In 1968, he was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India. In 1984 he joined the Indian National Congress party and was elected to the Parliament of India for five terms from the constituency of Mumbai North West.
Sunil Dutt was born in a Punjabi family on 6 June 1928 in Khurd village, Jhelum district, Punjab Province, British India (Now in Punjab, Pakistan). When he was five years old, Dutt's father, Diwan Raghunath Dutt, died. When he was 18, the Partition of India began inciting Hindu-Muslim violence across the country. A Muslim named Yakub, who had been friends with Dutt's father, saved their entire family. The family resettled in the small village of Mandauli on the bank of the river Yamuna located in Yamuna Nagar, Punjab, which is now a district of Haryana. Later he moved to Lucknow with his mother, Kulwantidevi Dutt, and spent a long time in Aminabad Galli during graduation. He then moved to Mumbai, where he joined Jai Hind College as an undergraduate and took up a job at the city's BEST Transport division.
Starting out in radio, Sunil Dutt was hugely popular on the Hindi service of Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia. He moved to acting in Hindi films and got introduced to the industry with 1955's Railway Platform.
He shot to stardom in the 1957 film Mother India in which he co-starred with Nargis as her short-tempered, angry son. During the making of this film a fire happened on the set. It is believed that Dutt braved the raging fire to save Nargis and thereby won her love. They went on to marry in 1958. They had one son Sanjay Dutt, also a successful film actor and two daughters, Priya Dutt and Namrata Dutt. His daughter Namrata married Kumar Gaurav, son of Rajendra Kumar. The two fathers were co-stars in Mother India.
Dutt was one of the major stars of Hindi cinema in the late 1950s and 1960s and continued to star in many successful films which included Sadhna (1958), Sujata (1959), Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), Khandan (1965) and Padosan (1967). His collaboration with B.R. Chopra proved to be successful in films such as Gumraah (1963), Waqt (1965) and Hamraaz (1967). One of his favourite writers and friends was Aghajani Kashmeri. Dutt created a record of sorts by directing and starring in the unique film Yaadein (1964) in which he was the only actor in the cast. He later turned producer of the 1968 film Man Ka Meet which introduced his brother Som Dutt who was unsuccessful in films. In 1971, he produced, directed and starred in Reshma Aur Shera (1971) which was a huge failure at the box office. He continued to star in hits that included Heera (1973), Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1974), Nagin (1976) and Jaani Dushman (1979). He also starred in a series of Punjabi religious movies in the 1970s: Man Jeete Jag Jeet (1973), Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam (1974), and Sat Sri Akal (1977).