Maheena and Bol Gori Bol) gave this film some endearing moments.
Reshama Aur Shera (1971) is an epic tale of rivalry, revenge, romance and sacrifice. Shot on sweepingly arresting desert locations in Rajasthan, this love story between a man (Sunil Dutt) and a woman (Waheeda Rehman), belonging to rival sects, starts off with a promise of ending the years-long family feud but turns ugly with carnage and bloodshed and a tragic poignant climax. Jaidev’s music (Ik Meethisi Chubhan and Tu Chanda Main Chaandani) was superb.