When Raju Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra called Sanjay Dutt to read the script of their critically acclaimed blockbuster film MUNNABHAI MBBS , they wanted him to do the role of the dying cancer patient Zaheer, which was finally played by Jimmy Shergill. Sanjay Dutt had agreed to do the role even without reading the script. This was revealed during an open discussion after the screening of Vinod Chopra's MUNNABHAI Series as part of Vinod Chopra Film Festival at PVR Cinemas, Juhu, Mumbai. The entire cast and crew of the film was present except Gracy Singh, the heroine of the film.
So what is it that made them cast Sanjay Dutt in the lead role that revived his flagging career? It was a matter of one night. After Sanjay Dutt said yes to Zaheer's role and left, Vinod Chopra kept thinking about him whole night and came to the conclusion by next day morning that he was perfect for the lead role. And the rest is history. Sanjay Dutt was called and told about it. Sanjay Dutt again said yes without even knowing what Vinod Chopra was talking about since he had never read the script. The 2003 film that took very poor initials at box office, became a big hit because of a positive word-of-mouth buzz and thus was born the MUNNABHAI phenomenon and a durable film franchise, probably the first of its kind in the history of Indian cinema.
(Rajesh Kumar Singh is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets for BollywoodTrade.com. He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst)