Sanju is an emotional tribute to the Dutts
In Sanju, we get the story of one of Bollywood’s eternal bad boys, Sanjay Dutt. Well, some of it, at any rate.
Sanju explores some of the most crucial chapters from movie star Sanjay Dutt’s dramatic and controversial real life. It gives a lowdown on his tryst with drugs and his trials and tribulations in the Arms Acts case and the 1993 Mumbai blasts.
From what we know of Dutt’s story, pieced together from lurid detail after lurid detail via gossip rags, news reports and biographies, it has been infinitely more surreal and bizarre than anything anyone could imagine. That, sooner or later, Dutt’s eye-poppingly oh-my-god-that-can’t-be-true, psychedelic life would be the subject of a film is a no-brainer, because who can resist the lure of bad boys, fast lanes, and the glamour of the film world, glittery and sordid, at the same time?
The challenge was always going to be: how does a mere film encapsulate this mega-filmi, outsize life, which is still on-going?
Rajkumar Hirani does the only thing he can. By making Sanjay Dutt, Sanju. By choosing to show us a child-man, full of insecurities and flaws. By making the film much more about an errant son and a loving, forgiving father, than a king-size, get-outta-my-way superstar ‘jo har fikr ko dhuein mein udaata chaala gaya’. And yes, by giving that errant son a chance of redemption, because it wouldn’t be a Rajkumar Hirani film otherwise.
Make no mistake, this film is about proving that bad boys are not intrinsically bad ; the poor things are are led down the path of evil by others. While Sanju doesn’t shy away from touching upon Sanjay Dutt’s involvement with the Bombay blasts, and doesn’t draw back from showing him consorting with assorted dodgy characters with their links to the underworld, it does these things lightly, forgivingly, with a laugh and a wink.
Yes, the film says, as did the real-life star, he made a mistake, but it was unwitting; he didn’t understand the gravity of his actions. Yes, he did stash a machine-gun in his house, but he did it only because he wanted to keep his family safe. Yes, he did all that, and look, look, he went to jail for it, where he had to suffer overflowing toilets, and airless cells, and hard floors.
Basically, Sanju is a dialed-down, tamer version of the real-life hellraiser that used to be Sanjay Dutt, who at one point was so over-taken by drugs that he begged his father, the respected thespian and parliamentarian Sunil Dutt to save him. Sanju gives us a Sanjay mediated by the trademark sunniness of the director’s world-view in which even the most unlikely ‘munnabhais’ (there’s a Munnabhai MBBS reference in here too, which is meta piling upon meta: a star playing a star playing a much-loved character played by that star) overcome all odds and become heroes. This Sanju Baba feels like an updated version of Munna Bhai, or was Munna Bhai an anticipatory version of Sanju? Both bad boys with great, supportive fathers and a ‘jaadu-ki-jhappi’ which pulled them out of the abyss’: sometimes it’s hard to know which is which.
One man, many lives is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sanjay Dutt. Rajkumar Hirani’s film presents a vivid and very dramatic look in this biopic of sorts. The film starts off with Sanjay Dutt (Ranbir Kapoor) wanting a writer for his biography even while he’s preparing to surrender himself to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Arms Act case. A film writer fails him miserably, so Sanju turns to a more established writer Winnie (Anushka Sharma) to pen his biography. His confessions and recollections to Winnie are intimate and give us deep insights into the highs and lows of his life, which is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Like any Rajkumar Hirani film, Sanju blends humor with drama effortlessly. While it doesn’t reveal much about the protagonists’ relationships and marriages, it does tell a strong story of an unbreakable bond between a father, son and a best friend. In fact, Sanjay’s relationship with his father Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) forms the major part of this story and some of the most heart wrenching and touching moments in the film belong to both of them.
Manisha Koirala as Nargis Dutt (Sanju’s mother) has a brief role, but the scenes between the father, mother and son move you to tears.
There’s also his best friend Kamlesh (Vicky Kaushal) who’s one of the most important characters in the graph of the story and he leaves a solid impact. Maanyata (Dia Mirza) his wife’s strong presence is felt right throughout the film, but his previous marriages have been completely left out of the narrative. Even the birth of his first child, daughter Trishala doesn’t feature in this heart-rending story. The absence of these aspects of Sanju’s life leave the viewer craving for a tad bit more. The first half is extremely gripping, with Sanju struggling with his inner demons. The second half is spent on elaborating his court cases and it reiterates the thought that he’s not a terrorist. The fact that Sanjay Dutt’s real life presents great material for a story on celluloid is unquestionable. Hirani beautifully taps into some deep emotions that keeps the audience drawn to the screen. Even though the film feels long, the film industry nostalgia and the many references to old Hindi film music keep you hooked on.
Ranbir Kapoor is just as good as his reputation. To state that he’s an incredible actor who fills Sanjay Dutt’s role with gravitas and spunk is stating the obvious. That’s expected from a talented actor like Ranbir. But what he does best in Sanju, is that he delivers the central character’s swag and nonchalance in the most effortless manner. Whether he’s dancing like a hysterical man, with bloodshot eyes under the influence of drugs or he’s the broken, emotional wreck just staring blank, Ranbir portrays a variety of emotions and grey shades with flair. He’s the heart and soul of this film. One of the finest performances in the film comes from Vicky Kaushal. He stands tall and pulls off a superb act as Ranbir’s best friend who stands by him like a rock.
AR Rahman, Rohan-Rohan, and Vikram Montrose’s music set the mood right. Songs like Kar Har Maidan Fateh and Ruby Ruby add to the experience of the film. The background score is top notch too. The drugs infused phase of Sanju’s life is the most impressive and it has been portrayed with the right amount of sensitivity. It has some fantastic visuals and some crazy emotions too.
Presenting a biopic on a man with so many shades and one who’s lived a life of such extremes is a no mean feat. Hirani, in his signature style, takes you through Sanju’s remarkable journey with the finesse and commitment it needs. In the film, Sanju’s wife says that he’s the king of bad choices, and Hirani’s idea of making a film on his life has certainly paid off. Yes, there’s a lot missing, but even then, this is still an incredible story of a man and a movie star who made massive mistakes, walked through fire, survived it and lived one heck of a life.
Another relationship the film really delves into is Sanju’s friendship with Kamlesh, played by actor Vicky Kaushal. He stands out as the loyal friend who will always give it to you straight.Vicky Kaushal is the brightest amongst the entire supporting cast. In a few scenes, he even surpasses Ranbir’s act. He is definitely the future of our Hindi films. Paresh Rawal is good, Manisha Koirala looks pleasant. Dia Mirza is up to the mark. Jim Sarbh draws attention as an evil drug peddler who lisps. Anushka Sharma is okay.
Sanju —- Must watch full paisa wasool movie