Film: Sanju (Biopic)
Critics Rating: 4/5
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal
Direction: Rajkumar Hirani
Duration: 2 hours, 42 minutes
Language: Hindi (U/A)
Superstar son, drug addict, TADA convict, superstar himself; the narrative explores the life and times of Sanjay Dutt. The story attempts to be an autobiographical account (for the most part) of a rich, weak boy who chastened to become a sober, strong man courtesy the tough hand that destiny dealt him with. This film shows how Sanju was supported ably on that arduous journey by his actor-politician-father, Sunil Dutt.
For those of us who have known Sanjay for four decades, watching this film is like having a catharsis. We probably know of more twists and turns in this actor’s life than a 2 hours, 40 minutes film allows but what the repressed emotions that flow watching the goings-on on screen, is hard to share. There’s a sense of despair and even defeat that many of us who knew him could only watch as his life spiralled from fame to darkness.
Rajkumar Hirani (Munnabhai franchise, 3 Idiots, PK), the master story-teller doesn’t hold his punches as he gives us the story of a persecuted boy who just needed an excuse to blow up his life. The Sanju shown here is always running scared. Scared of his disciplinarian, Gandhian dad, scared of his losing his mother to a terminal illness, scared of the toxic climate that the Babri Masjid blasts brought, scared of just about everything. And, yet there was an Alpha-male trapped within him – someone who wanted to protect his family, his friendship and his own reputation. The intent behind his keeping an AK-56, his drug-addiction, his alcoholism and his caddish ways is not glorified. It is told in a faultless, human way; just the way it is.
There is no sermonising in this film. It is treated on many levels as a piece of fiction. The script allows you fabulous glimpses of deep friendship and above all, it shows you the indefatigable spirit of a righteous father, who fought with his back to the wall to bring his erring, condemned son back from notoriety to fame. The only chapter that has a hagiographic tint is the one that clearly states that Sanjay is no terrorist. Many of us who know him believe that. But yes, he was a victim of a headline-hungry media that has devoured him and spat him out, albeit, scarred for life.
Frankly you don’t need to be a fan or a friend or family member of Sanjay Dutt to invest emotionally in this film. Even if you have a vicarious bent of mind (which most of have) you will take away a lot from Sanju.
For those who don’t know Dutt, this film works as the story of a wayward child who puts his father through hell without realising it. It shows you the callous side of a spoilt brat who indulged his excesses. It’s a tale of repentance and it is in equal measure a story of valour and strength. All battles are not fought at the border; some need to overcome their inner demons on a daily basis to emerge victorious.
Ranbir Kapoor’s performance as Sanju is the stuff Academy Award nominations are made of. It’s a pitch-perfect act that could bring him laurels for life. Vicky Kaushal as his friend, Kamlesh, should also pick up awards for his supporting act.
But for most people, the hero here is Paresh Rawal who plays Sunil Dutt so flawlessly. If I were Hirani, I would quickly announce a biopic on Senior Dutt next with Rawal playing the part and with story-inputs from Sanjay.
Loved Manisha Koirala in her cameo as Nargis Dutt.
Watch Sanju—it’s an emotional roller-coaster that will give you the satisfaction of having read a bestseller.